Articles | Volume 12, issue 6
15 Dec 2008
 | 15 Dec 2008

Predicting land-use change and its impact on the groundwater system of the Kleine Nete catchment, Belgium

J. Dams, S. T. Woldeamlak, and O. Batelaan

Abstract. Land-use changes are frequently indicated to be one of the main human-induced factors influencing the groundwater system. For land-use change, groundwater research has mainly focused on the change in water quality thereby neglecting changes in quantity. The objective of this paper is to assess the impact of land-use changes, from 2000 until 2020, on the hydrological balance and in particular on groundwater quantity, as results from a case study in the Kleine Nete basin, Belgium. New is that this study tests a methodology, which couples a land-use change model with a water balance and a steady-state groundwater model. Four future land-use scenarios (A1, A2, B1 and B2) based on the Special Report on Emission Scenarios (SRES) are modelled with the CLUE-S model. Water balance components, groundwater level and baseflow are simulated using the WetSpass model in conjunction with a steady-state MODFLOW groundwater flow model. Results show that the average recharge decreases with 2.9, 1.6, 1.8 and 0.8% for scenario A1, A2, B1 and B2, respectively, over the 20 covered years. The predicted reduction in recharge results in a small decrease of the average groundwater level in the basin, ranging from 2.5 cm for scenario A1 to 0.9 cm for scenario B2, and a reduction of the baseflow with maximum 2.3% and minimum 0.7% for scenario A1 and B2, respectively. Although these averages appear to indicate small changes in the groundwater system, spatial analysis shows that much larger changes are located near the major cities in the study area. Hence, spatial planning should take better account of effects of land-use change on the groundwater system and define mitigating actions for reducing the negative impacts of land-use change.