Groundwater Science + Sustainability Research Group

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UVic's Groundwater Science and Sustainability (GSAS) research group integrates geomatics, numerical modelling, field hydrogeology, geochemistry, structural geology and sustainable science. We are engineers and geoscientists from around the world, as you can see on the people page. For more information see:


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 20
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    Crustal permeability
    (Hydrogeology Journal, 2017) Ingebritsen, Steve; Gleeson, Tom
    Permeability is the dominant parameter in most hydrogeologic studies. There is abundant evidence for dynamic variations in permeability in time as well as space, and throughout the crust. Whether this dynamic behavior should be included in quantitative models depends on the problem at hand.
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    More food with less water – Optimizing agricultural water use
    (Advances in Water Resources, 2019) Smilovic, Mikhail; Gleeson, Tom; Adamowski, Jan; Langhorn, Colin
    Global food demand is projected double by 2050 ( Gerland et al., 2014 ; United Nations 2015 ; Godfray et al., 2010 ; Foley, 2015 ; Licker et al., 2010 ) significantly increasing freshwater consumption ( Bruinsma, 2009 ; Wada and Bierkens, 2014 ), a pivotal sustainability challenge directly related to the UN sustainable development goals of zero hunger, clean water and sanitation, life below water, and life on land ( UN, 2015 ). Optimally using irrigation water within a water- shed could support both food and water security by increasing water productivity or ‘crop per drop’ ( Brauman et al., 2013 ; Oweis and Hachum, 2012 ) which will help to close ‘yield gaps’ ( Mueller et al., 2012 ). Optimizing water use of an agricultural region involves managing both the timing and spatial distribution of water –this is the first study to evaluate optimizing water use with both on-farm timing of irrigation and the spatial distribution of water between farms within a region or watershed.
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    A global-scale two-layer transient groundwater model: Development and application to groundwater depletion
    (Advances in Water Resources, 2017-04) de Graaf, Inge E.M.; van Beek, Rens L.P.H.; Gleeson, Tom; Moosdorf, Nils; Schmitz, Oliver; Sutanudjaja, Edwin H.; Bierkens, Marc F. P.
    Groundwater is the world’s largest accessible source of freshwater to satisfy human water needs. Moreover, groundwater buffers variable precipitation rates over time, thereby effectively sustaining river flows in times of droughts and evaporation in areas with shallow water tables. In this study, building on previous work, we simulate groundwater head fluctuations and groundwater storage changes in both confined and unconfined aquifer systems using a global-scale high-resolution (5′) groundwater model by deriving new estimates of the distribution and thickness of confining layers. Inclusion of confined aquifer systems (estimated 6–20% of the total aquifer area) improves estimates of timing and amplitude of groundwater head fluctuations and changes groundwater flow paths and groundwater-surface water interaction rates. Groundwater flow paths within confining layers are shorter than paths in the underlying aquifer, while flows within the confined aquifer can get disconnected from the local drainage system due to the low conductivity of the confining layer. Lateral groundwater flows between basins are significant in the model, especially for areas with (partially) confined aquifers were long flow paths crossing catchment boundaries are simulated, thereby supporting water budgets of neighboring catchments or aquifer systems. The developed two-layer transient groundwater model is used to identify hot-spots of groundwater depletion. Global groundwater depletion is estimated as 7013 km3 (137 km3y) over 1960–2010, which is consistent with estimates of previous studies.
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    Tectonic evolution of a Paleozoic thrust fault influences the hydrogeology of a fractured rock aquifer, northeastern Appalachian foreland
    (Geofluids, 2014) Kim, J.; Ryan, P.; Klepeis, K.; Gleeson, Tom; North, K.; Bean, J.; Davis, L.; Filoon, J.
    In polyorogenic regions, the superposition of structures during a protracted tectonic history produces complex fractured bedrock aquifers. Thrust-faulted regions, in particular, have complicated permeability patterns that affect groundwater flow paths, quantity, and quality. In the Appalachian foreland of northwestern Vermont, numerous bedrock wells that are spatially related to the Paleozoic Hinesburg thrust have elevated naturally occurring radioactivity and/or low yields. The association of groundwater quality and quantity issues with this thrust was a unique opportunity to investigate its structural and hydrogeologic framework. The Hinesburg thrust juxtaposed metamorphic rocks of the hanging wall with sedimentary rocks of the footwall during the Ordovician. It was then deformed by two orthogonal Devonian fold sets and was fractured during the Cretaceous. Median well yields in the hanging wall aquifer are significantly lower than those of the footwall aquifer, consistent with the respective permeability contrast between metamorphic and carbonate rocks. For wells drilled through the Hinesburg thrust, those completed closest (vertically) to the thrust have the highest median yields, whereas others completed farther below have yields in the footwall range. The geochemical signature of the hanging wall and footwall aquifers correlates with their whole-rock geochemistry. The hanging wall aquifer is enriched in alpha radiation, Na+K-Cl, Ba, and Sr, whereas the footwall aquifer is enriched in Ca-Mg-HCO3 and alkalinity. Wells that penetrated the Hinesburg thrust generally have hanging wall geochemical signatures. A simple hydrogeologic model for the permeability evolution of the Hinesburg thrust involves the ductile emplacement of a low-K hanging wall onto a high-K footwall, with subsequent modification by fractures.
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    A System Dynamics Model to Conserve Arid Region Water Resources through Aquifer Storage and Recovery in Conjunction with a Dam
    (Water, 2014) Niazi, Amir; Prasher, Shiv O.; Adamowski, Jan; Gleeson, Tom
    Groundwater depletion poses a significant threat in arid and semi-arid areas where rivers are usually ephemeral and groundwater is the major source of water. The present study investigated whether an effective water resources management strategy, capable of minimizing evaporative water losses and groundwater depletion while providing water for expanded agricultural activities, can be achieved through aquifer storage and recovery (ASR) implemented in conjunction with water storage in an ephemeral river. A regional development modeling framework, including both ASR and a dam design developed through system dynamics modeling, was validated using a case study for the Sirik region of Iran. The system dynamics model of groundwater flow and the comprehensive system dynamics model developed in this study showed that ASR was a beneficial strategy for the region’s farmers and the groundwater system, since the rate of groundwater depletion declined significantly (from 14.5 meters per 40 years to three meters over the same period). Furthermore, evaporation from the reservoir decreased by 50 million cubic meters over the simulation period. It was concluded that the proposed system dynamics model is an effective tool in helping to conserve water resources and reduce depletion in arid regions and semi-arid areas.
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    DigitalCrust – a 4D data system of material properties for transforming research on crustal fluid flow
    (Geofluids, 2015) Fan, Y.; Richard, S.; Bristol, R.S.; Peters, S.E.; Ingebritson, S.E.; Moosdorf, N.; Packman, A.; Gleeson, Tom; Zaslavsky, I.; Peckham, S.; Murdoch, L.; Fienen, M.; Cardiff, M.; Taboton, D.; Jones, N.; Hooper, R.; Arrigo, J.; Gochis, D.; Olson, J.; Wolock, D.;
    Fluid circulation in the Earth's crust plays an essential role in surface, near surface, and deep crustal processes. Flow pathways are driven by hydraulic gradients but controlled by material permeability, which varies over many orders of magnitude and changes over time. Although millions of measurements of crustal properties have been made, including geophysical imaging and borehole tests, this vast amount of data and information has not been integrated into a comprehensive knowledge system. A community data infrastructure is needed to improve data access, enable large-scale synthetic analyses, and support representations of the subsurface in Earth system models. Here, we describe the motivation, vision, challenges, and an action plan for a community-governed, four-dimensional data system of the Earth's crustal structure, composition, and material properties from the surface down to the brittle–ductile transition. Such a system must not only be sufficiently flexible to support inquiries in many different domains of Earth science, but it must also be focused on characterizing the physical crustal properties of permeability and porosity, which have not yet been synthesized at a large scale. The DigitalCrust is envisioned as an interactive virtual exploration laboratory where models can be calibrated with empirical data and alternative hypotheses can be tested at a range of spatial scales. It must also support a community process for compiling and harmonizing models into regional syntheses of crustal properties. Sustained peer review from multiple disciplines will allow constant refinement in the ability of the system to inform science questions and societal challenges and to function as a dynamic library of our knowledge of Earth's crust.
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    A large-scale simulation model to assess karstic groundwater recharge over Europe and the Mediterranean
    (Geoscientific Model Development, 2015) Hartmann, A.; Gleeson, Tom; Rosolem, R.; Pianosi, F.; Wada, Y.; Wagener, T.
    Karst develops through the dissolution of carbonate rock and is a major source of groundwater contributing up to half of the total drinking water supply in some European countries. Previous approaches to model future water availability in Europe are either too-small scale or do not incorporate karst processes, i.e. preferential flow paths. This study presents the first simulations of groundwater recharge in all karst regions in Europe with a parsimonious karst hydrology model. A novel parameter confinement strategy combines a priori information with recharge-related observations (actual evapotranspiration and soil moisture) at locations across Europe while explicitly identifying uncertainty in the model parameters. Europe's karst regions are divided into four typical karst landscapes (humid, mountain, Mediterranean and desert) by cluster analysis and recharge is simulated from 2002 to 2012 for each karst landscape. Mean annual recharge ranges from negligible in deserts to > 1 m a−1 in humid regions. The majority of recharge rates range from 20 to 50% of precipitation and are sensitive to subannual climate variability. Simulation results are consistent with independent observations of mean annual recharge and significantly better than other global hydrology models that do not consider karst processes (PCR-GLOBWB, WaterGAP). Global hydrology models systematically under-estimate karst recharge implying that they over-estimate actual evapotranspiration and surface runoff. Karst water budgets and thus information to support management decisions regarding drinking water supply and flood risk are significantly improved by our model.
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    Crustal permeability: Introduction to the special issue
    (Geofluids, 2014) Ingebritson, S.E.; Gleeson, Tom
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    Late-glacial to late-Holocene shifts in global precipitation δ18O
    (Climate of the Past, 2015) Jasechko, S.; Lechler, A.; Pausata, F. S. R.; Fawcett, P. J.; Gleeson, Tom; Cendón, D. I.; Galewsky, J.; LeGrande, A. N.; Risi, C.; Sharp, Z. D.; Welker, J. M.; Werner, M.; Yoshimura, K.
    Reconstructions of Quaternary climate are often based on the isotopic content of paleo-precipitation preserved in proxy records. While many paleo-precipitation isotope records are available, few studies have synthesized these dispersed records to explore spatial patterns of late-glacial precipitation δ18O. Here we present a synthesis of 86 globally distributed groundwater (n = 59), cave calcite (n = 15) and ice core (n = 12) isotope records spanning the late-glacial (defined as ~ 50 000 to ~ 20 000 years ago) to the late-Holocene (within the past ~ 5000 years). We show that precipitation δ18O changes from the late-glacial to the late-Holocene range from −7.1 ‰ (δ18Olate-Holocene > δ18Olate-glacial) to +1.7 ‰ (δ18Olate-glacial > δ18Olate-Holocene), with the majority (77 %) of records having lower late-glacial δ18O than late-Holocene δ18O values. High-magnitude, negative precipitation δ18O shifts are common at high latitudes, high altitudes and continental interiors (δ18Olate-Holocene > δ18Olate-glacial by more than 3 ‰). Conversely, low-magnitude, positive precipitation δ18O shifts are concentrated along tropical and subtropical coasts (δ18Olate-glacial > δ18Olate-Holocene by less than 2 ‰). Broad, global patterns of late-glacial to late-Holocene precipitation δ18O shifts suggest that stronger-than-modern isotopic distillation of air masses prevailed during the late-glacial, likely impacted by larger global temperature differences between the tropics and the poles. Further, to test how well general circulation models reproduce global precipitation δ18O shifts, we compiled simulated precipitation δ18O shifts from five isotope-enabled general circulation models simulated under recent and last glacial maximum climate states. Climate simulations generally show better inter-model and model-measurement agreement in temperate regions than in the tropics, highlighting a need for further research to better understand how inter-model spread in convective rainout, seawater δ18O and glacial topography parameterizations impact simulated precipitation δ18O. Future research on paleo-precipitation δ18O records can use the global maps of measured and simulated late-glacial precipitation isotope compositions to target and prioritize field sites.
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    Complexity of hydrogeologic regime around an ancient low-angle thrust fault revealed by multidisciplinary field study
    (Geofluids, 2016) Mundy, E.M.; Dascher-Cousineau, K.; Gleeson, Tom; Rowe, C.D.; Allen, D.M.
    Co-located and integrated observation of the surface and subsurface is necessary to characterize fault zone hydrogeology. The spectacular cliff-face exposure of the Champlain Thrust fault at Lone Rock Point, Vermont, and a nearby well-field site provides the opportunity for co-located structural and hydrogeologic field observations. We mapped the prominent structural features of the Champlain Thrust fault and discrete groundwater seeps in outcrop, and also drilled through the fault near the outcrop and determined aquifer parameters from aquifer pumping tests. In outcrop, the fault core thickness varies on the meter scale, splays out into multiple strands, and is offset by a minor normal fault. Groundwater seeps are prevalent in the heavily fractured footwall, but limited in the fault core and hanging wall, suggesting that at the cliff face the water table is generally near the fault core and groundwater flow in the hanging wall is limited. Enrichment of more soluble minerals in cemented fault rock associated with older strands of the fault system may play an important role in localizing karst features in the hanging wall. At the well-field site, the Champlain Thrust fault is offset significantly by a high-angle normal fault, the water table is near the surface, and aquifer pumping tests reveal a complex hydrogeologic system, with karst and steep fractures as strong hydraulic conduits in the hanging wall and fault core. The most salient features of the fault zone hydrogeology in the surface and subsurface data are different, but can be integrated into a preliminary conceptual model. Together, the surface and subsurface methods underscore and emphasize the complexity and heterogeneity of the hydrogeology of this low-angle sedimentary fault.
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    The rapid yet uneven turnover of Earth’s groundwater
    (Geophysical Research Letters, 2017-05) Befus, Kevin M.; Jasechko, Scott; Luijendijk, Elco; Gleeson, Tom; Cardenas, M. Bayani
    The turnover of groundwater through recharge drives many processes throughout Earth’s surface and subsurface. Yet groundwater turnover rates and their relationship to regional climate and geology remain largely unknown. We estimated that over 200 × 106 km3 of groundwater has recharged since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), which is 10 times the volume of global groundwater storage. However, flushing is very unevenly distributed throughout Earth’s one million watersheds, with some aquifers turned over thousands of times to others with <1% turnover. The median global groundwater turnover of 5 ± 3 times since the LGM highlights groundwater’s active role in Earth system processes. Incomplete groundwater turnover since the LGM beneath a third of land areas reveals the imprint of relict climate conditions on modern-day groundwater resources. The bulk groundwater turnover calculated here enables better quantification of groundwater’s impact in dynamic global water budgets and the transport of nutrients, contaminants, and geologic weathering products.
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    How well can we predict permeability in sedimentary basins? Deriving and evaluating porosity–permeability equations for noncemented sand and clay mixtures
    (Geofluids, 2015) Luijendijk, E.; Gleeson, Tom
    The permeability of sediments is a major control on groundwater flow and the associated redistribution of heat and solutes in sedimentary basins. While porosity–permeability relationships of pure clays and pure sands have been relatively well established at the laboratory scale, the permeability of natural sediments remains highly uncertain. Here we quantify how well existing and new porosity–permeability equations can explain the permeability of noncemented siliciclastic sediments. We have compiled grain size, clay mineralogy, porosity, and permeability data on pure sand and silt (n = 126), pure clay (n = 148), and natural mixtures of sand, silt and clay (n = 92). The permeability of pure sand and clay can be predicted with high confidence (R2 ≥ 0.9) using the Kozeny–Carman equation and empirical power law equations, respectively. The permeability of natural sediments is much higher than predicted by experimental binary mixtures and ideal packing models. Permeability can be predicted with moderate confidence (R2 = 0.26– 0.48) and a mean error of 0.6 orders of magnitude as either the geometric mean or arithmetic mean of the permeability of the pure clay and sand components, with the geometric mean providing the best measure of the variability of permeability. We test the new set of equations on detailed well-log and permeability data from deltaic sediments in the southern Netherlands, showing that permeability can be predicted with a mean error of 0.7 orders of magnitude using clay content and porosity derived from neutron and density logs.
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    Modelling the role of groundwater hydro-refugia in East African hominin evolution and dispersal
    (Nature Communications, 2017-05-30) Cuthbert, M.O.; Gleeson, Tom; Reynolds, S.C.; Bennett, M.R.; Newton, A.C.; McCormack, C.J.; Ashely, G.M.
    Water is a fundamental resource, yet its spatiotemporal availability in East Africa is poorly understood. This is the area where most hominin first occurrences are located, and consequently the potential role of water in hominin evolution and dispersal remains unresolved. Here, we show that hundreds of springs currently distributed across East Africa could function as persistent groundwater hydro-refugia through orbital-scale climate cycles. Groundwater buffers climate variability according to spatially variable groundwater response times determined by geology and topography. Using an agent-based model, grounded on the present day landscape, we show that groundwater availability would have been critical to supporting isolated networks of hydro-refugia during dry periods when potable surface water was scarce. This may have facilitated unexpected variations in isolation and dispersal of hominin populations in the past. Our results therefore provide a new environmental framework in which to understand how patterns of taxonomic diversity in hominins may have developed.
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    Is the permeability of crystalline rock in the shallow crust related to depth, lithology or tectonic setting?
    (Geofluids, 2014) Ranjram, M.; Gleeson, Tom; Luijendijk, E.
    The permeability of crystalline rocks is generally assumed to decrease with depth due to increasing overburden stress. While experiments have confirmed the dependence of permeability on stress, field measurements of crystalline permeability have not previously yielded an unambiguous and universal relation between permeability and depth in the shallow crust (<2.5 km). Large data sets from Sweden, Germany and Switzerland provide new opportunities to characterize the permeability of crystalline rocks in the shallow crust. Here we compile in situ permeability measurements (n = 973) and quantitatively test potential relationships between permeability, depth (0–2.5 km), lithology (intrusive and metamorphic) and tectonic setting (active and inactive). Higher permeabilities are more common at shallow depths (<1 km), but trend analysis does not support a consistently applicable and generalizable relationship between permeability and depth in crystalline rock in the shallow crust. Results suggest lithology has a weak control on permeability–depth relations in the near surface (<0.1 km), regardless of tectonic setting, but may be a more important control at depth. Tectonic setting appears to be a stronger control on permeability–depth relations in the near surface. Permeability values in the tectonically active Molasse basin are scattered with a very weak relationship between permeability and depth. While results indicate that there is no consistently applicable relationship between permeability and depth for crystalline rock in the shallow crust, some specific lithologies and tectonic settings display a statistically significant decrease of permeability with depth, with greater predictive power than a generalized relationship, that could be useful for hydrologic and earth system models.
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    Drought in a human-modified world: Reframing drought definitions, understanding, and analysis approaches
    (Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 2016-05-31) Van Loon, Anne F.; Stahl, Kerstin; Di Baldassarre, Giuliano; Clark, Julian; Rangecroft, Sally; Wanders, Niko; Gleeson, Tom; Van Dijk, Albert I. J. M.; Tallaksen, Lena M.; Hannaford, Jamie; Uijlenhoet, Remko; Teuling, Adriaan J.; Hannah, David M.; Sheffield, Justin; Svoboda, Mark; Verbeiren, Boud; Wagener, Thorsten; Van Lanen, Henny A. J.
    In the current human-modified world, or Anthropocene, the state of water stores and fluxes has become dependent on human as well as natural processes. Water deficits (or droughts) are the result of a complex interaction between meteorological anomalies, land surface processes, and human inflows, outflows, and storage changes. Our current inability to adequately analyse and manage drought in many places points to gaps in our understanding and to inadequate data and tools. The Anthropocene requires a new framework for drought definitions and research. Drought definitions need to be revisited to explicitly include human processes driving and modifying soil moisture drought and hydrological drought development. We give recommendations for robust drought definitions to clarify timescales of drought and prevent confusion with related terms such as water scarcity and overexploitation. Additionally, our understanding and analysis of drought need to move from single driver to multiple drivers and from uni-directional to multi-directional. We identify research gaps and propose analysis approaches on (1) drivers, (2) modifiers, (3) impacts, (4) feedbacks, and (5) changing the baseline of drought in the Anthropocene. The most pressing research questions are related to the attribution of drought to its causes, to linking drought impacts to drought characteristics, and to societal adaptation and responses to drought. Example questions include (i) What are the dominant drivers of drought in different parts of the world? (ii) How do human modifications of drought enhance or alleviate drought severity? (iii) How do impacts of drought depend on the physical characteristics of drought vs. the vulnerability of people or the environment? (iv) To what extent are physical and human drought processes coupled, and can feedback loops be identified and altered to lessen or mitigate drought? (v) How should we adapt our drought analysis to accommodate changes in the normal situation (i.e. what are considered normal or reference conditions) over time? Answering these questions requires exploration of qualitative and quantitative data as well as mixed modelling approaches. The challenges related to drought research and management in the Anthropocene are not unique to drought, but do require urgent attention. We give recommendations drawn from the fields of flood research, ecology, water management, and water resources studies. The framework presented here provides a holistic view on drought in the Anthropocene, which will help improve management strategies for mitigating the severity and reducing the impacts of droughts in future.
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    A glimpse beneath earth’s surface: GLobal HYdrogeology MaPS (GLHYMPS) of permeability and porosity
    (Geophysical Research Letters, 2014) Gleeson, Tom; Moosdorf, Nils; Hartmann, Jens; van Beek, L.P.H.
    The lack of robust, spatially distributed subsurface data is the key obstacle limiting the implementation of complex and realistic groundwater dynamics into global land surface, hydrologic, and climate models. We map and analyze permeability and porosity globally and at high resolution for the first time. The new permeability and porosity maps are based on a recently completed high-resolution global lithology map that differentiates fine and coarse-grained sediments and sedimentary rocks, which is important since these have different permeabilities. The average polygon size in the new map is ~100 km2, which is a more than hundredfold increase in resolution compared to the previous map which has an average polygon size of ~14,000 km2. We also significantly improve the representation in regions of weathered tropical soils and permafrost. The spatially distributed mean global permeability ~10-15 m2 with permafrost or ~10-14 m2 without permafrost. The spatially distributed mean porosity of the globe is 14%. The maps will enable further integration of groundwater dynamics into land surface, hydrologic, and climate models.
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    Shallow, old, and hydrologically insignificant fault zones in the Appalachian orogen
    (Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 2014-01) Malgrange, Juliette; Gleeson, Tom
    The permeability of fault zones impacts diverse geological processes such as hydrocarbon migration, hydrothermal fluid circulation, and regional groundwater flow, yet how fault zones affect groundwater flow at a regional scale (1–10 km) is highly uncertain. The objective of this work is to determine whether faults affect regional patterns of groundwater flow, by using radioactive radon and chloride to quantify groundwater discharge to lakes underlain by faults and not underlain by faults. We sampled lakes overlying the Paleozoic Appalachian fold and thrust belt in the Eastern Townships in Québec, and compared our results to a previous study in a crystalline watershed in the Canadian Shield. The field data was analyzed with an analytical geochemical mixing model. The uncertainties of model parameters were assessed in a sensitivity analysis using Monte Carlo simulation, and the difference between lakes tested with statistical analysis. While the model results indicate non-negligible groundwater discharge for most of the lakes in the Paleozoic orogen, the difference between the groundwater discharge rate into the lakes located on faults and the other lakes is not statistically significant. However, the groundwater discharge rate to lakes in the Paleozoic orogeny is significantly higher than lakes that overlay crystalline bedrock, which is consistent with independent estimates of permeability. The rate of groundwater discharge is not significantly enhanced or diminished around the thrust fault zones, suggesting that in a regional scale, permeability of fault zones is not significantly different from the bedrock permeability at shallow depth in this old, tectonically- inactive orogen.
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    The pronounced seasonality of global groundwater recharge
    (Water Resources Research, 2014) Jasechko, Scott; Birks, S. Jean; Gleeson, Tom; Wada, Yoshihide; Fawcett, Peter J.; Sharp, Zachary D.; McDonnell, Jeffrey J.; Welker, Jeffrey M.
    Groundwater recharged by meteoric water supports human life by providing two billion people with drinking water and by supplying 40% of cropland irrigation. While annual groundwater recharge rates are reported in many studies, fewer studies have explicitly quantified intra-annual (i.e., seasonal) differences in groundwater recharge. Understanding seasonal differences in the fraction of precipitation that recharges aquifers is important for predicting annual recharge groundwater rates under changing seasonal precipitation and evapotranspiration regimes in a warming climate, for accurately interpreting isotopic proxies in paleoclimate records, and for understanding linkages between ecosystem productivity and groundwater recharge. Here we determine seasonal differences in the groundwater recharge ratio, defined here as the ratio of groundwater recharge to precipitation, at 54 globally distributed locations on the basis of 18O/16O and 2H/1H ratios in precipitation and groundwater. Our analysis shows that arid and temperate climates have wintertime groundwater recharge ratios that are consistently higher than summertime groundwater recharge ratios, while tropical groundwater recharge ratios are at a maximum during the wet season. The isotope-based recharge ratio seasonality is consistent with monthly outputs from a global hydrological model (PCR-GLOBWB) for most, but not all locations. The pronounced seasonality in groundwater recharge ratios shown in this study signifies that, from the point of view of predicting future groundwater recharge rates, a unit change in winter (temperate and arid regions) or wet season (tropics) precipitation will result in a greater change to the annual groundwater recharge rate than the same unit change to summer or dry season precipitation.
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    Linking groundwater use and stress to specific crops using the groundwater footprint in the Central Valley and High Plains aquifer systems, U.S.
    (Water Resources Research, 2014) Esnault, Laurent; Gleeson, Tom; Wada, Yoshihide; Heinke, Jens; Gerten, Dieter; Flanary, Elizabeth; Bierkens, Marc F. P.; van Beek, Ludovicus P.H.
    A number of aquifers worldwide are being depleted, mainly by agricultural activities, yet groundwater stress has not been explicitly linked to specific agricultural crops. Using the newly developed concept of the groundwater footprint (the area required to sustain groundwater use and groundwater-dependent ecosystem services), we develop a methodology to derive crop-specific groundwater footprints. We illustrate this method by calculating high-resolution groundwater footprint estimates of crops in two heavily used aquifer systems: the Central Valley and High Plains, U.S. In both aquifer systems, hay and haylage, corn, and cotton have the largest groundwater footprints, which highlights that most of the groundwater stress is induced by crops meant for cattle feed. Our results are coherent with other studies in the High Plains but suggest lower groundwater stress in the Central Valley, likely due to artificial recharge from surface water diversions which were not taken into account in previous estimates. Uncertainties of recharge and irrigation application efficiency contribute the most to the total relative uncertainty of the groundwater footprint to aquifer area ratios. Our results and methodology will be useful for hydrologists, water resource managers, and policy makers concerned with which crops are causing the well-documented groundwater stress in semiarid to arid agricultural regions around the world.
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