02 Aug 2022
02 Aug 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

From soil water monitoring data to vadose zone water fluxes: a comprehensive example of reverse hydrology

Marleen Ambrosia Schübl1, Giuseppe Brunetti1, Gabriele Fuchs2, and Christine Stumpp1 Marleen Ambrosia Schübl et al.
  • 1University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Department of Water, Atmosphere and Environment, Institute of Soil Physics and Rural Water Management, Muthgasse 18, 1190 Vienna, Austria
  • 2Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT), Division I/3: Department of Water Resources, Marxergasse 2, 1030 Vienna, Austria

Abstract. Groundwater recharge is a key component of the hydrological cycle, yet its direct measurement is complex and often difficult to achieve. An alternative is its inverse estimation through a combination of numerical models and transient observations from distributed soil water monitoring stations. However, an often neglected aspect of this approach is the effect of model predictive uncertainty on simulated water fluxes. In this study, we made use of long-term soil water content measurements at 14 locations from the Austrian soil water monitoring program to quantify and compare local, potential groundwater recharge rates and their temporal variability. Observations were coupled with a Bayesian probabilistic framework to calibrate the model HYDRUS-1D and assess the effect of model predictive uncertainty on long-term simulated recharge fluxes. Estimated annual potential recharge rates ranged from 44 mm a-1 to 1319 mm a-1 with a relative uncertainty (95 % interquantile range/median) in the estimation between 1–39 %. Recharge rates decreased longitudinally, with high rates and lower seasonality at western sites and low rates with high seasonality and extended periods without recharge at the southeastern and eastern sites of Austria. Higher recharge rates and lower actual evapotranspiration were related to sandy soils; however, climatic factors had a stronger influence on estimated potential groundwater recharge than soil properties, underscoring the vulnerability of groundwater recharge to the effects of climate change.

Marleen Ambrosia Schübl et al.

Status: open (until 27 Sep 2022)

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  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2022-261', Ty P. A. Ferre, 04 Aug 2022 reply

Marleen Ambrosia Schübl et al.

Marleen Ambrosia Schübl et al.


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Short summary
Estimating groundwater recharge through the unsaturated zone is a difficult task and fundamentally associated with uncertainties. One of the few methods available is inverse modeling based on soil water measurements. In this study, we used a Nested Sampling algorithm within a Bayesian probabilistic framework to assess model uncertainties at 14 sites in Austria. Further, we analyzed simulated recharge rates to identify factors influencing groundwater recharge rates and their temporal variability.