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Journal of Arid Land  2022, Vol. 14 Issue (7): 739-752    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-022-0067-z
Research article     
Dynamics of groundwater recharge near a semi-arid Mediterranean intermittent stream under wet and normal climate conditions
Youssef HAJHOUJI1, Younes FAKIR1,2,*(), Simon GASCOIN3, Vincent SIMONNEAUX3, Abdelghani CHEHBOUNI2
1Faculty of Sciences Semlalia, Cadi Ayyad University, 40000, Marrakech, Morocco
2Center for Remote Sensing Application (CRSA), UM6P, 43150, Benguerir, Morocco
3Center for the Study of the Biosphere from Space (CESBIO), 31400, Toulouse, France
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In arid and semi-arid stream-dominated systems, the temporal variability in groundwater recharge has not been widely addressed. Various questions remain about the sources of groundwater recharge, its patterns, and the appropriate measuring techniques. Hence, the main objective of the present study was to assess the changes that might affect the pattern of groundwater recharge under wetter than normal surface water availability. Therefore, the groundwater depth was monitored near a semi-arid Mediterranean intermittent stream on the piedmont of the High Atlas Mountains in the mountain catchment of the Wadi Rheraya over two hydrological years (2014-2016) with different climate conditions: extreme wet and normal conditions. Groundwater recharge was assessed using the episodic master recession algorithm. During the two years, the pattern of groundwater recharge was dominated by episodic events and by a high seasonality from wet seasons to dry seasons. In the wet year (2014-2015), the highest groundwater recharge was recorded following an extreme flood, which deeply replenished groundwater. Furthermore, an exceptional steady state of the groundwater depth was induced by a steady groundwater recharge rate. For several groundwater recharge events, the assessed recharge had multiple sources, mainly from streamflow at the local scale, but possibly from precipitation, underflow, deep percolation or irrigation return from the upstream part of the catchment. Local recharge by streamflow was likely to be short-lived, and lateral recharge was likely to last longer. Consequently, the episodic master recession algorithm estimated the total groundwater recharge that could encompass various sources. In the future, more studies and multidisciplinary approaches should be carried out to partition these sources and determine their specific contributions. In semi-arid stream-dominated systems, different groundwater recharge patterns induced by extreme hydrological events (e.g., wet events) and various potential sources of groundwater recharge should be considered when assessing and predicting groundwater recharge.

Key wordsgroundwater recharge      water table fluctuation      episodic master recession algorithm      episodic recharge      wet year      Wadi Rheraya     
Received: 06 January 2022      Published: 31 July 2022
Corresponding Authors: * Younes FAKIR (E-mail:
Cite this article:

Youssef HAJHOUJI, Younes FAKIR, Simon GASCOIN, Vincent SIMONNEAUX, Abdelghani CHEHBOUNI. Dynamics of groundwater recharge near a semi-arid Mediterranean intermittent stream under wet and normal climate conditions. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(7): 739-752.

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Fig. 1 Location of the monitoring well and the mountain catchment of the Wadi Rheraya with its streamflow and precipitation gauge stations. 1, Tamatert; 2, Tachedert; 3, Aremd; 4, Matate; 5, Imskerbour; 6, Asni; 7, Tahanaout. Groundwater depth is indicated around the monitoring well.
Gauge station Number Longitude Latitude Altitude
Measurement period
Start time End time
Tamatert 1 07°52′48′′W 31°08′31′′N 1924 18 June 2013 31 December 2016
Tachedert 2 07°50′56′′W 31°09′25′′N 2343 1 September 2009 31 December 2016
Aremd 3 07°55′23′′W 31°07′34′′N 1940 1 December 2009 31 December 2016
Matate 4 07°56′28′′W 31°09′22′′N 1751 19 June 2013 31 December 2016
Imskerbour 5 07°56′24′′W 31°12′25′′N 1404 1 September 2009 31 December 2016
Asni 6 07°58′52′′W 31°15′00′′N 1170 1 September 2009 31 December 2016
Tahanaout 7 07°57′47′′W 31°17′31′′N 1064 1 September 1970 31 December 2016
Table 1 Precipitation gauges and their measurement periods
Gauge station Altitude (m) Annual precipitation (mm)
2014-2015 2015-2016 2009-2016
Tachedert 2343 1093 284 595
Aremd 1940 860 296 473
Tamaterte 1924 684 261 -
Matate 1751 383 198 -
Imskerbour 1404 600 247 393
Asni 1170 281 268 305
Tahanaout 1064 647 275 426
Average 650 261 -
Table 2 Annual and average precipitation over the mountain catchment of the Wadi Rheraya
Fig. 2 Precipitation isohyetal maps of the mountain catchment of the Wadi Rheraya for the hydrological years 2014-2015 (a) and 2015-2016 (b)
SPI Drought severity class SPI Drought severity class
≥2.00 Extremely wet -1.49 to -1.00 Moderate drought
1.50-1.99 Very wet -1.99 to -1.50 Severe drought
1.00-1.49 Moderately wet ≤ -2.00 Extreme drought
-0.99 to 0.99 Near normal
Table 3 Drought severity classes based on the standardized precipitation index (SPI) values (McKee et al., 1993)
Fig. 3 Calculated standardized precipitation index (SPI) from 1971-1972 to 2016-2017 using the Tahanaout gauge station data and the corresponding annual climate types
Fig. 4 Average monthly streamflow of the Wadi Rheraya during the period of 1962-2016
Fig. 5 Variations in the peak flow and time base of the main floods from 1962-1963 to 2005-2006
Fig. 6 Frequency of the flood peak flow (a) and seasonal distribution (b) of the main floods from 1962 to 2006
Fig. 7 Variations in precipitation (a) and groundwater depth and streamflow (b) during the period of 2014-2016
Fig. 8 Results of the episodic master recession analysis showing the groundwater recharge episodes (E1-E13) during the period of 2014-2016. MRC, master recession curve.
Year Groundwater recharge episode Start time End time Duration (d) Groundwater recharge (m) Cumulative groundwater recharge (m) Total
precipitation (mm)
Number of precipitation days (d) Peak streamflow (m3/s)
2014-2015 E1 17 Sep 2014 10 Oct 2014 24 0.05 0.05 23.14 3 9.87
E2 24 Oct 2014 24 Dec 2014 62 0.66 0.71 334.19 19 48.02
E3 4 Jan 2015 1 Feb 2015 29 0.08 0.79 52.19 8 8.46
E4 11 Feb 2015 26 Feb 2015 16 0.06 0.85 13.90 6 2.30
E5 8 Mar 2015 6 Apr 2015 30 0.14 0.99 89.62 10 9.41
E6 14 Apr 2015 27 May 2015 44 0.06 1.05 50.73 7 4.17
E7 9 Jul 2015 26 Jul 2015 18 0.02 1.07 30.98 7 2.85
E8 6 Aug 2015 27 Aug 2015 22 0.06 1.13 36.72 8 2.58
2015-2016 E9 20 Sep 2015 9 Nov 2015 51 0.19 1.32 55.43 10 3.73
E10 7 Jan 2016 14 Jan 2016 8 0.03 1.35 1.68 1 1.88
E11 9 Feb 2016 9 Mar 2016 30 0.14 1.49 55.21 10 12.93
E12 16 Mar 2016 1 Apr 2016 17 0.14 1.63 46.36 6 3.05
E13 27 Apr 2016 21 May 2016 25 0.17 1.80 19.07 4 2.48
Table 4 Characteristics of the groundwater recharge episodes inferred from the episodic master recession during the period of 2014-2016
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