Journal cover Journal topic
Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
doi:10.5194/hess-2016-410
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed
under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
30 Aug 2016
Review status
This discussion paper has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.
Application of global models and satellite data for smaller-scale groundwater recharge studies
Rogier Westerhoff1,2,3, Paul White1, and Zara Rawlinson2 1GNS Science, New Zealand
2Deltares, The Netherlands
3Waikato University, New Zealand
Abstract. Large-scale models and satellite data are increasingly used to characterise groundwater and its recharge at the global scale. Although these models have the potential to fill in data gaps and solve trans-boundary issues, they are often neglected in smaller-scale studies, since data are often coarse or uncertain. Large-scale models and satellite data could play a more important role in smaller-scale (i.e., national or regional) studies, if they could be adjusted to fit that scale. In New Zealand, large-scale models and satellite data are not used for groundwater recharge estimation at the national scale, since regional councils (i.e., the water managers) have varying water policy and models are calibrated at the local scale. Also, some regions have many localised ground observations (but poor record coverage), whereas others are data-sparse. Therefore, estimation of recharge is inconsistent at the national scale.

This paper presents an approach to apply large-scale, global, models and satellite data to estimate rainfall recharge at the national to regional scale across New Zealand. We present a model, NGRM, that is largely inspired by the global-scale WaterGAP recharge model, but is improved and adjusted using national data. The NGRM model uses MODIS-derived ET and vegetation satellite data, and the available nation-wide datasets on rainfall, elevation, soil and geology. A valuable addition to the recharge estimation is the model uncertainty estimate, based on variance, covariance and sensitivity of all input data components in the model environment.

This research shows that, with minor model adjustments and use of improved input data, large-scale models and satellite data can be used to derive rainfall recharge estimates, including their uncertainty, at the smaller scale, i.e., national and regional scale of New Zealand. The estimated New Zealand recharge of the NGRM model compare well to most local and regional lysimeter data and recharge models. The NGRM is therefore assumed to be capable to fill in gaps in data-sparse areas and to create more consistency between datasets from different regions, i.e., to solve trans-boundary issues. This research also shows that smaller-scale recharge studies in New Zealand should include larger boundaries than only a (sub-)aquifer, and preferably the whole catchment. This research points out the need for improved collaboration on the international to national to regional levels to further merge large-scale (global) models to smaller (i.e., national or regional) scales. Future research topics should, collaboratively, focus on: improvement of rainfall-runoff and snowmelt methods; inclusion of river recharge; further improvement of input data (rainfall, evapotranspiration, soil and geology); and the impact of recharge uncertainty in mountainous and irrigated areas.


Citation: Westerhoff, R., White, P., and Rawlinson, Z.: Application of global models and satellite data for smaller-scale groundwater recharge studies, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., doi:10.5194/hess-2016-410, 2016.
Rogier Westerhoff et al.
Rogier Westerhoff et al.

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Short summary
Large-scale models, used to estimate recharge to groundwater at the global scale, are often neglected for smaller-scale studies. This study presents an approach to fit a global recharge model to the national scale of New Zealand. Input data are from national sources or satellite data. The national model includes uncertainty and is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It can thus be used to: make national estimates; fill gaps in data-sparse areas; solve for regional trans-boundary inconsistency.
Large-scale models, used to estimate recharge to groundwater at the global scale, are often...
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