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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (5): 455-469    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0100-7
Research article     
Quantification of groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration along a semi-arid wetland transect using diurnal water table fluctuations
JIA Wuhui1, YIN Lihe2,*(), ZHANG Maosheng3, ZHANG Xinxin4, ZHANG Jun2, TANG Xiaoping2, DONG Jiaqiu2
1School of Water Resources and Environment, China University of Geosciences (Beijing), Beijing 100083, China
2Xi'an Center of Geological Survey, China Geological Survey, Xi'an 710054, China
3Institute of Disaster Prevention and Ecological Restoration, Xi'an Jiaotong University, Xi'an 710049, China
4Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences, Beijing 100037, China
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Groundwater is a vital water resource in arid and semi-arid areas. Diurnal groundwater table fluctuations are widely used to quantify rainfall recharge and groundwater evapotranspiration (ETg). To assess groundwater resources for sustainable use, we estimated groundwater recharge and ETg using the diurnal water table fluctuations at three sites along a section with different depths to water table (DWT) within a wetland of the Mukai Lake in the Ordos Plateau, Northwest China. The water table level was monitored at an hourly resolution using a Keller DCX-22A data logger that measured both the total pressure and barometric pressure, so that the effect of barometric pressure could be removed. At this study site, a rapid water table response to rainfall was observed in two shallow wells (i.e., Obs1 and Obs2), at which diurnal water table fluctuations were also observed over the study period during rainless days, indicating that the main factors influencing water table variation are rainfall and ETg. However, at the deep-water table site (Obs3), the groundwater level only reacted to the heaviest rainfalls and showed no diurnal variations. Groundwater recharge and ETg were quantified for the entire hydrological year (June 2017-June 2018) using the water table fluctuation method and the Loheide method, respectively, with depth-dependent specific yields. The results show that the total annual groundwater recharge was approximately 207 mm, accounting for 52% of rainfall at Obs1, while groundwater recharge was approximately 250 and 21 mm at Obs2 and Obs3, accounting for 63% and 5% of rainfall, respectively. In addition, the rates of groundwater recharge were mainly determined by rainfall intensity and DWT. The daily mean ETg at Obs1 and Obs2 over the study period was 4.3 and 2.5 mm, respectively, and the main determining factors were DWT and net radiation.

Key wordsgroundwater recharge      groundwater evapotranspiration      water table fluctuation      semi-arid region      Ordos Plateau     
Received: 18 March 2020      Published: 10 May 2021
Corresponding Authors: YIN Lihe     E-mail:
About author: *YIN Lihe (E-mail:
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JIA Wuhui, YIN Lihe, ZHANG Maosheng, ZHANG Xinxin, ZHANG Jun, TANG Xiaoping, DONG Jiaqiu. Quantification of groundwater recharge and evapotranspiration along a semi-arid wetland transect using diurnal water table fluctuations. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(5): 455-469.

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Fig. 1 (a) Location map showing the satellite image of the study sites (Obs1, Obs2 and Obs3); (b) the schematic hydrogeological cross section from measurements of the piezometers that are located at the bottom of wells; and (c) long-term average monthly precipitation, reference evapotranspiration (ET0), and air temperature
Fig. 2 Water table regimes at three observation sites, Obs1, Obs2, and Obs3 (a and b), daily rainfall and potential evapotranspiration (ET0) (c). DWT, depth to water table.
Fig. 3 Increases in specific yield (Sy) with DWT using the water table response method and the soil texture method
Fig. 4 Relationships between event-based groundwater recharge and rainfalls at Obs1 and Obs2 (a), water table fluctuations in response to rainfall at 00:00 on 24 and 26 July 2017 (b), monthly groundwater recharge and rainfall (c), and their fitted relationships (d)
Fig. 5 Mean hourly ETg (groundwater evapotranspiration) at Obs1 (a) and Obs2 (b)
Fig. 6 Daily ETg at Obs1 and Obs2
Fig. 7 Relationships of daily ETg with net radiation (a), vapor pressure deficit (b), relative humidity (c), and wind speed (d)
Fig. 8 Relationship between DWT and ETg/ET0 (a) and monthly ET0 and ETg variations at Obs1 and Obs2 (b)
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