Articles | Volume 23, issue 9
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 23, 3603–3629, 2019
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 23, 3603–3629, 2019

Review article 04 Sep 2019

Review article | 04 Sep 2019

Error in hydraulic head and gradient time-series measurements: a quantitative appraisal

Gabriel C. Rau et al.

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Cited articles

Acworth, R. I., Rau, G. C., McCallum, A. M., Andersen, M. S., and Cuthbert, M. O.: Understanding connected surface-water/groundwater systems using Fourier analysis of daily and sub-daily head fluctuations, Hydrogeol. J., 23, 143–159,, 2015. a
Acworth, R. I., Halloran, L. J. S., Rau, G. C., Cuthbert, M. O., and Bernardi, T. L.: An objective frequency domain method for quantifying confined aquifer compressible storage using Earth and atmospheric tides, Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 611–671,, 2016a. a, b
Acworth, R. I., Rau, G. C., Cuthbert, M. O., Jensen, E., and Leggett, K.: Long-term spatio-temporal precipitation variability in arid-zone Australia and implications for groundwater recharge, Hydrogeol. J., 24, 905–921,, 2016b. a
Acworth, R. I., Rau, G. C., Halloran, L. J. S., and Timms, W. A.: Vertical groundwater storage properties and changes in confinement determined using hydraulic head response to atmospheric tides, Water Resour. Res., 53, 2983–2997,, 2017. a, b
Atwood, D. and Lamb, B.: Resolution problems with obtaining accurate ground water elevation measurement in a hydrogeologic site investigation, in: Proceedings, First National Outdoor Action Conference on Aquifer Restoration, Ground Water Monitoring, and Geophysical Methods, National Water Well Association, Westerville, OH, 185–193, 1987. a, b
Short summary
The flow of water is often inferred from water levels and gradients whose measurements are considered trivial despite the many steps and complexity of the instruments involved. We systematically review the four measurement steps required and summarise the systematic errors. To determine the accuracy with which flow can be resolved, we quantify and propagate the random errors. Our results illustrate the limitations of current practice and provide concise recommendations to improve data quality.