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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-2018-313
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-313
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 17 Jul 2018

Research article | 17 Jul 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. A revision of this manuscript was accepted for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS) and is expected to appear here in due course.

Long-term groundwater recharge rates across India by in situ measurements

Soumendra N. Bhanja1,a, Abhijit Mukherjee1,2,3, Rangarajan Ramaswamy4, Bridget R. Scanlon5, Pragnaditya Malakar1, and Shubha Verma6 Soumendra N. Bhanja et al.
  • 1Department of Geology and Geophysics, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, West Bengal 721302, India
  • 2School of Environmental Science and Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, West Bengal 721302, India
  • 3Hydroscience and Policy Advisory Group, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, West Bengal 721302, India
  • 4National Geophysical Research Institute, Uppal Road, Hyderabad 500 007, India
  • 5Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of Geosciences, The University of Texas at Austin, Texas 78713, USA
  • 6Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, West Bengal 721302, India
  • apresently at: Faculty of Science and Technology, Athabasca University, Alberta T9S3A3, Canada

Abstract. Groundwater recharge sustains groundwater discharge, including natural discharge through springs and base flow to surface water as well as anthropogenic discharge through pumping wells. Here, for the first time, we compute long-term (1996–2015) groundwater recharge rates using data retrieved from several groundwater level monitoring locations across India (3.3millionkm2 area), the most groundwater-stressed region globally. Spatial variations in groundwater recharge rates (basin-wide mean: 17 to 960mm/yr) were estimated in the 22 major river basins across India. The extensive plains of the Indus–Ganges–Brahmaputra (IGB) river basins are subjected to prevalence of comparatively higher recharge. This is mainly attributed to occurrence of coarse sediments, higher rainfall, and intensive irrigation-linked groundwater abstraction inducing recharge by increasing available groundwater storage and return flows. Lower recharge rates (<200mm/yr) in most of the central and southern study areas occur in cratonic, crystalline fractured aquifers. Estimated recharge rates have been compared favorably with field-scale recharge estimates (n=52) based on tracer (tritium) injection tests. Results show precipitation rates are not significantly influencing groundwater recharge in most of the river basins across India, indicating human influence in prevailing recharge rates. The spatial variability in recharge rates could provide critical input to policy makers to develop more sustainable groundwater management in India.

Soumendra N. Bhanja et al.
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Soumendra N. Bhanja et al.
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Short summary
Groundwater depletion in India, has been a much debated issue in recent years. Here we investigate long-term, spatio-temporal variation in prevailing groundwater recharge rates across India. Groundwater recharge rates have been estimated based on field-scale groundwater level measurements and tracer injection approach; recharge rates from the two estimates compared favorably. The role of precipitation in controlling groundwater recharge have been studied.
Groundwater depletion in India, has been a much debated issue in recent years. Here we...
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