Groundwater recharge and water table response to changing conditions for aquifers at different physiography: The case of a semi-humid river catchment, northwestern highlands of Ethiopia

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Dec 15;748:142243. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142243. Epub 2020 Sep 17.


Groundwater recharge estimation, aquifer response to meteorological variables, and evapotranspiration calculations have been performed on a semi-humid catchment, in northwestern Ethiopian plateau. The Soil Moisture Balance (SMB), WetSpass water balance model, Water Table Fluctuation (WTF), and Chloride Mass Balance (CMB) methods are applied to estimate the groundwater recharge. Accordingly, 431 mm, 462 mm, and 477 mm recharge amounts are estimated as mean annual value, respectively, using SMB, WetSpass, and CMB methods. Based on the WTF method, the annual recharge rates of the volcanic aquifers range from 157 mm to 760 mm. The SMB and WetSpass methods are less effective for the flat physiographic area, where the recharge rate is storage controlled rather than precipitation amount. The calculated high recharge for maintain-front aquifers using WTF is attributed to extra rising due to lateral groundwater flow, which restricts the reliability of the method for such aquifer geometries. High groundwater level rising rate (121 mm/day) has been observed for the steeply sloping, low rates (11 mm/day) for the flat floodplain, and intermediate rate (52 mm/day) for the gently sloping volcanic aquifers. Similarly, receding rates of 3.18 mm/day were found for the steeply sloping, 0.40 mm/day for the floodplain, and 1.14 mm/day for the gentle sloping aquifers. The recession, in all of the topographies, is happening with second-order polynomial decay function. A strong connection between the shallow and deep groundwater aquifers is noted. Storage change in the relatively deeper volcanic aquifers is due to vertical groundwater flow from the overlying alluvial aquifer. This indicates that the recharge mechanism is local, and may be the reason for the low aquifer productivity of the Dangila wellfield. Diurnal water table fluctuation is detrended from the receding trend of the dry period, and evapotranspiration from the groundwater is estimated at 28% of total ET.

Keywords: Evapotranspiration; Groundwater recharge; Recession; Rising; Shallow aquifer; Water table.