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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2016-121
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2016-121
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 16 Mar 2016

Submitted as: research article | 16 Mar 2016

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The revised manuscript was not accepted.

A global-scale two-layer transient groundwater model: development and application to groundwater depletion

Inge E. M. de Graaf1, Rens L. P. H. van Beek1, Tom Gleeson2, Nils Moosdorf3, Oliver Schmitz1, Edwin H. Sutanudjaja1, and Marc F. P. Bierkens1,4 Inge E. M. de Graaf et al.
  • 1Department of Physical Geography, Faculty of Geosciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands
  • 2Civil Engineering, University of Victoria, Canada
  • 3Department of Biochemistry/Geology, Leibniz center for Tropical Ecology, Germany
  • 4Unit Soil and Groundwater Systems, Deltares, Utrecht, the Netherlands

Abstract. Groundwater is the world's largest accessible source of freshwater to satisfy human water needs. Moreover, groundwater buffers variable precipitation rates over time, thereby effectively sustaining river flows in times of droughts as well as evaporation in areas with shallow water tables. Lateral flows between basins can be a significant part of the basins water budget, but most global-scale hydrological models do not consider surface water-groundwater interactions and do not include a lateral groundwater flow component. In this study we simulate groundwater head fluctuation and groundwater storage changes in both confined and unconfined aquifer systems using a global-scale high-resolution (5 arc-minutes) groundwater model by deriving new estimates of the distribution and thickness of confining layers. Inclusion of confined aquifer systems (estimated 6 % to 20 % of the total aquifer area) changes timing and amplitude of head fluctuations, as well as flow paths and groundwater-surface water interactions rates. Also, timing and magnitude of groundwater head fluctuations are better estimated when confining layers are included. Groundwater flow paths within confining layers are shorter then paths in the underlying aquifer, while flows within the confined aquifer can get disconnected from the local drainage system due to the low conductivity of the confining layer. Lateral groundwater flows between basins are significant in the model, especially for areas with (partially) confined aquifers were long flow paths are simulated crossing catchment boundaries, thereby supporting water budgets of neighboring catchments or aquifer systems. The two-layer transient groundwater model is used to identify hotspots of groundwater depletion resulting in an estimated global groundwater depletion of 6700 km3 over the 1960–2010, consistent with estimates of previous studies.

Inge E. M. de Graaf et al.
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Inge E. M. de Graaf et al.
Inge E. M. de Graaf et al.
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Short summary
In this study we want to understand groundwater flows at the global scale better. We simulated groundwater storage and fluctuations in confined and unconfined aquifer systems. This is the first study that includes confined systems at the global scale. Confined systems change timing and amplitude of head fluctuations, flow paths, and groundwater-surface water interactions. Hotspots of groundwater depletion are identified and resulted in a global estimate of 6700 km3.
In this study we want to understand groundwater flows at the global scale better. We simulated...
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