Measuring Autogenic Recharge over a Karst Aquifer Utilizing Eddy Covariance Evapotranspiration


Autogenic, or direct aquifer recharge can best be measured as the remainder of a water balance utilizing precise measurement of precipitation, evapotranspiration (ET) and runoff. ET is the largest component of a precipitation water balance and can be measured within 5% using an eddy covariance system with Bowen-ratio energy balance corrections. Water balance components of precipitation, evapotranspiration, internal runoff, soil moisture were measured using a eddy covariance system, tipping bucket and visual rain gauges, flumes, and soil-moisture sensors. The research site was located within a 0.19-km2 (46-acre) internal drainage sinkhole basin where runoff never flows beyond the basin, but potentially reaches a cave serving as a drain to the sinkhole. Other than the cave drain, the basin slopes are indistinguishable from other slopes across the Barton Springs Segment of the Edwards Aquifer. Over a 505-day water balance interval where change in soil moisture was negligible and precipitation was 42% above average, ET was 68% of precipitation, discrete internal runoff was 6%, and remaining component of diffuse autogenic recharge was measured as the residual of total rainfall as 26% of rainfall. Over a longer period of average rainfall, internal runoff diminished to 3%, but was as high as 42% of precipitation during single storms when the soils were near saturation. These results closely match results from a five-year water balance over the Trinity Aquifer of Central Texas where ET was measured to be 65% of precipitation using a Bowen-ratio climate tower, runoff was measured to be 5% of precipitation, and recharge was calculated as the residual at 30% of rainfall. ET flux tower data from other sites across Central Texas indicate that under average precipitation conditions, autogenic recharge is about 28% and intervening recharge area runoff is about 3% of precipitation. During years of higher than average precipitation, authogenic recharge and intervening recharge area runoff combined increase within the range of 30% to 45% of precipitation.

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Hauwert, N. and Sharp, J. (2014) Measuring Autogenic Recharge over a Karst Aquifer Utilizing Eddy Covariance Evapotranspiration. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 6, 869-879. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2014.69081.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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