Articles | Volume 21, issue 10
Research article
06 Oct 2017
Research article |  | 06 Oct 2017

Is annual recharge coefficient a valid concept in arid and semi-arid regions?

Yiben Cheng, Hongbin Zhan, Wenbin Yang, Hongzhong Dang, and Wei Li

Abstract. Deep soil recharge (DSR) (at depth greater than 200 cm) is an important part of water circulation in arid and semi-arid regions. Quantitative monitoring of DSR is of great importance to assess water resources and to study water balance in arid and semi-arid regions. This study used a typical bare land on the eastern margin of Mu Us Sandy Land in the Ordos Basin of China as an example to illustrate a new lysimeter method of measuring DSR to examine if the annual recharge coefficient is valid or not in the study site, where the annual recharge efficient is the ratio of annual DSR over annual total precipitation. Positioning monitoring was done on precipitation and DSR measurements underneath mobile sand dunes from 2013 to 2015 in the study area. Results showed that use of an annual recharge coefficient for estimating DSR in bare sand land in arid and semi-arid regions is questionable and could lead to considerable errors. It appeared that DSR in those regions was influenced by precipitation pattern and was closely correlated with spontaneous strong precipitation events (with precipitation greater than 10 mm) other than the total precipitation. This study showed that as much as 42 % of precipitation in a single strong precipitation event can be transformed into DSR. During the observation period, the maximum annual DSR could make up 24.33 % of the annual precipitation. This study provided a reliable method of estimating DSR in sandy areas of arid and semi-arid regions, which is valuable for managing groundwater resources and ecological restoration in those regions. It also provided strong evidence that the annual recharge coefficient was invalid for calculating DSR in arid and semi-arid regions. This study shows that DSR is closely related to the strong precipitation events, rather than to the average annual precipitation, as well as the precipitation patterns.

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Short summary
This study uses a newly designed lysimeter to study three consecutive years (2013–2015) of deep soil recharge (DSR) underneath bare sand land on the eastern margin of Mu Us Sandy Land in the Ordos Basin of China. The objective is to identify the characteristics of the DSR distribution and the factors affecting the DSR distribution. Specifically, we would like to examine if the commonly used recharge coefficient concept can be applied for arid and semi-arid regions.