UNDERSTANDING WATER IN A DRY ENVIRONMENT

INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TO HYDROGEOLOGY
23
INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF HYDROGEOLOGISTS
Understanding Water in a
Dry Environment
Hydrological Processes in
Arid and Semi-arid Zones
Editor
Ian Simmers
Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
A.A. BALKEMA PUBLISHERS / LISSE / ABINGDON / EXTON (PA) / TOKYO
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Applied for
Front cover: The Manga Grasslands—the ‘lake district’ of the Sahel. Rainfall of
400–500 mm/year in this area of Holocene sand dunes in northern Nigeria (Borno State)
is sufficient to sustain a series of groundwater-fed lakes and fragile ecosystems.
Recharge rates are around 40 mm/year, as estimated using both the Cl mass balance
(unsaturated zone profiles) and groundwater models. During the 20-year Sahel drought of
the 1970s and 1980s, many of the lakes dried completely or left a series of swamps.
Photograph by W. Mike Edmunds, British Geological Survey, UK.
Copyright
#
2003 Swets & Zeitlinger B.V., Lisse, The Netherlands
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Published by: A.A. Balkema Publisher, A member of Swets & Zeitlinger Publishers
www.balkema.ima.nl and www.szp.swets.nl.
ISBN 90 5809 618 1
Financially supported by UNESCO as a contribution to the International Hydrological
Programme IHP-V, Project 5.1
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Contents
CONTRIBUTORS xiii
FOREWORD xv
CHAPTER 1 HYDROLOGICAL PROCESSES AND WATER
RESOURCES MANAGEMENT 1
— Ian Simmers
Abstract 1
1.1 Introduction 1
1.2 Developments and Challenges 2
1.3 Arid and Semi-arid Zones 4
1.3.1 Geographical distribution 4
1.3.2 General hydrological characteristics 4
1.4 Guidebook Objectives and Adopted Approach 7
1.5 Conclusions and Recommendations 10
References 12
Selected Internet sites 12
Bibliography 12
CHAPTER 2 RAINFALL IN ARID AND SEMI-ARID REGIONS 15
—Jetse D. Kalma & Stewart W. Franks
Abstract 15
2.1 Introduction 15
2.2 Rainfall Types and Mechanisms 19
2.3 General Circulation Aspects and the Distribution of
Dry Climates 21
2.4 Mesoscale Climatic Systems and Rainfall Patterns 24
2.4.1 Synoptically induced mesoscale systems 26
2.4.2 Terrain induced mesoscale systems 26
2.5 Rainfall Regimes in Arid and Semi-arid Regions 28
2.5.1 Australia 28
2.5.2 Israel 32
2.6 Ground-based Measurement of Precipitation 34
2.7 Use of Remote Sensing in Rainfall Estimation 35
2.7.1 Indirect methods of precipitation estimation
based on remote sensing 36
2.7.2 Direct methods of precipitation estimation
based on remote sensing 38
2.8 Rainfall Analysis 40
2.8.1 Data interpretation 40
2.8.2 Computing areal rainfall 40
2.8.3 Frequency analysis 41
2.8.4 Intensity–duration–frequency curves 41
2.8.5 Depth–area–duration analysis 42
2.8.6 Probable maximum precipitation 42
2.8.7 Rainfall intensity analysis 43
2.9 Climatic Variability and Change 43
2.9.1 El Nin˜o southern oscillation 44
2.9.2 Measures of the southern oscillation 44
2.9.3 Empirical approaches to assessing the
influence of the southern oscillation 45
2.9.4 ENSO-induced ‘hydrological’ variability 46
2.9.5 Secular variability of climate and
ENSO phenomena 47
2.9.6 Assessing future hydro-meteorological
regimes under a changing climate 49
2.10 Conclusions and Recommendations 50
2.11 Acknowledgements 55
2.12 List of Abbreviations 55
References 56
CHAPTER 3 OPERATIONAL SOLUTIONS OF ACTUAL
EVAPOTRANSPIRATION
—Ambro S.M. Gieske 65
Abstract 65
3.1 Introduction 66
3.2 Physical Background of Turbulent Transport 66
3.2.1 Introduction 66
3.2.2 The atmospheric boundary layer 67
3.2.3 Logarithmic wind profile 68
3.2.4 Mean specific humidity and temperature profiles 70
3.2.5 Stability corrections in the surface sub-layer 71
3.2.6 Applications 73
3.3 Surface Energy Balance 74
3.3.1 Introduction 74
3.3.2 Net radiation R
n
75
3.3.3 Sensible heat H 76
3.3.4 Soil heat flux G 76
3.3.5 Laterally advected energy A 77
3.3.6 Diurnal changes of energy components 77
3.4 Direct Measurement Techniques 79
3.4.1 Introduction 79
3.4.2 Evaporation pan measurements 79
vi Contents
3.4.3 Lysimeters 80
3.4.4 Bowen ratio method 84
3.4.5 Eddy Correlation method 85
3.4.6 Scintillometers 86
3.4.7 Temperature fluctuation method 87
3.4.8 Measurement techniques 88
Data capture and storage 88
Sensors 89
Platforms 89
3.5 Reference Crop Evapotranspiration and
Analytical Expressions 92
3.5.1 Introduction 92
3.5.2 Combination methods 94
Penman evaporation formulae 94
Penman–Monteith formulation 95
3.5.3 Temperature and radiation methods for
potential evapotranspiration 97
3.5.4 Complementary relationships between
actual and potential evapotranspiration 97
3.5.5 Concluding remarks 99
3.6 Hydrological Models and Areal Solutions 100
3.6.1 Introduction 100
3.6.2 Agro–hydrological modelling 101
3.6.3 Hydrological modelling 101
3.6.4 Soil–vegetation-atmosphere (SVAT) modelling 103
3.7 Remote Sensing Techniques 105
3.7.1 Introduction 105
3.7.2 Energy balance methods 106
3.7.3 Further literature and concluding remarks 107
3.8 Acknowledgements 109
References 109
CHAPTER 4 SURFACE RUNOFF AND SEDIMENT DYNAMICS IN
ARID AND SEMI-ARID REGIONS 115
—Jens Lange & Chris Leibundgut
Abstract 115
4.1 General Aspects 115
4.1.1 Runoff generation processes 115
4.1.2 Wadi flow and transmission losses 117
4.1.3 Sediment dynamics 119
4.1.4 Water harvesting adapted to aridity: the
concept of micro-catchments 120
4.2 Assessment Techniques 122
4.2.1 Direct measurement of flow and sediment 122
4.2.2 Indirect estimation tools 122
Paleoflood technique 122
Deterministic rainfall-runoff models 123
Contents vii
Runoff regression models 123
Assessment of channel transmission losses 124
Regression models for sediment dynamics 125
Tracer techniques 126
4.3 Case Studies 127
4.3.1 Introduction 127
4.3.2 The hillslope scale—runoff generation
and sediment dynamics 128
Classification of runoff generation in semi-arid
west Africa 128
The semi-arid loess region, north China 129
Runoff plots in semi-arid northern Iraq 130
The semi-arid Dinosaur badlands, Canada 131
A limestone slope in the arid Negev desert, Israel 132
4.3.3 The catchment scale—transmission losses,
water balance and modelling 134
The semi-arid Walnut Gulch, Arizona, USA 134
The semi-arid Luni basin, India 136
The arid Nahal Zin, Israel 137
The arid Tabalah catchment, Saudi Arabia 138
The arid Wadi Ghat, Saudi Arabia 140
The arid Barrier range, Australia 140
4.3.4 Regional comparisons 141
Floods and transmission losses in Yemen 141
High magnitude floods in the entire United States 143
4.4 Conclusions and Recommendations 144
4.5 List of Symbols 145
References 146
CHAPTER 5 WATER FLOW PROCESSES IN ARID AND
SEMI-ARID VADOSE ZONES 151
—Jan M.H. Hendrickx, Fred M. Phillips & J. Bruce J. Harrison
Abstract 151
5.1 Introduction 151
5.2 Conceptual and Physical Models for Water
Flow at Different Scales 152
5.2.1 Pore scale 152
5.2.2 Darcian scale 153
5.2.3 Areal scale 156
5.3 Controls on Water Movement 157
5.3.1 Climate 158
5.3.2 Vegetation 160
5.3.3 Topography 163
5.3.4 Vertical and horizontal distribution of
geological materials 166
5.3.5 Depth to groundwater 169
5.4 Case Studies 173
viii Contents
5.4.1 Water flow through a basalt flow in
southern New Mexico 174
—Missy C. Eppes & J. Bruce J. Harrison
5.4.2 Soil water fluxes in a first-order in an
arid drainage basin 178
—Dennis R. McMahon & J. Bruce J. Harrison
5.4.3 Simulation of water flow through indurated
calcic horizons 182
—Graciela Rodrı ´guez-Marı ´n, J. Bruce
J. Harrison, Jirka S
ˇ
imunek & Jan M.H. Hendrickx
Methods and materials 184
Results and discussion 186
5.4.4 Groundwater depth and arid zone riparian
evapotranspiration 188
—Behnaum Moayyad, Salim A. Bawazir,
James P. King, Sung-ho Hong &
Jan M.H. Hendrickx
Methods and materials 189
Results and discussion 190
5.4.5 Water movement through deep arid vadose zones 195
—Michelle A. Walvoord & Fred M. Phillips
5.5 Recommendations 202
5.6 List of Symbols 203
5.7 Acknowledgements 204
References 204
CHAPTER 6 AQUIFER DYNAMICS 211
—Hans Gehrels & Ambro S.M. Gieske
Abstract 211
6.1 Introduction 211
6.1.1 General 211
6.1.2 Groundswater level fluctuations 212
6.1.3 Driving forces, aquifer characteristics
and dynamic response 214
6.2 Methods to analyze aquifer response 216
6.2.1 Time series analysis: Transfer Function-Noise
modeling 216
6.2.2 Stochastic forcing of a linear reservoir 219
6.2.3 1D numerical soil water flow modeling 224
6.2.4 2D/3D numerical groundwater flow modelling 229
6.3 Examples of application 231
6.3.1 Transfer function–noise modelling of
groundwater head 231
Characterization of groundwater level fluctuations 231
Model diagnostics 234
Conclusions 237
Contents ix
6.3.2 Spectral analysis using the theory of
stochastic forcing 237
6.4 Discussion and Conclusions 242
6.5 Recommendations 244
6.6 List of Symbols 245
References 247
CHAPTER 7 HYDROGEOCHEMICAL PROCESSES IN ARID
AND SEMI-ARID REGIONS—FOCUS ON NORTH AFRICA 251
—W. Mike Edmunds
Abstract 251
7.1 Introduction and Rationale 251
7.2 Methods of Investigation 253
7.3 Rainfall Chemistry 255
7.4 Time Scales and Palaeohydrology 257
7.5 Surface Waters 260
7.6 The Unsaturated Zone 261
7.6.1 Tritium and
36
Cl 262
7.6.2 Stable isotopes 265
7.6.3 Chloride 265
7.6.4 Nitrate 265
7.6.5 Reactive tracers and water–rock reactions
in the unsaturated zone 266
7.6.6 Examples of integrated studies 266
Louga, Senegal 266
Central Kalahari, Botswana 267
7.7 Hydrochemistry of Groundwater Systems in
(Semi-)Arid Regions 269
7.7.1 Input conditions—inert elements and
isotopic tracers 269
7.7.2 Reactions and evolution along flow lines 271
7.7.3 Redox reactions 272
7.7.4 Salinity generation 274
7.8 Wadi Hawad, Sudan—A case study of
surface-groundwater relationships in semi-arid zones;
relationships between modern and palaeowaters 274
7.8.1 Regional setting 274
7.8.2 Rainfall chemistry 277
7.8.3 Chemistry of wadi flows and the river Nile 278
7.8.4 Wadi recharge and shallow groundwater 278
7.8.5 The unsaturated zone 279
7.8.6 Shallow and deep groundwaters 279
7.8.7 Overall recharge sources in Wadi Hawad 280
7.9 Recommendations 282
7.9.1 Data requirements 282
7.9.2 Groundwater resources assessment 283
7.9.3 Groundwater exploration and development 283
x Contents
7.9.4 Groundwater quality and use 283
References 284
CHAPTER 8 HUMAN IMPACTS AND MANAGEMENT ISSUES IN
ARID AND SEMI-ARID REGIONS 289
—S.M. Seth
Abstract 289
8.1 Introduction 289
8.2 Surface Water Development 291
8.2.1 Examples of arid zone surface water
development impacts 291
Pilbara region, Western Australia 291
Small farm reservoirs and urban water
supply in Botswana 292
8.3 Urbanization, Industrial Pollution, Waste Water Reuse 297
8.3.1 Examples of urbanization impacts 298
Barcelona metropolitan area 298
Delhi, Iran, China, Gaza, Yemen,
Patagonia, Arabian peninsula 299
Industrial pollution in western Rajasthan, India 300
Aquifer storage and recovery of storm
water runoff in Adelaide, Australia 301
8.4 Irrigation, Drainage, Dryland Salinity,
Land Cover Change 304
8.4.1 Examples of irrigation, drainage, dryland
salinity and land cover change impacts 306
Irrigation in arid lands of India 306
Groundwater quality in the Saq aquifer,
Saudi Arabia 308
California groundwater degradation 308
Forested eco-systems in Rajasthan, India 309
8.5 Water Harvesting, Artificial Recharge 311
8.5.1 Examples of water harvesting and artificial
recharge studies 313
Water harvesting techniques in the
Arabian peninsula 313
Artificial groundwater recharge
practice in Cyprus 316
8.6 Groundwater Over-exploitation 318
8.6.1 An example of groundwater
over-exploitation impacts 319
The Arab region 319
8.7 Climate Variability, Drought Management,
Surface- and Groundwater Conjunctive Use 321
8.7.1 Examples of climate variability, drought
management and conjunctive water use impacts 321
Contents xi
Climate change and rainfall variability in the
Sahel region, Africa 321
Meteorological and hydrological
droughts in Chile 323
Sustainable water resources
development in Namibia 326
Evaporation control studies in
Gujarat State, India 328
8.8 Systems Approach to Water Management 329
8.8.1 An example of a systems approach to
water management 330
Botswana groundwater resources assessment 330
8.9 Concluding Remarks 335
8.10 Recommendations 337
References 337
xii Contents
Contributors
Edmunds, W. Mike British Geological Survey, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford,
Oxon. OX10 8BB, UK
Franks, Stewart W. Discipline of Civil, Surveying and Environmental Engineering,
School of Engineering, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia
Gehrels, J. (Hans) C. Netherlands Institute of Applied Geoscience TNO, P.O. Box
80015, 3508 TA Utrecht, The Netherlands and Delft University of Technology,
Dept. of Civil Engineering and Geosciences, P.O. Box 5048, 2600 GA Delft,
The Netherlands
Gieske, Ambro S.M. International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth
Observation ITC, Water Resources Division, P.O. Box 6, 7500 AA Enschede,
The Netherlands
Harrison, J. Bruce J. Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico
Tech, Socorro, New Mexico, USA
Hendrickx, Jan M.H. Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico
Tech, Socorro, New Mexico, USA
Kalma, Jetse D. Discipline of Civil, Surveying and Environmental Engineering,
School of Engineering, The University of Newcastle, Callaghan NSW 2308, Australia
Lange, Jens Institute of Hydrology, University of Freiburg, Fahnenbergplatz, 79098
Freiburg, Germany
Leibundgut, Chris Institute of Hydrology, University of Freiburg, Fahnenbergplatz,
79098 Freiburg, Germany
Phillips, Fred M. Department of Earth and Environmental Science, New Mexico Tech,
Socorro, New Mexico, USA
Seth, S.M. National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee, 247 667 (Uttaranchal), India
Ian Simmers Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, De Boelelaan 1085,
1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Foreword
The International Hydrological Programme (IHP) and earlier International Hydro-
logical Decade (IHD) are intergovernmental scientific cooperation programmes of
UNESCO in the area of fresh water resources. IHP has been established because both the
international scientific community and UNESCO Member States, realising that water
resources are often one of the primary limiting factors for harmonious development in
many regions and countries of the world, saw the need for an internationally coordinated
programme. Its prime role is acting as a catalyst to promote scientific cooperation. The
general objective of the IHD and later of the IHP has been ‘improvement of the scientific
and technological basis for the development of methods and the human resource base
for the rational management of water resources, including protection of the
environment’.
This objective remains almost the same today as during the launching of IHD in 1965.
However, there are a number of shifts and trends in the international scene related to the
field of water sciences and water resources development and management which
are quite relevant to, and should no doubt influence UNESCO’s role now and in the
next decade including the structure and contents of the Fifth and Sixth Phases of IHP
(1996–2007).
The main theme of the Fifth Phase (IHP-V) was Hydrology and Water Resources
Development in a Vulnerable Environment. As in previous phases, IHP-V (1996–2001)
constituted a framework for applied research and education in the field of hydrology and
water management. It was and is regarded as a dynamic concept whose aim is to improve
links between research, application and education, and to promote scientific and
educational activities. Of the eight themes identified in IHP-V as corner stones within
which projects can be flexibly implemented, that on ‘integrated water resources manage-
ment in arid and semi-arid zones’ was given utmost priority. It is within the framework
of one of the four projects of this theme that this publication has been accomplished. The
book is primarily devoted to the important subject Hydrological Processes in Arid and
Semi-arid Zones.
Following the IHP’s standing implementation practice of forming working groups of
international experts to supervise and contribute to each project of IHP themes, the main
authors of this publication have been nominated by the IHP Bureau as members of a
working group related to the above mentioned subject. Prof. Ian Simmers of the Vrije
Universiteit was entrusted with the dual task of contributing to the document as well as
coordinating the work of the group. During the course of their work the group found
it necessary to invite additional specialists to complement the expertise necessary for a
balanced production. The present book is the result of the dedicated efforts by
Prof. Simmers and his international team of colleagues.
Dr. Abdin M.A. Salih
UNESCO Division of Water Sciences
Paris, France
xvi Foreword
CHAPTER 1
Hydrological processes and water resources management
Ian Simmers
Faculty of Earth and Life Sciences, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT: In order to provide water security in the 21st century there is clear universal
agreement that a continuation of current policies and extrapolation of trends (business as usual) is
not an option. Also clear is that from both water supply and development perspectives the world’s
arid and semi-arid zones are those currently and potentially experiencing the highest water stresses.
UNESCO has thus identified ‘integrated water management in arid and semi-arid zones’ as a
priority and called for this volume on ‘hydrological processes in arid and semi-arid zones.’
Although attention is primarily devoted to understanding these various processes, there is a clear
interrelationship with water management issues. This opening chapter introduces the concepts and
challenges considered in detail by those which follow and emphasizes the relevance of
hydrological process studies to a spectrum of key management issues.
The hydrology of arid and semi-arid areas is shown to be substantially different from that in
more humid regions. It is therefore essential that methods appropriate to the former are developed
and applied: Strategies for arid and semi-arid zone water resources development must recognize the
principal characteristics of in situ hydrological processes. However, most arid and semi-arid zones
are regions of scarce hydrological data. An iterative water resources development approach is
proposed, with initial information based on knowledge acquired from other geographical regions
which have similar aridity characteristics. Specific local data are then progressively added while
carrying out the first stages of planning and development.
The chapter further concludes that: (a) Conjunctive use of surface water, groundwater, and even
waste water, can provide effective solutions for regional water resources development, particularly
when based on the comparative advantages of each resource; and (b) for development to maximize
the resource potential the integrated modelling of surface- and groundwater response is a valuable
tool, though this requires high quality basic data and supplementary information from detailed
hydrological process studies.
1.1 INTRODUCTION
The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (UNCSD 1997) regards
water as ‘one of the main issues facing the world. It is as important as atmospheric change,
protection of biodiversity and desertification, all of which are linked to water
management’. UNESCO (2000) further concludes that ‘In most arid countries the scarcity
of renewable water supplies implies a serious threat to sustainable coupled and balanced
socio-economic growth and environmental protection’.
In support of these broad international statements, specific information and cur-
rent prognoses collated from Gleick (1996, 2000), OECD (1998), Bastiaanssen (2000),
Cosgrove and Rijsberman (2000), Helweg (2000) and Shiklomanov (2000) indicate that:
The world population increases at a rate of 1.5% per year and is projected to reach
8 billion by 2025. By this time more than 80% of the people will live in developing
countries, 56% of these in urban areas.
Some developing countries have an annual population growth of 3% and their
population will double in less than 25 years. Current predictions indicate that more
than 20 developing countries will experience chronic, physical water shortage by
2025. Most of these lie in the Middle East and North Africa, and are already con-
fronted with a shortage in water supplies. Projections for the year 2050 show that 66
countries, with about two-thirds of the world population, will face moderate to severe
water scarcity. In 1990, 55 countries already failed to provide the recommended basic
water requirements for human needs of 50 L day
À1
.
Between 2000 and 2025 the global average annual per capita availability of
renewable surface- and groundwater water resources is projected to fall from 6600 m
3
to 4800 m
3
because of population growth. An estimated 3800 km
3
was already with-
drawn for human use in 1995, with 2100 km
3
of this consumed. The remainder was
returned to streams and aquifers, usually with significant reductions in quality.
Withdrawals for irrigation are nearly 70% of the total taken for human use, those for
industry are approximately 20% and for municipal use about 10%. Even though
people use only a small proportion of renewable resources globally, this fraction
increases to 80–90% in many arid and semi-arid areas where water is scarce.
1.2 DEVELOPMENTS AND CHALLENGES
Necessity clearly dictates that the principal challenges to be faced in order to achieve
sustainable water security are: ‘Meeting basic needs, securing the food supply, protecting
ecosystems, sharing water resources, managing risks, valuing water and governing water
wisely’ (2nd World Water Forum 2000, Ministerial Declaration of The Hague on Water
Security in the 21st Century). In this context the term sustainable is more encompassing
than just the volume and quality of water as a resource; as stated by Merrick (2000) it
also incorporates the sustainability of social, environmental and economic rights. Since
agriculture remains the largest water user, the heart of the question of whether a water
crisis can be averted is whether water can be made more productive.
One third of the world’s land surface has been classified as arid or semi-arid (Section
1.3) and approximately half the countries are directly affected in some way by problems of
aridity. Easily developed land has in large measure already been exploited and attention is
thus increasingly towards more arid areas for human survival. However, soil and water
resources of arid and semi-arid regions are limited, often being in a delicate environmental
balance. Surface water supplies are normally critically unreliable, poorly distributed and
subject to high evaporation losses. For the expanding urban, industrial and agricultural
water requirements in these areas groundwater use is thus of fundamental importance, one
third of the world’s population already being dependent on groundwater (UNCSD 1997).
This in turn creates a host of associated problems. In some places rising groundwater
levels are inducing water logging or salinization, but many aquifers throughout the world
are being depleted at pumping rates in excess of natural recharge. Such depletion can lead
2 Understanding water in a dry environment
to loss of access for poorer users, reduced river base flow, degradation of groundwater
dependent ecosystems, sea water intrusion and land subsidence. Aquifers are also
increasingly suffering from water quality impairment, but remedial procedures are
expensive and slow to take effect (Lerner et al. 1990; Merrick 2000).
Despite or because of these problems, the optimumcourse of action for sustainable water
resources management in arid and semi-arid areas will in most cases be a ‘combination of
surface- and groundwater use, with a range of storage options’ (Cosgrove & Rijsberman
2000). However, for effective and sustainable management in arid and semi-arid regions
there is first a need for proper understanding, continued monitoring and a structured
scientific assessment of the effects of human activities on land and water resources.
To this end, the knowledge and understanding of hydrological processes, as described
in Table 1.1 (J.J. de Vries pers. comm.), provide an essential insight for practitioners
involved in water resources management issues in arid and semi-arid regions under
changing scenarios of population pressure and the possibility of climate change. With
regard to the role of land cover in the hydrological cycle, it is clear that this also can best
be understood by systematic investigation of the various component processes.
Reliable water resources data are thus a prerequisite for rational development, though
these are generally sparse in arid and semi-arid regions. Those used in global-scale
analyses represent averages, and average conditions are known to be a poor reflection of
hydrological processes with distinct space and time components (Bastiaanssen 2000).
This framework has led the World Water Council (2000) to conclude that ‘we need to
learn much more about the complex processes involved in the hydrological cycle, the
Table 1.1. Physiographic elements, related processes and available research methods.
Physiographic elements (near surface) Disciplines and methods
Rainfall Climatology and meteorology
Potential evaporation Geomorphology
Topography Soil physics
Structure and lithology of soil Vegetation studies
Vegetation Remote sensing
Infiltration experiments
Processes
Surface runoff Runoff studies
Interflow Evapotranspiration studies
Infiltration Soil moisture and tracer transport modelling
Evapotranspiration
Percolation
Physiographic elements (greater depth) Disciplines and methods
Aquifer properties Geology
Large-scale topography Pumping tests
Geophysical surveys
Groundwater level observations
Hydrochemical analyses
Processes
Groundwater level fluctuations Analysis of groundwater level fluctuations
Groundwater flow Groundwater flow modelling
Groundwater discharge Tracer studies
Spring/river discharge studies
Hydrological processes and water resources management 3
functioning and basic water requirements of ecosystems, and the likely impact on these of
future changes in the world’s climate’.
1.3 ARID AND SEMI-ARID ZONES
1.3.1 Geographical distribution
The world’s extensive ‘dryland’ areas generally lie between latitudes 10–35

N and S,
immediately north and south of the major tropical convergence zone (Landsberg &
Schloemer 1967). Typical areas include southwest USA, south central South America,
South Africa, North Africa extending into central and southern Asia and most of western
Australia. Although one-third of the world’s land surface has been classified as arid and
semi-arid, there is still no conformity of definitions. The terms are not exact, with any
classification influenced by the intended use (FAO 1981; Rodier 1985). Many have been
developed based on climatological data. UNESCO (1979), for example, has adopted a
classification based on the ratio of mean annual precipitation (Pmm) to Penman mean
annual potential evapotranspiration (PET mm), viz.:
P/PET <0.03 (hyper-arid zone)
0.03 <P/PET <0.20 (arid zone)
0.20 <P/PET <0.50 (semi-arid zone)
where, in summary:
Hyper-arid zone: Annual rainfall is very low with inter-annual variability up to 100%;
very sparse vegetation and no rain fed agriculture or grazing.
Arid zone: Annual rainfall is 80–150 mm and 200–350 mm in respectively winter and
summer rainfall areas; inter-annual rainfall variability is 50–100%; scattered vegetation;
nomadic livestock rearing is possible and agriculture based upon local rainfall is only
possible through rain water harvesting techniques.
Semi-arid zone: Annual rainfall is 200–500 mm and 300–800 mm in winter and summer
rainfall areas; inter-annual variability is 25–50%; discontinuous vegetation with peren-
nial grasses; rain fed agriculture and sedentary livestock rearing are common.
Alternatively, Hare (1985) and Kalma and Franks (Chapter 2, this volume) illustrate use of
the Budyko-Lettau dryness ratio, with the zone most at risk lying between dryness ratios of
2 (outer margin of the arid zone) and 7 (10 is the desert margin). Numerous maps of the
world’s arid and semi-arid areas have been presented by (inter alia) Hodge and Duisberg
(1963) and UNESCO (1979); Figure 1.1 is a simplified version adapted from Hare (1985).
1.3.2 General hydrological characteristics
The hydrology of arid and semi-arid areas is substantially different fromthat in more humid
regions, the latter having provided the basis for conventional design and management
practice. General environmental features which characterize arid and semi-arid areas are
given by FAO (1981) and Wheater (1996, 2002) to be:
High levels of incident solar radiation;
High diurnal and seasonal temperature variations;
4 Understanding water in a dry environment
F
i
g
u
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Evaporation is prominent in the hydrological cycle;
Low humidity at short distance from the sea;
Strong winds with frequent dust and sand storms;
Sporadic rainfall of high temporal and spatial variability;
Extreme variability of short-duration runoff events in ephemeral drainage systems;
High rates of infiltration loss in channel alluvium;
High sediment transport rates;
Relatively large groundwater and soil moisture storage changes;
Distinctive geomorphology, with poorly developed soil profiles.
Although the natural geography of the arid and semi-arid zones is complex and differs
from site to site, the characteristics in common are infrequent rainfall, drought, poor
vegetation cover, low cover ratio, serious soil loss and erosion, and high river sediment
concentrations during the flood seasons (Xiao Lin 1999; Alhamid & Reid 2002).
Desertification is evident over much of the arid zone and usually involves a reduction
in the area of soil covered by vegetation, a consequent rise in surface albedo, loss of
perennial plants, soil erosion and impoverishment. It is initiated by human pressure on
the land, aggravated by climatic stress. Almost as destructive, but spatially less extensive,
is the process of salinization (Hare 1985). More specifically on the characteristics of
precipitation and rainfall-runoff processes (see also Chapters 2 and 4; details relating to
actual evapotranspiration losses are addressed in Chapter 3):
Precipitation characteristics: Precipitation in arid and semi-arid zones is characterized
by high spatial and temporal variability. It is also significantly different in various
regions. For a majority of tropical areas precipitation is concentrated in the summer
months (e.g. southern Sahara, semi-arid India, Australia, Mexico, USA, Mexico), else-
where it is mainly concentrated in winter (e.g. China). In comparison with humid zones,
there are numerous unique arid and semi-arid zone rainfall characteristics which may be
summarized as (Wheater 2002):
Rain storms are random events, with a small frequency of occurrence.
The more intense the drought conditions, the lower the magnitude of frequent storms.
In tropical arid regions rain storms result from short duration convective events which
usually last from 15 minutes to two hours, with a maximum intensity in excess
of 100–150 mm hr
À1
. The areal extent of storms is variable, but rarely exceeds
100–200 km
2
(commonly 30–60 km
2
in the Sahel); in mountainous regions this is
much smaller and the localized nature of storms is very significant.
Surface runoff processes: The lack of vegetation cover in arid and semi-arid areas
removes protection of the soil from rain drop impact, with soil crusting leading to a large
reduction in infiltration capacity and the generation of extensive overland flow. This
runoff generation process is likely to be highly localized in space, reflecting the spatially
variable rainfall. Overland flows converge on the channel network, producing flood
hydrographs which are typically characterized by extremely rapid rise times (e.g. 15–30
minutes). Losses from the flood hydrograph through bed infiltration are an important
factor in reducing the flood volume as the flood wave moves downstream, these trans-
mission losses being a major source of potential groundwater recharge (Wheater 2002).
Wadi flows are typical for the semi- to hyper-arid climatic zones and their particular
rainfall-runoff features are described by Schick (1988), Al-Eryani (1996), Xiao Lin (1999)
6 Understanding water in a dry environment
and Wheater (2002) as:
Rain storm floods (as distinct from snow- and ice-melt floods), characterized by
sudden occurrence, rapid rise and fall, great yearly variation and high sediment loads.
Flash floods are significant and may result from storms of limited spatial extent, but
in any catchment the occurrence frequency is small and the areal distribution is
statistically random.
Only a very small fraction of rainfall over an arid catchment becomes runoff.
Wadi flow is intermittent and tends to be lost before reaching the sea.
Base flow rates are several orders of magnitude lower than the peak flow.
Hydraulic contact between surface- and groundwater is often via the unsaturated zone.
1.4 GUIDEBOOK OBJECTIVES AND ADOPTED APPROACH
As reflected in Sections 1.1 and 1.2, international consensus clearly indicates that from
both water supply and development perspectives the world’s arid and semi-arid zones are
those currently and potentially experiencing the highest water stresses. In response,
UNESCO identified ‘integrated water management in arid and semi-arid zones’ as a
priority theme within their IHP-V program and called for a guidebook on ‘hydrological
processes in arid and semi-arid zones’. Although attention is primarily devoted to
processes, there is a clear interrelationship with water management issues—hence the
present volume title: Understanding Water in a Dry Environment. The information
contained represents an appraisal of arid and semi-arid zone hydrological processes and
does not aspire to being the ultimate word on the subject. It does not, therefore, relieve the
reader of the need for independent thought on a specific problem, but should be considered
as a source of summary information to facilitate further local/regional developments. This
IAH/UNESCOcontribution is thus intended to offer additional guidance to the practitioner
engaged in arid and semi-arid zone water resources exploration and development.
The principal aim of the book is to supplement the wealth of information contained in
the various text- or handbooks on the collection and analysis of hydrological variables,
and to relate this specifically to the world’s arid and semi-arid zones. If necessary, as
dictated by project requirements, the water resources practitioner is encouraged to
explore the recent developments and techniques identified in the present volume. A note
of caution, however: Many of the reported studies are in response to specific local issues
and the procedures/solutions described may not prove equally reliable for general
application. Water resources development is clearly an iterative process, with progressive
data collection and resource evaluation (Simmers 1997; Burke & Moench 2000). For
detailed recent statements on water resources development and management, and the
interrelated relevance of hydrological process studies to these, the reader is referred to
(e.g.) Cosgrove and Rijsberman (2000), Wheater and Al-Weshah (2002), and the selected
internet sites listed at the end of this chapter.
The present volume comprises eight chapters, six of which relate specifically to
understanding the arid and semi-arid zone hydrological processes of rainfall (Chapter 2),
actual evapotranspiration (Chapter 3), surface runoff (Chapter 4), flow in the vadose zone
(Chapter 5), aquifer response (Chapter 6) and hydrogeochemistry (Chapter 7). Each is
self-contained and contains illustrative case studies. This first chapter introduces the
Hydrological processes and water resources management 7
concepts and challenges considered in detail by those which follow, and indicates the
relevance of hydrological process studies to the key management issues identified in
Chapter 8. The content relies heavily on readily available recent literature.
Chapter 2 commences with an overview of rainfall types and mechanisms. This is
followed by a discussion of general circulation aspects and meso-scale climatic systems
as they affect precipitation in arid and semi-arid regions, conventional precipitation
measurement techniques, and the use of remote sensing in rainfall estimation. The
chapter gives an overview of rainfall frequency analysis, summarizes recent research of
relevance to hydrological variability at multiple time scales, and concludes by addressing
climatic variability and change. Additional background information may be found in
Landsberg and Schloemer (1967), Hare (1985), Rodier (1985) and Lerner et al. (1990).
Chapter 3 provides a summary of the rapidly developing field of actual evapo-
transpiration (ET) estimation, with particular emphasis on operational solutions for use by
practicing hydrologists and water resources planners. With regard to the various methods,
the chapter is subdivided into sections on the required physical parameters, direct
measurement techniques (pan, lysimeter, eddy correlation, Bowen ratio), use of the
reference crop ET
o
in estimating actual crop evapotranspiration under standard and non-
standard conditions (Penman-Montieth, Priestley & Taylor, Makkink), the hydrological
modelling of ET, and a remote sensing approach to actual ET determination. The chapter
closes with discussion on the state-of-the-art in areal evapotranspiration derivation, and
compares the various methods with regard to operational procedures and costs (see also
Bastiaanssen 1998; Kite & Droogers 2000a,b).
Chapter 4 considers surface runoff processes and techniques for quantifying surface
runoff and sediment dynamics. Direct measurements of flow and sediment are then
compared with indirect estimation tools, the latter providing valuable alternatives in
areas with missing data. The chapter concludes that although material presented in the
case studies is generally site specific, if the scale and climatic regime are similar then the
principal results may be translated to other locations as first approximations. For further
details readers could refer to UNESCO (1996), Mourits et al. (1996), Xiao Lin (1999),
Bull and Kirkby (2002) and Wheater and Al-Weshah (2002).
Chapter 5 concentrates on water flow processes that are of interest for the evaluation
of groundwater recharge, and the large spatial and temporal variability of these water
fluxes. This in response to the increasing pressures on water supplies in desert regions
due to burgeoning populations and the increasing use of arid vadose zones for hazardous
and radioactive waste disposal. The chapter further describes the use of numerical,
physical and environmental tracer models of water flow in the vadose zone, discusses
controls on water movement and outlines current methods for recharge evaluation. For
additional detailed discussion on vadose zone processes reference should be made to
Hendrickx and Walker (1997).
Chapter 6 presents a series of analytical, statistical and physically-based (1-, 2-, 3-D)
methods which can be used to analyze aquifer dynamics resulting from either natural
or anthropogenic changes in boundary conditions and climate. Groundwater level fluc-
tuations are concluded to be the most important primary source of diagnostic information,
and examples illustrating use of the techniques described are given for temperate as well
as arid areas.
Chapter 7 describes the application of hydrogeochemical techniques to understanding
water quality problems and, focusing principally on North Africa, follows the chemical
8 Understanding water in a dry environment
pathway of water through the hydrological cycle. It further identifies potential tracers,
details their application within vadose and saturated zone studies, and concludes that for
most investigations it is likely that conjunctive measurement by a range of methods is
desirable (e.g. chemical and isotopic; inert and reactive tracers). The chapter supplements
earlier reviews (Edmunds 1996, 2002) of processes and phenomena that are of particular
significance for groundwater protection in semi-arid regions. Table 1.2 (from Edmunds
1996) lists the indicators which can be used to characterize various forms of natural and
anthropogenic pollution and shows that basic chemical approaches can be adopted quite
successfully. Additional information relating to the use of tracers is given in Chapter 5
(Hendrickx et al.) and (e.g.) Fryar et al. (2001).
Chapter 8 illustrates the inter-relationships between hydrological process studies
and the operational water resources management issues of: Surface water development;
urbanization, industrial pollution and waste water reuse; irrigation, drainage, dryland
salinity and land cover change; water harvesting and artificial recharge; groundwater over-
exploitation; drought management, climate variability and conjunctive use of surface-
and groundwater. This final chapter is important in terms of creating a volume perspective.
Societies in arid zones have historically evolved using traditional farming methods,
involving rain-fed agriculture and limited withdrawal of groundwater. However, the
introduction of modern farming methods and the growth of towns and cities have
completely changed this environmental balance. Chapter 8 concludes that for effective
and sustainable management in arid and semi-arid regions there is a need for proper
understanding, careful monitoring and structured assessment of the impacts of human
activities on land and water resources. The chapter ends with an example of an integrated
(holistic) systems approach to groundwater water resources assessment and management
Table 1.2. Indicators of rapid environmental change in groundwater systems (Edmunds 1996).
Processes Primary indicator(s) Secondary indicator(s)
Saturated Zone Processes
Physical
Piezometric change Water level –
Geochemical
Natural hydrogeochemical processes
Mineral dissolution HCO
3
Si, SI
(calcite)
, major ions
Redox reactions O
2
Eh, Fe
2 þ
Salinity Cl, SEC Mg/Ca,
18
O,
2
H, Br
Residence time –
3
H,
14
C, trace elements
Anthropogenic pollution (diffuse)
Environmental radioactivity
3
H
36
Cl,
14
C
Agrochemicals NO
3
, DOC, HCO
3
K, pesticides
Industrial, urban Cl, DOC, HCO
3
B
Unsaturated Zone Processes
Physical
Recharge rates Cl
3
H,
14
C,
36
Cl
Geochemical and pollution
Acid attenuation pH –
Pollution NO
3

SEC: specific electrical conductivity; DOC: dissolved organic carbon; SI: saturation index.
Hydrological processes and water resources management 9
in semi-arid Botswana. Additional case studies, from the Arab region in particular, are
detailed by Al-Weshah (2002), Attia and Salih (2002), Khater and Al-Weshah (2002) and
Wheater and Al-Weshah (2002).
1.5 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
In order to provide water security in the 21st century there is clear universal agreement
that a continuation of current policies and extrapolation of trends (business as usual) is
not an option (Cosgrove & Rijsberman 2000). As a general framework, UNESCO (1990)
and the 2nd World Water Forum (2000) thus recommend the following actions as a
means to resolve water resources planning, management and exploitation issues in arid
and semi-arid regions: (a) Increased understanding of the natural physical processes
governing precipitation-infiltration transfers (cf. Table 1.1); (b) improved monitoring and
processing of data for the varying hydrological and climatic regimes; and (c) the creation
of hydrological, hydrogeological and extraction method data bases.
Although these general statements are true and relevant, from a pragmatic/operational
point of view there is an evident specific need to allocate water to high value uses and
move it out of low value uses, particularly in arid regions. In addition to agricultural water
management and water-saving techniques such as deficit and precision irrigation, it is
important also to consider interventions such as crop varietal improvement or substitution,
amended cultural practices, the development of non-water intensive economic activities
and the re-targeting of subsidies and pricing.
Equally evident is that the management of surface water resources alone will rarely
solve all water supply problems in arid and semi-arid areas. Integrated use of surface
water, groundwater, and even waste water, can provide effective solutions for regional
water resources development, particularly when based on the comparative advantages of
each resource (cf. Table 1.3). Figure 1.2, also from Tuinhof (2000), illustrates the
different options for conjunctive use.
Wheater (1996, 2002) clearly shows that the hydrology of arid and semi-arid areas is
substantially different from that in more humid regions, the latter having provided the
basis for conventional design and management practice. It is therefore essential that
methods appropriate to the former are developed and applied. Surface water storage is
widely used, though is subject to high evaporation losses and groundwater is often the
only resource in arid areas, but for development purposes it is essential to quantify the
sustainable yield of such systems.
Strategies for arid and semi-arid zone water resource development must recognize the
principal physical characteristics of the in situ hydrological processes. However, due to
sparse habitation as well as the random character of the climatic regime, most arid and
semi-arid zones are regions of scarce hydrological data. There are also substantial dif-
ferences in their analysis and interpretation. The water resources development approach
suggested by Issar and Passchier (1990) is a stage-by-stage improvement of a hydro-
logical evaluation on the basis of knowledge acquired from other geographical regions
which have similar characteristics (i.e. by first formulating an appropriate conceptual
hydrological model—such a conceptual model is the key to logical subsequent devel-
opment of the most appropriate numerical techniques). Specific local data are progres-
sively added while carrying out the first stages of planning and development.
10 Understanding water in a dry environment
Table 1.3. Comparison of surface and groundwater characteristics (Tuinhof 2000).
Characteristic Groundwater resources
and aquifers
Surface water resources
and reservoirs
Hydrological
Storage volume Very large Small to moderate
Resource area Relatively unrestricted Restricted to water
courses/canals
Flow velocity Very low Moderate to high
Residence time Generally decades/centuries Mainly weeks/months
Drought propensity Generally low Generally high
Evaporation losses Low and localized High for reservoirs
Resource evaluation High cost, significant
uncertainty
Lower cost, often more
certainty
Abstraction impacts Delayed and dispersed Immediate
Natural quality Generally high (not always) Very variable
Pollution vulnerability Variable natural protection Largely unprotected
Pollution persistence Often extreme Mainly transitory
Socio-economic
Public perception Mythical, unpredictable Aesthetic, predictable
Development cost Generally modest Often high
Development risk Less than often perceived More than often assumed
Development style Mixed public and private Largely public
Figure 1.2. Conjunctive use options (Tuinhof 2000).
Hydrological processes and water resources management 11
For development to maximize the resource potential the integrated modelling of surface-
and groundwater response is a valuable tool (Al-Turbak 1996; Wheater 1996, 2002),
though it is important to recognise that these models must reflect the essential local features
of likely flow mechanisms. This in turn presents severe problems in the high quality
characterization of precipitation, rainfall-runoff processes and groundwater recharge,
and understanding the detailed hydrogeological response of often complex groundwater
systems. Superimposed on these basic data needs are the requirements for specific process
studies, for example sediment transport and surface- or groundwater interactions in active
channels. The present volume addresses a spectrum of these pressing issues.
REFERENCES
Selected Internet sites
www.gwpforum.org
www.unesco.org/science/waterday2000/who_is_who.htm
www.watervision.org
www.worldwatercouncil.org
www.worldwaterforum.org/links.html
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resources management. In: L.J.M. Mourits et al. (eds), Wadi Hydrology and Groundwater
Protection. UNESCO IHP-V Technical Documents in Hydrology 1: 19–20.
Alhamid, A.A. & Reid, I. 2002. Sediment and the vulnerability of water resources. In: H.S.
Wheater & R.A. Al-Weshah (eds), Hydrology of Wadi Systems. UNESCO IHP-V Technical
Documents in Hydrology 55: 37–55.
Al-Turbak, A.S. 1996. Review of research on ‘Wadi Hydrology’. In: L.J.M. Mourits et al. (eds),
Wadi Hydrology and Groundwater Protection. UNESCO IHP-V Technical Documents in
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Attia, F.A.R. & Salih, A.M.A. (eds) 2002. Priority Aquifer Systems. IHP Network on Groundwater
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Bastiaanssen, W.G.M. 1998. Remote Sensing in Water Resources Management: The State-of-the-
Art. International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Colombo, Sri Lanka, 118 pp.
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Burke, J.J. & Moench, M.H. 2000. Groundwater and Society: Resources, Tensions and
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Edmunds, W.M. 2002. Wadi hydrology. Applications of geochemical and isotopic methods: a case
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Fryar, A.E., Mullican, W.F. & Macko, S.A. 2001. Groundwater recharge and chemical evolution in
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Helweg, O.J. 2000. Water for a growing population: Water supply and groundwater issues in
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14 Understanding water in a dry environment
CHAPTER 2
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions
Jetse D. Kalma and Stewart W. Franks
Discipline of Civil, Surveying and Environmental Engineering, School of Engineering,
The University of Newcastle, Callaghan, Australia
ABSTRACT: The chapter starts with an overview of rainfall types and mechanisms in arid and
semi-arid regions. This is followed by a discussion of general circulation aspects and mesoscale
climatic systems as they affect precipitation in arid and semi-arid regions. Next, the chapter
provides illustrative descriptions of rainfall regimes in the arid and semi-arid regions of Australia
and Israel. We then discuss conventional techniques of precipitation measurement and provide an
introduction to the use of remote sensing in rainfall estimation. The section on rainfall analysis
provides an overview of methods of rainfall–frequency analysis, including the development of
rainfall intensity–duration–frequency curves and techniques for estimating probable maximum
precipitation. The penultimate section addresses climatic variability and change, and summarizes
recent research of relevance to hydrological variability on multiple time scales. In the final section
of this chapter we provide an overview, reach some general conclusions and make a number of
practical recommendations and suggestions for further work.
2.1 INTRODUCTION
Arid and semi-arid regions are associated with dry climates. Dry climates imply little
rainfall and strong evaporative conditions, frequently leading to serious water deficits and
drought conditions. The boundaries of such regions have been identified through
numerous climate classifications. Meigs (1953) prepared maps for UNESCO showing the
distribution of arid and semi-arid homoclimates on the different continents. The basis for
Meigs’ division was the system developed by Thornthwaite (1948), who used monthly
precipitation values and evapotranspiration estimates to calculate a moisture index, which
provides a measure of the adequacy of precipitation in relation to the needs of plants.
Meigs (1953) noted that the world’s arid and semi-arid regions are seen to occur in five
great provinces. Each was described as ‘a core of desert, partly surrounded by semi-arid
lands bordering the west coasts of the continents, chiefly from 15 to 35

latitude, and
extending inland and poleward as far as 55

latitude’ (Slatyer & Mabbutt 1964).
Hare (1985) used the term arid zone, which comprises the world’s drier areas including
deserts, savannahs, dry-forests and semi-desert scrub. He used the Budyko-Lettau dryness
ratio as an aridity index. This quantity is the ratio of the annual net radiation energy at the
Earth’s surface to the heat energy required to evaporate a year’s rainfall. A dryness ratio of
2 is considered to be the outer limit of the arid zone and a ratio of 10 represents the desert
margin. Figure 2.1 (taken from Hare 1985) shows the world distribution of regions with
dryness ratios below 2 and between 2 and 10. It should be noted that true desert climates
F
i
g
u
r
e
2
.
1
.
W
o
r
l
d
d
i
s
t
r
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with dryness ratios in excess of 10 do not occur in North America and Australia. Hare
notes that the dryness index of 2 lies close to the humid edge of the (semi-)arid zone in
most areas. The total arid zone is estimated to comprise some 30 million km
2
(20%) of the
land surface of the globe, and by some definitions over 50 million km
2
(34%).
Trewartha (1954) describes how the world’s arid and semi-arid regions may be defined
as the Ko¨ppen climate group of dry climates (B), in which there is an excess of (potential)
evaporation over precipitation (which implies a dryness ratio greater than about 0.9).
Within the climate group of dry climates one distinguishes between arid (desert) clim-
ates (BW) and semi-arid (steppe) climates (BS). The seasonal distribution of rainfall
determines the empirical relationship used to calculate a rainfall threshold value r as a
function of average annual temperature t. Such rainfall threshold values are then used to
set the boundaries between semi-arid and humid climates and between semi-arid and arid
climates. If the average annual rainfall is less than the r-value, the station lies on the drier
side of the boundary. Conversely, if the average annual rainfall exceeds the r-value it is
located on the moister side of the boundary. Climate maps such as included in Trewartha’s
(1954) text show the worldwide distribution of arid and semi-arid climates. Table 2.1,
which is based on data presented by Dick (1975), shows the world land area coverage of
the BW and BS classes.
It can be seen from Table 2.1 that dry climates prevail over some 45 million km
2
, or
30% of the world’s land area. Dry climate regions as a proportion of total land area are as
high as 80% for Australia and nearly 60% for Africa. It is also shown that 18% of the
world’s land area has an arid (desert) climate. Comparison with other climate classi-
fications (e.g. Thornthwaite 1948) shows reasonable agreement about the extent of the
arid zone.
Rainfall in dry climates of the arid zone is always a limiting resource. In addition, it is
characterized by extreme spatial and temporal variability, so that average rainfall figures
Table 2.1. World land area coverage of semi-arid and arid climates. Line 1: Area (Â10
6
km
2
); line
2: Proportion of total area (%) (based on data presented by Dick 1975).
Semi-arid steppe
(BS) climates
Arid desert
(BW) climates
All dry climates
(BS þ BW)
Total land
area
Australia 2.2 3.9 6.1 7.6
29.8 50.2 80.0
Eurasia 5.9 9.6 15.5 54.0
10.9 17.8 28.7
Africa 5.7 11.5 17.2 29.2
19.5 39.4 58.9
North America 2.6 0.8 3.4 24.1
10.8 3.3 14.1
South America 1.7 0.9 2.6 17.8
9.5 5.0 14.5
Antarctica – – – 14.1
– – –
Other land areas 0.1 negligible 0.1 1.8
5.5 negligible 5.5
Total area 18.2 26.7 44.9 148.6
12.2 18.0 30.2
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 17
are not very meaningful. Trewartha’s (1954) world map with Ko¨ppen climates shows that
dry climates may be further subdivided on the basis of mean annual temperatures, tem-
peratures of the warmest and the coldest months, as well as rainfall seasonality (summer
dominance; winter dominance; rainfall evenly distributed). This implies that within the
world’s regions of dry climates (defined as the arid zone) there is considerable variety in
synoptic controls, prevailing weather patterns and rainfall mechanisms. In this chapter on
rainfall in the arid zone we emphasize what the many parts of the world’s arid zone have in
common rather than discuss in considerable detail differences between them.
According to WMO (1996a) most of the world’s arid and semi-arid regions have
climatic regimes in which precipitation is characterized by:
One (rarely two) very short rainy season(s) followed by long, completely dry periods
(hot or cool).
Short rainy periods (rarely more than 48 hours) unevenly scattered throughout the rainy
season.
Violent showers characterized by strong intensities and by large differences over a
small area, even at a scale of 10 km
2
.
Irregular interannual rainfall totals and great local differences that often render the
usual statistical tools in climatology ill-adapted (dissymetry or multimodality of histo-
grams) (WMO 1996a).
These characteristics of the precipitation regime, coupled with the regular incidence of
interannual drought conditions and irregular extended drought, strongly control the
methods and means of water management in semi-arid and arid regions.
Agnew and Anderson (1992) have carried out rainfall analyses for arid and semi-arid
regions and have shown increasing temporal variability with decreasing daily, ten-day and
annual precipitation totals. They have also shown very large spatial variability in pre-
cipitation for many arid and semi-arid regions. In addition, it may be suggested that
climatic variability and change (together with human activities) have a significant bearing
on the incidence of land degradation through desertification.
In this chapter we review precipitation as it relates to arid and semi-arid regions. For
general discussions on rainfall we refer readers to studies such as Gilman (1964) and to
chapters in general hydrology texts such as Singh (1992), Wanielista et al. (1997) and
various WMO and UNESCO publications. Several hydrology texts have addressed rain-
fall issues and the hydrology of arid and semi-arid regions in separate sections (see for
example Slatyer & Mabbutt 1964).
Water management in arid and semi-arid regions, as discussed in this book, requires a
good knowledge of water resources in all phases of the hydrological cycle. UNESCO,
through its Arid Zone Research program, has published a range of reviews of research and
proceedings of symposia, many of which address arid zone hydrology. Of specific rele-
vance to this chapter are UNESCO (1953a,b, 1958a,b, 1959, 1963).
It is generally accepted that meteorological and rainfall measurement systems in arid
and semi-arid regions are rarely well developed. This frequently results in inadequate
rainfall information. Although daily rainfall data in arid and semi-arid regions are often
very spotty, there are some excellent data sources describing rainfall patterns in those
regions; we will refer to some of those studies elsewhere in this chapter. WMO (1996a)
and Wheater (2002) indicate that there are two fundamental problems which must be
18 Understanding water in a dry environment
taken into account for good rainfall assessment:
Rainfall variability and spatio-temporal differences are very pronounced in arid and
semi-arid regions.
There are few rainfall observation series of sufficiently long duration available for the
analysis of climatic evolution at a regional level based on such series (WMO 1996a).
These problems emphasize the need for improved knowledge of climate and precipitation
in arid and semi-arid regions, based on improvement of conventional observing systems in
those regions, as well as further development and application of new monitoring techno-
logies, particularly remote sensing. In the absence of accurate medium- to long-term rain-
fall forecast abilities, the importance of strengthening research on climate change and
climate variability should also be stressed (WMO 1996a).
2.2 RAINFALL TYPES AND MECHANISMS
Precipitation is the process by which atmospheric water vapour condenses into liquid or
solid water, which then falls under the action of gravity to the earth’s surface. Precipita-
tion occurs as a result of water vapour laden air cooling to its dew point or below. As air
cools, its capacity to hold water decreases. The dominant mechanism responsible for the
cooling of moist air masses is the process of dynamic or adiabatic cooling, which occurs
when large air parcels are lifted with very little mixing with the surrounding bulk air and
cool according to the adiabiatic lapse rate. At higher elevations atmospheric pressure and
air temperature are lower. The major processes that cool moist air masses are orographic
lifting, convection, convergence and frontal lifting. Rainfall thus depends on synoptic-
scale processes (e.g. depressions and troughs leading to convergence, rising of air and
cloud development followed by rain) and several mesoscale effects (such as the terrain
forcing moist air to rise and the effect of surface heating). Precipitation is classified by the
type of mechanism that produces it. The following rainfall categories are recognized:
Convectional rainfall is characterized by a marked thermal uplifting of moisture-laden
air. Convectional rainfall includes most tropical rainfall associated with the Inter-Tropical
Convergence Zone and involves movement of air into low pressure sytems. Air at the
centre of the low pressure system will rise and near-surface air will flowtowards its centre.
When the convection is very vigorous, convective storms develop electric charge separa-
tion and hence may be accompanied by thunderstorms. Convective cells measure several
kilometers in size. Such storms occur most commonly in the tropics.
Orographic rainfall results from the forced (mechanical) uplifting of moist warm air on
the windward side of hills and mountains. The ascending air will cool and as it cools it
may precipitate all or some of its moisture, resulting in a rain shadow on the lee side. Rain
associated with forced low-level convergence upwind from a mountain barrier is also des-
cribed as orographic rain.
Cyclonic rainfall occurs in low pressure systems and their associated cold front. Such
rainfall is associated with air being drawn into the low pressure system and the subsequent
steady ascent of air over a frontal boundary, or the slow ascent of air within the core of a
mature depression. Extra-tropical cyclonic storms may have a diameter of up to 2500 km.
In the case of active convergence within the depression, the rainfall pattern is convective.
The term cyclonic rainfall is rarely appropriate for tropical rainfall.
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 19
Poleward transport of warm tropical and subtropical air masses results in the interaction
between warm and cold air masses at higher latitudes. The migrant cyclonic storms, which
form along the boundaries between warm and cold air, cause cyclonic rainfall in more
temperate regions. Most remaining rainfall in those regions is produced in irregular patterns
by local thunderstorms, resulting from vertical instability caused by intensive heating.
An important factor causing rainfall variability is the presence or absence of water
vapour and/or rain inducing disturbances. Lockwood (1988) shows summer and winter
transport fields of water vapour and source regions. Boucher (1975) notes that the global
distribution of precipitable water shows land–sea effects, continentality and the barrier
effects of mountains. The lack of precipitation in deserts is largely due to stable conditions
under anticyclones.
Orography and the presence of substantial water bodies may influence rainfall. Cool
ocean currents may influence aridity of bordering land areas, except on the adjacent shore.
Distance from the sea/ocean is thus an important factor because cool on-shore winds are
heated quickly over the land areas causing drying conditions. Mountain ranges on the
coast often cause rain on the windward side, and very rapid change to semi-arid/arid con-
ditions on the lee side. Lakes may also influence rainfall at a regional scale.
Diurnal patterns, accentuated by orography and terrain, may be very important at a local
scale. Steady on-shore winds cause small diurnal temperature ranges. Sea breezes
reinforce on-shore winds and may combine with local anabatic effects. If air is moist
and unstable the sea breeze may lead to increased vertical motion, resulting in after-
noon thunderstorm activity and rain. On the other hand, steady off-shore winds cause
more continental features.
The seasonal thermal contrasts of land and water are important. Winter outflow of dry
air from continental high pressure areas is associated with a lack of precipitation. Summer
on-shore winds fromwarmoceans may bring copious rain. However, mountainous (coastal)
regions may show a rain shadow because of the ascending air. In the tropics moisture for
rain is trapped under the trade wind inversion. Many tropical plateaus are therefore dry,
whereas nearby coastal lands may have high rainfall.
It should be pointed out that dew fall and/or fog in arid regions, although not pre-
cipitation in the true sense of the word, can provide moisture inputs affecting agriculture
(see Wallin 1967), animals and plants (Hamilton 1976; Broza 1979; Evenari et al. 1982;
Armstrong 1990) and biological surface crusts (see Jacobs et al. 2000a,b). In their review
of the hydrology of arid and semi-arid regions, Slatyer and Mabbutt (1964) noted that
visible dew can be divided into three separate categories: dew fall, representing con-
densation associated with the downward flux of atmospheric water; distillation, which
represents condensation associated with the upward flux of soil water vapour; and
guttation, which is a physiological plant process resulting in the exudation of water from
epidermal cells. The authors state that the contribution of dew fall to total precipitation is
confused to some extent because distillation and dew fall are rarely separated and
distillation does not represent any net gain of water to the earth’s surface. Slatyer and
Mabbutt (1964) also pointed out that the heavy dew falls observed in west coast desert
areas in California, Israel and Western Australia are to a large extent the result of advective
influences, where there is an advective inflow of humid air into areas with meteorological
conditions which are optimal for dew fall.
Fog collection can be utilised in arid and semi-arid countries to supply domestic water
to small villages, for reafforestation and agriculture (see, for example, Schemenauer 1988;
20 Understanding water in a dry environment
Schemenauer & Cereceda 1994). In subsequent sections we refer to a number of key
studies of dew and fog in arid and semi-arid regions.
Finally, it is important to point out that there is a long history of attempts to augment
precipitation through cloud seeding in a range of countries including the USA, Australia
and Israel. However, reviews of weather modification through cloud seeding show that
there is no consensus on its potential as a water resources management tool. Slatyer and
Mabbutt (1964) stated that ‘the fact that favourable meteorological conditions for cloud
seeding seldom occur in arid regions means that the probability of economically
successful cloud seeding remains low’. On the other hand, Bomar et al. (1999) recently
reported on the Texas Weather Modification Program and concluded that results
obtained in the 1970s and 1980s provide ‘substantial and compelling evidence that cloud
seeding had efficacy with deep convective clouds in semi-arid portions of Texas.’ They
suggest that cloud seeding should be viewed as ‘a viable, long-term water management
strategy.’
2.3 GENERAL CIRCULATION ASPECTS AND THE DISTRIBUTION OF
DRY CLIMATES
Heating of the lower atmosphere in tropical regions causes rising air motion because
horizontal temperature gradients are small. Such heating from warm ocean surfaces and
equatorial rain forests delivers a high water vapour (or latent heat) content. Oceans cover
much of the tropics and sea temperature changes are generally small. Summer–winter
differences are not as pronounced as at higher latitudes. However, the spatial and temporal
variations within tropical regions generally result in complex meridional and zonal
patterns, and complicated annual and interannual cycles. There are also distinct connec-
tions between different regions. Fronts within tropical regions are not well defined; those
entering from higher latitudes are very quickly dissipated, with decreasing temperature
contrasts between air masses.
The central belt of low air pressures, rising air and convergence of air masses from both
hemispheres is called the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Strong instability,
marked cloud development and frequent thunderstorms characterize the ITCZ. Its exact
position varies considerably in space and time, but roughly reflects the annual excursion
of solar declination. Rainfall in the zone is characterized by high spatial variability. Large
amounts may fall over small areas within very short periods, but extended rain bands may
also exist with embedded storm cells.
The trade winds between 30

S and 30

N are surface winds that are predominantly
directed towards the equator. This meridional equatorial flow is caused by the pressure
difference between the equatorial trough and the subtropical high pressure belt. Coriolis
effects give trade winds an easterly component as they approach the tropics. Their return
flows are shown as ‘anti-trades’ or upper westerlies in the Hadley cell. Trade winds are
strongest in winter, are very persistent and steady, and reflect the permanence of the high
pressure cells. They are present in all tropical oceans except the Indian Ocean. There is a
low-level inversion in the trade wind zone, which is generated by subsidence associated
with divergence of the trades as they flow towards the equator. This trade wind inversion
acts as an effective lid on vertical cloud development and causes the easterly trades to be
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 21
generally associated with fine weather. The height of this inversion increases towards the
equator and towards the west over tropical oceans.
At about 30

latitude in both hemispheres the east–west elongated subtropical belt of
high pressure cells contains quasi-permanent high pressure cells separated from each
other by cols. This belt is nearest to the equator in the winter hemisphere. In the Northern
Hemisphere these are the Pacific and Atlantic oceanic highs and the North African high.
In the Southern Hemisphere there are the quasi-permanent Pacific, Atlantic and Indian
Oceanic high pressure cells. These subtropical cells have great permanence and appear to
be locked into fixed positions. The belt is especially strong over the Southern Hemisphere,
with regular eastward movement of anticyclones on a seven-day cycle. These cells
experience air subsidence that creates stable, dry air masses resulting in limited rainfall.
Subtropical regions with maximum variability in the subsidence are semi-deserts, whereas
regions with minimum variability are true desert regions. Surface wind speeds in the
subtropics are low, especially at about 30

latitude.
In general, low pressure prevails near the equator and high pressure dominates in the
subtropics, whereas at higher latitudes there are alternating eastward moving high and low
pressure systems, with large horizontal eddies causing transport of colder air to lower
latitudes and warmer air to higher latitudes. This pattern is overlain by the meandering,
strong zonal current of high-level jet streams. Low pressure areas have surface con-
vergence of air and ascending air motions with a strong possibility of precipitation. The
high pressure areas show surface divergence and descending air masses associated with
clear skies, high long-wave radiation loss and dry weather.
Mean zonal flow profiles at low latitudes show the important role of the westerlies aloft.
Maximum speeds in the westerlies occur at a pressure level of about 200 mb; maximum
speeds in winter are twice those in summer. These zonal flow profiles clearly show the
presence of the subtropical jet stream between latitudes 30

and 40

at about 12 km. The
air subsiding from it forms the subtropical high pressure belt. More momentum than is
needed to sustain the jet stream is carried downward to maintain the eastward flowing
surface winds of the middle latitudes against the opposing forces of surface friction.
The previous paragraphs explain why most of the world’s desert and steppe climates lie
between latitudes 10

and 35

N and Landsberg and Schloemer (1967) illustrate that these
areas are immediately north and south of the ITCZ, including southwest USA, south
central South America, southern Africa, north Africa extending into central and southern
Asia, and most of central and western Australia. In addition, there are vast areas of
the world bordering on the subtropical high pressure belt which receive most of their
precipitation in one season of the year. These areas generally lie between latitudes 30

and
40

N and S, most commonly on the western side of continents. These areas include the
Mediterranean region, California, central Chile, southern Africa including Namibia,
Botswana and parts of South Africa, and western and central Australia.
Figure 2.2 (taken from Landsberg & Schloemer 1967) illustrates the major dry climates
of the world. The figure also shows the direction of major ocean currents, which
additionally affect the aridity of adjacent land areas. It should be noted that aridity
increases in generally dry areas as distance from the oceans increases. Finally, Landsberg
and Schloemer (1967) demonstrate that mountainous terrains near coastal areas with
onshore winds experience rainfall increases on the windward side, and a very rapid
decline to semi-arid and arid conditions in the lee of the mountains. The world map of
annual precipitation for regions with less than 1000 mm of annual rainfall is shown in
22 Understanding water in a dry environment
F
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Figure 2.3 (taken from Landsberg & Schloemer 1967). It shows the effect of the position
of the inter-tropical convergence zone in summer and in winter, the impact of tropical
cyclones, and the interaction between warm and cold air masses resulting from the
meridional transport of warm air polewards.
The generalized model of atmospheric circulation outlined above has several major
deficiencies. The model is unable to show seasonal variations and longitudinal
differences. It also considers only a single heat source along the equator and excludes
any inter-hemispheric exchanges. Whilst such a simple model prevails in a general way
over most ocean areas, there are significant seasonal deviations and variations over most
continental areas.
When large continental and ocean areas are considered, particularly at latitudes
between 15

and 30

latitude where summer totals of solar radiation are large, it becomes
clear that the differences in thermal properties between water and land may result in air
circulation on a large scale. In summer, moist air begins to flow from the ocean towards
the more rapidly heated continents, resulting in increased instability and cloud develop-
ment and hence increased rainfall. In winter, air will flow from the more strongly cooled
land surfaces towards the sea, resulting in widespread subsidence and generally drier air
over land.
Tropical continents and adjacent seas thus experience a semi-annual reversal in wind
direction. These seasonal winds are called monsoon winds or monsoons. The low pressure
heat lows over continents in summer at latitudes 10

to 20

may be so intense that trade
winds from the winter hemisphere may move through the weakened equatorial trough and
change direction to create NW to SW flows. In winter, strong cooling over land may result
in high pressure areas which cause large air masses to move towards equatorial lows over
adjacent ocean areas. These seasonal reversals of air flow and air mass properties are the
monsoons. Monsoons are also affected by many regional and local factors. They are best
developed over southern and eastern Asia in an area stretching from Pakistan to Japan and
to northern Australia. They also develop in west and east Africa.
2.4 MESOSCALE CLIMATIC SYSTEMS AND RAINFALL PATTERNS
General circulation patterns define broad climatic conditions, whereas mesoscale studies
address the inter-regional variability imposed on these broad patterns. Mesoscale systems
are predominantly hydrostatic, with winds that are out of gradient wind balance even above
the planetary boundary layer. By contrast, the synoptic flow of the general circulation is
close to the gradient wind balance above the planetary boundary layer.
Mesoscale atmospheric systems may be divided into those which are primarily forced
by instabilities of travelling larger scale disturbances (‘synoptically induced’) and those
forced by surface inhomogeneities (‘terrain induced’). Mesoscale forecasting aims to
incorporate regional influences on the broadly defined synoptic patterns. Given the
overriding influence of synoptic scale forcing, the validity of a mesoscale forecast is
heavily dependent on the accuracy of the larger scale forecast. Modelling of mesoscale
processes has proceeded from either a statistical analysis of past observations and their
interrelationships, or from a physical basis through attempts at modelling the underlying
physics of the flow fields.
24 Understanding water in a dry environment
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2.4.1 Synoptically induced mesoscale systems
Synoptically induced mesoscale systems include mesoscale convective clusters, tropical
cyclones, squall lines and convective bands. It is the mesoscale convective cloud systems
that produce most of the rain in the tropics and subtropics and so are also the dominant rain
source in arid and semi-arid regions. They consist of a combination of convective and
stratiformclouds. The convective regions contain numerous deepcells (more widely spaced
in the more arid regions) that are often arranged in lines. Mesoscale stratiform precipi-
tation areas accompany these regions of strong convection; the net heating of the system is
dominated by the latent heat conversion in condensation and evaporation associated with
vertical motion.
Superimposed on the general circulation patterns of the tropical atmosphere and its
regular seasonal variations such as the monsoons discussed above, are numerous transient
low pressure systems. The most vigorous tropical disturbances are intense cyclonic storms
known as hurricanes, typhoons or simply tropical cyclones.
Tropical cyclones develop only over tropical oceans, typically at latitudes >5

where
Coriolis forces are strong enough to enhance initiation of a cyclonic circulation. As winds
continue to increase pressure gradients strengthen, and widespread cloud development and
torrential rain may occur. The tropical cyclone, which is 500–800 km in diameter, derives
its kinetic energy from latent heat associated with evaporation from warm tropical waters
and the subsequent release of latent heat when the rapidly rising moist warmair condenses.
Sea surface temperatures above 27

Care considered necessary to provide sufficiently high
evaporation rates. Inflow of air occurs in the lowest 1–2 km and outflow occurs in the
upper troposphere at between 10 and 15 km. Pressures as low as 930 mb are found in the
eye of a cyclone, an area of 10–20 km in diameter which is calm, almost cloudless and
rainless. A wall of towering cumulonimbus clouds up to 10–12 km high surrounds the eye.
Just outside this wall is a ring of maximum windspeeds (up to 300 kmhr
À1
), extensive
cloud, torrential rain and strong thunderstorm activity. The cloud and rain areas occur in a
pattern which spirals towards the eye, though cells and bands have a complex motion
around the centre as it moves forward. The cyclone may move in any direction at average
speeds of 10–30 kmhr
À1
. After they first form cyclones generally move in westerly
direction and slightly polewards. As soon as they reach land the cyclones lose their energy
source and begin to weaken. Over land they become less energetic tropical lows or
depressions, and when they reach arid and semi-arid regions they produce rainfall from the
remnant travelling rain bands.
Cyclones have an average lifespan of 5–7 days. Their frequency will vary greatly from
year to year; Nieuwolt (1977) has given cyclone frequencies for the different ocean basins.
His data show high frequencies in the northwest Pacific, North Atlantic and Caribbean, the
Bay of Bengal and the southwest Indian Ocean. Tropical cyclones are frequently the main
cause of a late summer or autumn rainfall maximum in many tropical and subtropical
regions.
2.4.2 Terrain induced mesoscale systems
Terrain induced mesoscale systems include mechanically induced flows such as lee waves
and downslope winds as well as thermally induced flows of land/sea breezes and valley
winds, all of which may induce convective triggering in unstable systems (Atkinson 1981).
Mesoscale circulation can lead to enhanced precipitation and can have a strong feedback
26 Understanding water in a dry environment
with the underlying surface. Doswell et al. (1996) and others have emphasised the role of
topography in the development of mesoscale convective systems. Observational studies of
the effect of terrain features on the development of mesoscale convective systems and
convective storms have been presented by Garstang et al. (1987), Tripoli and Cotton
(1989) and Greenbaum et al. (1998). Regional and local scale causes of rainfall variability
include changes in soil moisture, vegetation patterns, albedo changes, as well as the
occurrence of excessive atmospheric dust. There are also several biophysical feedback
mechanisms through the three main land surface properties governing interactions with
the atmosphere, viz.: albedo (affecting radiative transfer), surface roughness (affecting
momentum transfer) and the surface hydrology (affecting the sensible and latent heat
transfer). Over short time scales soil moisture variations are more significant for the energy
budget and the planetary boundary layer structure than changes in roughness and albedo.
Soil moisture availability is a major determinant for evapotranspiration; it defines the
relative roles of vegetation and bare soil in evaporation. There are also strong interactions
betweenrainfall and evaporation. Numerical models are increasingly usedto investigate the
role of soil moisture and evaporation on climate (see the work of Walker &Rowntree 1977),
though the existence of such links is extremely difficult to confirm with field observations.
It should also be noted that evapotranspiration is a necessary (though not sufficient)
condition for extra-tropical summer rainfall. For example, changes in soil moisture affect
the albedo and thermal diffusivity of the soil, as well as the Bowen ratio in the surface
boundary layer. As moist soil dries out, a larger fraction of the absorbed energy is used to
heat the air. Heat flow into the soil at first increases and then decreases as the soil becomes
very dry. Kunkel (1989) noted a marked decrease in evapotranspiration during the 1988
drought in America; he suggested that this might have played a role in the persistence of
the drought by reducing the atmospheric water vapour supply and increasing the flux of
sensible heat to the atmosphere. For drying soils, soil moisture content tends to become
patchy at spatial scales of individual storms and regional estimates of soil moisture and
evaporation become less reliable.
Numerical studies have illustrated important effects of soil moisture on local precipita-
tion. For example, Fennessey and Sud (1983) examined monthly precipitation values over
the USA in relation to antecedent monthly precipitation, soil moisture and evapotrans-
piration. They found that large-scale droughts over extended periods might be partially
maintained by the feedback influence of soil moisture on rainfall. These results agree with
simulations of African droughts by Rowntree et al. (1985) and others. Numerical simula-
tions by Anthes and Kuo (1986) point to the importance of soil moisture availability in
generating mesoscale and synoptic scale circulation. However, it must be stated that it is
difficult to validate such numerical modelling results with hard observational data.
Segal et al. (1989) carried out numerical simulations which suggest that mesoscale
domains covered by extensive, very dense, unstressed vegetation adjacent to bare soil
areas can generate significant mesoscale circulation. As the density of the vegetation is
reduced, so is the impact of these regions on generating mesoscale circulation. Their
simulations also suggested that after prolonged drought, if the vegetation has access to
groundwater reserves through deep roots, major differences would exist in the
evapotranspiration regime of the vegetated area compared to neighbouring bare ground.
Such differences will invariably induce mesoscale circulation.
Studies of the impact of deforestation, surface heating of small islands and the effects of
irrigation schemes have shown that differential heating at the mesoscale may result in
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 27
increased rainfall, and that vegetated surfaces are more likely to produce rainfall than bare
soils. Anthes (1984) has hypothesized that planting bands of vegetation with widths in the
order of 50–100 km in semi-arid regions could, under favourable large-scale atmospheric
conditions, result in increases in convective rainfall. Yan and Anthes (1988) simulated
the effect of alternating bands of dry and wet soil some 144 km wide. The different
evaporative cooling over the dry and wet land generated horizontal gradients of surface
temperature and sensible heat flux that lead to the formation of a sea breeze type circulation
at the dry/wet land boundary. Their numerical simulations suggest that as the circulation
developed it advected moisture across the dry region, and the resulting convergence of
inflow from each side of the dry region initiated vigorous convection and ultimately strong
precipitation over that region.
Large-scale increases in surface albedo and reductions in surface roughness alter the
convergence of horizontal water transport in the boundary layer leading to changes in the
spatial distribution of rainfall (Sud et al. 1988). Charney et al. (1977) have suggested that
increased albedo in the Sahel region would give rise to reductions in evapotranspiration
rate, cloudiness and tropospheric moisture convergence, resulting in reduced rainfall.
Otterman (1989) and Otterman et al. (1990) argued that increases in precipitation
resulting from land use changes are attributable to intensification of the dynamic
processes of convection and advection resulting from plant-induced enhancement of the
daytime sensible heat flux from a generally dry surface. They suggest that this enhance-
ment results from the lowered surface albedo and reduced soil heat flux. Rabin et al.
(1990) also suggested that clouds form earliest over regions characterized by high sensible
heat flux, and are suppressed over regions characterized by high latent heat flux during
relatively dry atmospheric conditions.
2.5 RAINFALL REGIMES IN ARID AND SEMI-ARID REGIONS
A large number of studies provide detailed descriptions of rainfall regimes in the world’s
arid and semi-arid regions. Recent studies for arid regions of China include papers by
Ren and Shi (1995), Takahashi et al. (1995), Itano (1998), Yatagai and Yasunari (1995)
and Takemi (1999). Arid and semi-arid parts of the Arab region are the focus of studies by
Farquharson et al. (1996), Shahin (1996), Abdullah and Al-Mazroui (1998) and Wheater
and Al-Weshah (2002). Singh et al. (1992) and Sharma (1997) describe rainfall patterns in
the arid zone of India. Rainfall regimes in arid and semi-arid parts of Africa are described
by Shinoda (1990, 1992), Hutchinson (1992), Nicholson (1994), Muchane (1996),
Shinoda and Kawamura (1996), Paturel et al. (1998), Amissah-Arthur and Jagtap (1999),
and Sen and Eljadid (1999).
To illustrate rainfall characteristics in arid and semi-arid regions, we describe rainfall
regimes in Australia and Israel in more detail in the following sections. It should be noted
that these countries are very different in surface area and this fact impacts on how rainfall
mechanisms and rainfall types are studied and described.
2.5.1 Australia
The Australian continent lies between 10

and 44

S with relatively low elevation, and
therefore falls under the influence of subtropical high pressure systems with low rainfall.
28 Understanding water in a dry environment
Table 2.1 shows that semi-arid steppe climates and arid desert climates cover 80% of the
Australian land area. About half the continent receives less than 350 mm of precipitation
annually and over one third less than 250 mm. Median annual rainfall (which is a more
meaningful measure in arid regions than the mean) is illustrated in Figure 2.4.
Rainfall in the Australian arid and semi-arid zone is highly variable, both annually and
seasonally; Figure 2.5 indicates annual variability by means of a normalized index defined
as [90 percentile À10 percentile]/[50 percentile]. The figure shows that the index exceeds
1.0 over arid and semi-arid Australia; maximum values exceed 2.0 in the most arid region
north of Lake Eyre.
Seasonality of rainfall across the arid and semi-arid zone of Australia is illustrated in
Figure 2.6, which shows median rainfall in January and July. General rainfall information
may be found in Lee and Gaffney (1986) and NATMAP (1986). Cook (1992) has
produced an extensive analysis of monthly rainfall data in Australia, Kalma and McAlpine
(1983) give a more general description of the climate of Australia’s arid center, and
Mollah and Cook (1996) have provided a detailed analysis of rainfall variability in the
semi-arid tropics of northern Australia.
Fleming (1978, 1983, 1994) provides a description of rainfall mechanisms prevail-
ing over Australia’s arid and semi-arid zones. The coastal belt of northern Australia from
the Kimberleys in the west to Cape York in the east falls in the wet and dry tropics.
Figure 2.4. Median annual rainfall across Australia.
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 29
This region has a wet and dry tropical savannah climate, transitional between rainy/
monsoon tropics and the tropical arid/semi-arid climates, and lies between the equatorial
trough and extensions of subtropical highs towards the equator. Temperatures are high,
the annual temperature range being about 6

C. Mean annual rainfall exceeds 700 mm. The
summer is hot and very humid with frequent heavy rain; virtually all rain falls in this
summer period of December–March. During this rainy season the northwest monsoon
prevails as a continuation of the Asian northeast monsoon. The monsoon penetrates
northern Australia with equatorial air masses as far as about 500 km from the coast, and
associated air masses may thus travel into semi-arid zones and arid inland regions. The
monsoon is reinforced by strong thermal lows over central Australia. The rainfall from
these maritime air masses is associated with orographic uplift, and local convection results
from convergence in the west with the southwest winds from the Indian Ocean and in the
east with the southeast trades from the Pacific Ocean. The winter season is also hot but
virtually rainless. Between May and September the southeast trades prevail bringing in
warm, dry and stable air with low rainfall. During winter the weather in northern Australia
is largely influenced by the subtropical high pressure centered over central Australia.
Figure 2.5. Annual rainfall variability shown by means of a normalized index defined as
(90 percentile À 10 percentile)/(50 percentile).
30 Understanding water in a dry environment
(a)
(b)
Figure 2.6. Seasonality of rainfall across the arid and semi-arid zone of Australia as illustrated with
median rainfall in: (a) January and (b) July.
Major rain in northern Australia, especially in late summer, may also be associated
with tropical cyclones. These cyclones which originate in the Coral Sea, the Gulf of
Carpentaria, the Arufura Sea and the Timor Sea are a major, but erratic source of rainfall
for most of Australia north of 32

on the east and west coasts and north of about 29

in
central Australia (see Fleming 1994).
Mid-latitude frontal rainfall is initiated at air mass discontinuities associated with the
regular passage of high pressure systems or anticyclones across the continent. These
anticyclones form over the Indian Ocean and progress eastwards at 500–600 kmday
À1
.
Their tracks in winter lie in the 29–32

S band and in summer in the 37–38

S band. Fronts
associated with southern depressions penetrate northwards between successive anti-
cyclones and bring most of the autumn–winter–spring rainfall to the southern semi-arid
zone. In summer, if there has been a southward penetration by tropical air masses, strong
air mass discontinuities can develop inducing severe frontal thunderstorms. If the anti-
cyclones are very strong they may exclude fronts and air masses fromthe continent, result-
ing in persistent blocking features characteristic of drought situations which have been
associated with El Nin˜o events (Nichols 1985).
The mid-tropospheric conveyor belt transports humid tropical air masses from the
northwest of the continent to the eastern half of the arid zone before convergence systems
initiate widespread moderate to heavy rainfalls. The intruding moist air masses are fre-
quently associated with monsoon activity and tropical cyclones.
In their chapter on arid zone hydrology, Slatyer and Mabbutt (1964) illustrate the
general characteristics of arid zone precipitation with examples for Alice Springs, which
is situated in the centre of Australia’s vast arid and semi-arid region. Average annual rain-
fall at Alice is about 250 mm with a standard deviation of about 125 mm. Approximately
three-quarters of the annual rain falls in the summer six months. These authors note that
‘their analysis does not support the general concept of sporadic and torrential rain so
often thought characteristic of arid regions.’
Cordery et al. (1983) reported on rainfall measurements at Fowlers Gap in the arid
west of New South Wales, where the median annual rainfall is less than 200 mm. They
investigated the storm types that produce appreciable rainfall and observed that wide-
spread, large-scale storms are much more important in western New South Wales than
in the arid regions of the southwest USA, and that rainfall in nearly two-thirds of the
observed storms is extensive and spatially uniform. It was found that high intensity con-
vective storms occur infrequently, in contrast with widely reported results from other parts
of the world.
2.5.2 Israel
The climate of Israel as a whole is mediterranean with a mild, rainy winter and a dry, hot
summer. Climatic regionalization across the country is difficult mainly because of the
abrupt differences in climate across relatively short distances. Annual rainfall decreases
from about 1000 mm in the far north down to about 25 mm in the extreme south of the
country. There are also significant west–east differences across the country that are
controlled by distance from the Mediterranean Sea and the blocking effects of the region’s
mountain ranges. On the basis of annual rainfall the country can be divided into three
important zones. These are: (1) a subhumid zone with annual rainfall of 400–1000 mm;
(2) a semi-arid zone with annual rainfall of 200–400 mm; and (3) an arid zone with an
32 Understanding water in a dry environment
annual rainfall of 25–200 mm. The semi-arid and arid zones occupy most of the southern
half of the country with Israel’s Negev region entirely in the arid zone.
A study of the diurnal variation of rainfall in Israel, based on data from recording rain
gauges, has been described by Kutiel and Sharon (1980). Their work shows a strong
afternoon and evening predominance of high intensity rainfall in the semi-arid and arid
regions of the Negev desert that results from surface heating. It may be noted that such
timing is optimal in that it minimizes evaporation losses, which may be significant in such
arid environments. By contrast, most high-intensity rainfall events in the more humid
coastal region of Israel occur during the night between 9 pm and 3 am and are ascribed to
land–sea temperature differences and to the convergent flow of nocturnal land breezes in
the region.
Detailed studies of rainfall mechanisms, areal variation in rainfall intensity and network
design in desert regions have been carried out by Sharon (1970, 1972a,b). Studies in a
small arid watershed (see Sharon 1970) showed that the lower portion of the watershed
was consistently receiving larger amounts of rain than the higher portions on the slopes
and ridge. It appears that wind effects are a major cause of such spatial differences.
Maximum rainfall was observed in close proximity to the channel; i.e. in that part of the
watershed that in other regions has been found to be the major source of storm flow.
Sharon (1972a) also examined the spottiness of rainfall in extremely arid parts of the
southern Negev desert, where annual rainfall averages 30–35 mm. He observed that
between half and two-thirds of the annual rainfall is of a highly localized type, originating
from small convective cells with typical diameters of about 5 km and falling at very high
intensities over a few minutes. The remaining annual rainfall comes from events with
spatially uniform rain falling at low to medium intensities for a few hours.
Whereas areal patterns of rainfall within individual storm cells have been extensively
treated by meteorologists and statistical hydrologists, little is known about the spatial
distribution of cells. This distribution has commonly been treated as random. Sharon
(1983) presented the results of a correlation analysis which indicates the existence of
mesoscale systems that impose relatively rigid systematic arrangements of localized
storm cells. It is shown that cells developing on the same day are certainly not randomly
distributed in space. Similar observations have been made in studies of cloud distribution
patterns by Ramirez and Bras (1990) and Ramirez et al. (1990).
Greenbaum et al. (1998) described the spatial and temporal characteristics of a high
magnitude rain storm flood in the 1400 km
2
Nahal Zin catchment in the hyperarid Negev
Desert through a combination of rain storm analysis, remote sensing, hydrological and
sedimentological data. The meteorological component of the study analyzed the anatomy
and temporal evolution of the mesoscale system that produced the flood, as well as the
effect of the local topography.
It has been pointed out earlier in this chapter that dew fall, although not precipitation in
the true sense of the word, has been found to be an important source of water in many arid
regions. Dew has received much attention in Israel. Duvdevani (1953) reported total
dew fall amounts of 30 mm over 200 dew nights throughout the year and maximum daily
amounts of 0.2 mm. Long-term measurements in the highlands of the Negev Desert
(Evenari 1981; Zangvill 1996) showed that dew fall may occur on about 200 nights
annually and that total dew fall may exceed rainfall during extreme droughts. Some recent
studies on dew in the Negev desert, including the work of Jacobs et al. (1999, 2000a,b)
and Kidron et al. (2000), describe dew variability in a small arid drainage basin in the
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 33
Negev highlands. Slatyer and Mabbutt (1964) noted that strong advective influences are
responsible for high dew fall observations in Israel.
2.6 GROUND-BASED MEASUREMENT OF PRECIPITATION
Rainfall distribution may be very non-uniform and non-structured due to small convective
elements in large cloud systems, orographic and atmospheric stability effects and wind con-
ditions. Significant differences may occur over a few kilometers in large-scale cyclonic
storms and over hundreds of meters in thunderstorms.
Precipitation data are required in a wide range of applications. For crop yield modelling
and soil moisture evaluation the required accuracy of daily rainfall is 10–30%, with a
horizontal resolution of 20–100 km. However, there is a serious deficiency of rainfall data
at such resolution over most of the globe and especially in the arid zone. Many projects on
the utilization of water resources require not only daily or monthly rainfall totals, but also
the intensity of individual rain storms. Such projects include erosion, flood control and
water harvesting studies, especially in semi-arid and/or developing countries (see Morin &
Sharon 1993).
Various methods exist for routine measurements of rainfall. This variety is mainly a
result of the time and space variability in precipitation. Measurement techniques range
from point measurements on the ground to the use of space-based instrumentation.
Ground-based point measurements with non-recording and recording rain gauges are
by far the most common method of precipitation measurement. These methods have been
well documented, as have discussions about the many factors that affect the accuracy of
gauge measurements and the need for standardization of precipitation measurements.
Storage rain gauges provide data that are useful for deriving long-term rainfall statistics;
such data are of little use for analysis of storm rainfall intensity. Recording rain gauges or
pluviographs, on the other hand, provide a continuous record and are essential for analysis
of rainfall intensity and storm characteristics. There are several types of recording instru-
ments, including tipping-bucket recording rain gauges and weighing recording rain gauges.
Gauge catches are point measurements, however, and are not necessarily representative of
catchment rainfall. Rain gauge catch is affected by wind and exposure. Special attention
must therefore be given to exposure height and the presence of any nearby buildings or
vegetation. It should also be noted that large-scale rainfall fields are frequently difficult
to derive from point measurements, especially when these are made at non-representative
sites.
Descriptions of precipitation measurements can be found in Engman and Gurney (1991),
Collier (1997) and Jones (1997). An annotated bibliography on precipitation measurement
has been published by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO 1973). The
proceedings of the 1993 Bratislava International Symposium on Precipitation and
Evaporation (Sevruk & Lapin 1993a,b) addresses precipitation measurements, precipita-
tion variability and climate change. The Guide to Hydrological Practices (WMO 1994)
contains a detailed chapter on precipitation measurements. A more general discussion
of the topic can be found in the Guide to Meteorological Instruments and Methods of
Observation (WMO 1996b). Finally, WMO (1998a) more recently published a report
on precipitation estimation and forecasting. The reader is referred to these reports for
more details.
34 Understanding water in a dry environment
The preferred network density for ground-based rain gauges depends on the terrain. A
denser network is usually required in mountainous terrain than in flat, homogeneous areas.
Due to differences in length scales between convective storm cells and frontal rain storms,
a denser network would be required in areas where convective storms are the most
important source of precipitation. Finally, the preferred network density also depends on
the type of rainfall analysis required. For example, in typical water balance studies over an
area of about 100 km
2
and time periods of one month, the preferred gauge spacing would
be about 8 km. On the other hand, for flood design over periods of 10 min to one day and
for point scales, the gauge density may need to be as high as about 1 km. In general,
sampling errors of rainfall amount tend to increase with increasing mean areal rainfall
and decrease with increasing network density, duration of rainfall and areal extent (see
Singh 1992).
The density of coverage with ground-based rain gauges varies widely between countries
and regions. Recommended minimum precipitation network densities are given in the
WMO Guide to Hydrological Practices (WMO 1994). In general, coverage is poorest in
arid and semi-arid areas, in tropical countries and in highland regions. Numerous methods
for network design have been described in the literature over the last fewdecades, but most
assume linear variations of rainfall between stations or homogeneous rainfall areas.
Al-Zahrani and Husain (1998) noted that such an assumption may be inappropriate for large
areas in semi-arid and arid regions where heterogeneity dominates, and described a new
network design method based on Shannon’s theorem. This method results in an optimum
network size design which maximizes rainfall information obtained from the network.
2.7 USE OF REMOTE SENSING IN RAINFALL ESTIMATION
Remote sensing data obtained from satellites include images of the earth’s surface and
information on the vertical structure of the atmosphere. Currently operating systems
include geosynchronous satellites (GOES, GMS and METEOSAT), the NOAA polar
orbiting satellites, the Landsat system and the sun-synchronous SPOT satellites. The
sensors on these satellites include radiometers, panchromatic and multispectral scanning
radiometers, infrared sounders and microwave sounding units. These sensors measure the
electromagnetic energy impinging on their detectors. The detectors transform this energy
into an electrical signal which is amplified, digitized, transmitted to ground stations,
recorded and archived. Becker et al. (1988) noted that two types of model are required
to convert satellite data into the desired information. These are: (1) geometric models to
relate the pixel position in the recorded image to the correct position at the earth’s surface;
and (2) energetic models which relate the signal received at the top of the atmosphere to
the relevant quantity on earth.
Satellite data are used to obtain physical surface parameters (such as reflectivity,
surface temperature and surface roughness) and information on the atmosphere (e.g.
temperature and humidity profiles, cloud cover, rainfall). Such data are used as input to
models for estimating components of the surface radiation and energy balances, for
inventories of water resources, and for large-scale and mesoscale climate models.
A wide range of hydrological and agricultural applications of remote sensing data are
discussed by Goodison (1985), Van de Griend and Engman (1985), Barrett et al. (1988),
Schultz (1988), Kuittinen (1988, 1992), Rango (1994) and Kalma and Calder (1994).
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 35
These applications include estimation of precipitation, remote sensing of snow, ice and
surface water, remote sensing of soil moisture and groundwater, land cover mapping,
and the estimation of crop yield and biomass. The World Meteorological Organization
recently reported on remote sensing and geographical information systems (WMO 1998b)
and on current operational applications of remote sensing in hydrology (WMO 1998c).
The reader is referred to these reports for more details.
Barrett (1997) questioned whether standard rain gauge networks are appropriate to
measure a parameter which is characterized by significant temporal and spatial variability,
and suggested that space-borne and ground-based remote sensing needs to be more fully
exploited, especially in data sparse regions.
Methods of precipitation estimation based on remote sensing can be classified into two
groups: Indirect and direct methods (see Carleton 1991; Barrett & Beaumont 1994). In the
indirect method, cloud characteristics as observed in visible and infrared satellite imagery
are used as indicators of the occurrence of precipitation. The direct method uses micro-
wave techniques to obtain instantaneous rain rates. Surface-based remote sensing princi-
pally involves weather radar, though this is limited to relatively small areas and is mainly
used for forecasting and research purposes.
2.7.1 Indirect methods of precipitation estimation based on remote sensing
Rainfall monitoring with visible and thermal satellite imagery commenced in the early
1970s when Barrett (1970) prepared monthly rainfall maps for parts of the tropical Far
East based on satellite cloud charts. Visible and thermal satellite channels do not provide
direct measurements of precipitation but do provide useful information about rainfall.
Whereas visible imagery provides information on the extent of cloud cover and hence on
the possibility of rain occurring in a particular location, infrared imagery can be used to
obtain information on cloud top temperatures and hence on the location of high clouds
associated with strong, convective precipitation cells. Note that low brightness temp-
eratures indicate high cloud-tops, which imply large thickness and therefore increased
probability of rainfall.
Quasi-operational indirect techniques based on visible and infrared satellite data
comprise: (1) the cloud-indexing technique that uses visible and/or infrared data from
polar-orbiting and/or geostationary satellites; (2) the life history technique which is based
on infrared data from geostationary satellites; and (3) the bispectral technique.
The cloud-indexing method (e.g. Barrett 1970, 1981) uses satellite cloud images
obtained twice-daily from polar orbiting satellites and assigns indices to each cell of a grid
superimposed on the image which relate cloud type, cloud cover, amount and cloud top
temperature to the probability and intensity of rain associated with those clouds.
Regressions are then used to estimate rainfall from index values. Calibrations are carried
out using ground reports and the technique is used over periods of several months.
However, its use with stratiform clouds in middle to high latitudes has been limited. This
method has since been extended to geostationary satellites (see Barrett et al. 1988) and
regression techniques are used with both polar orbiting and geostationary satellite data.
The procedure involves a high degree of subjective judgment by the analyst, however
(see Collier 1997).
The life history method (Griffith et al. 1976; Scofield & Oliver 1977; Scofield 1985)
employs visible and infrared data from successive geostationary satellite images to track
36 Understanding water in a dry environment
the time-dependent evolution of rain-bearing cloud systems. The technique relates the
volumetric rain rate to the area of the cloud and the rate of change in cloud area. Such a
cloud tracking method, which has been used widely in convective situations, requires
satellite images at frequent time steps. The method is based on the assumption that rain
will fall from the colder clouds and that rainfall intensity will depend on the size, shape,
altitude, temperature, brightness and growth rate of the clouds. Griffith et al. (1978) des-
cribe a fully automated process. Farnsworth et al. (1984) developed such a technique for
North America to estimate precipitation associated with summertime convection, winter-
time convection, tropical storms and hurricanes and warm-top storms. Scofield (1985)
presents techniques based on this method for estimating rainfall from thunderstorms,
tropical and extra-tropical cyclones. In the case of short-term rainfall forecasting, ground-
based rainfall measurements are combined with the satellite-based estimates. Errors with
the cloud tracking method are within 20% of rain gauge estimates.
Schemes for precipitation estimation provide more accurate predictions when using
combinations of visible and infrared channel data. The bispectral method uses visible and
infrared images statistically to assign pixels to a number of classes with instantaneous
rainfall rates (see Barrett & Martin 1981).
It is now clear that satellite-based rainfall monitoring methods may yield improved
estimates of areal rainfall in real or near-real time over relatively large areas and may
complement conventional ground-based measurements. The success of such remote
sensing methods is closely linked to the precipitation processes and the type of
precipitation. Kuittinen (1992) notes that the first satellite-based remote sensing methods
were developed for convective rains in tropical and subtropical regions. Since then
methods have also been developed for cyclonic rains. However, it is not possible to use
such methods for orographic, frontal or wintertime cyclonic precipitation in mid-latitudes
and in high latitude areas north and south of about 50

.
It should be noted that all indirect methods have limitations. The use of visible imagery
is limited by the facts that different cloud types may have similar brightness, the
transparency of thin clouds and reflection from sea surfaces. Thermal imagery is affected
by water vapour absorption differences and the complexities of cloud heights, and
temperature inversions. The possible presence of several cloud layers, differences
between sensors and the possibility of different cloud surfaces with similar appearance
affect methods based on both types of imagery.
Barrett (1985) noted that special emphasis has been given to developing interactive
rainfall monitoring methods which employ both manual and automated techniques. One
such system is that developed to provide improved rainfall data from the world’s major
crop-growing areas for input to AgRISTARS (Agriculture and Resources Inventory
Surveys through Aerospace Remote Sensing).
Milford and Dugdale (1987) describe a rainfall estimation method for semi-arid regions
which is based on relating cloud-top temperatures below a certain threshold value to
actual rainfall. Their Cold Cloud Duration (CCD) technique was developed to estimate
ten-day and monthly rainfall in the Sahel from METEOSAT thermal imagery. Sahelian
rainfall is largely produced by thunderstorm systems with clouds that extend high into the
atmosphere; they have cold tops and can be recognized on METEOSAT images. Rainfall
may thus be related to the duration that cold clouds cover an area. The CCD is determined
for each pixel from hourly images by obtaining the length of time over a ten-day period
or a month that the cloud top temperature is below a certain threshold temperature.
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 37
These CCD values may then be mapped. The choice of threshold temperature is critical; it
must be high enough to include all rain-bearing clouds and low enough to exclude those
clouds not associated with rainfall. The success of this technique depends on determining
the optimum threshold value (which depends on season and latitude) and arriving at a
relation between CCD and rainfall through calibration with ground-based rainfall
measurements. Bonifacio et al. (1996) have described the use of METEOSAT and NOAA
AVHRR for rainfall estimation and hydrological modelling of a semi-arid catchment in
west Africa. Flitcroft et al. (1989) used a dense network of rain gauges to investigate the
variability of rainfall over small areas of about 100 km
2
in the West African Sahel, in an
attempt to relate point rainfall to area averages and to identify sampling errors in the
measurement of areal mean precipitation. Their results help to quantify the uncertainty in
calibration relationships between satellite and gauge measurements of rainfall.
The CCD method, which was developed and tested for west African squall systems, is
now also used for areas outside the Sahel. The ARTEMIS system at the FAO in Rome
performs real-time acquisition of hourly METEOSAT data and processes the images to
produce CCD maps, and maps of ten-day and monthly rainfall. Huygen (1989) reported
on a study to establish CCD–rainfall relationships for Zambia, with rain bearing systems
which differ significantly from those in the Sahel. He observed that the coefficients of
simple linear regressions relating CCD to ten-day rainfall were time-dependent. Huygen
also described the use of linear regression and (co)kriging methods for interpolating
ground-based rainfall measurements with the help of METEOSAT thermal imagery.
Mitra et al. (1997) described a simple daily rainfall analysis method for the Indian
monsoon region, which combines infrared observations obtained from the INSAT satellite
and conventional rain gauges. They showed that the analysis was able to adequately repre-
sent the large-scale distribution of rainfall.
It has recently been shown by Ebert and Weymouth (1999) that infrared observations
obtained from the Geostationary Meteorological Satellite (GMS) can be used to
distinguish potential rain bearing clouds from non-raining areas, thus providing surrogate
observations of ‘no rain’ over large areas. The advantages of including such observations
are the provision of data in regions void of conventional rain gauges or radar, as well as
the improved delineation of raining from non-raining areas in gridded rainfall analyses.
Such techniques have considerable benefits across large land areas such as Australia,
which have large numbers of conventional rain gauges but with a very uneven distribu-
tion. The extensive arid desert regions of the country have no surface rainfall observations
at all and coverage in many semi-arid regions is very sparse.
Other satellite methods for estimating rainfall have been developed by Bell and Kundu
(1996), Tsonis et al. (1996) and Jones (1997).
2.7.2 Direct methods of precipitation estimation based on remote sensing
The use of ground-based radar for rainfall measurement does not rely on establishing
relationships between cloud parameters but on relating measured radiation to a range
of physical parameters. With radar a ground-based emitter produces impulses of micro-
wave energy that are radiated by a narrow beam antenna. The energy is usually in the
wavelength band between 5 and 10 cm. The same antenna intercepts echoes of impulses
reflected from targets in the range of the beam. The azimuth of a target is determined by
38 Understanding water in a dry environment
the direction of the beam; the time between emitting a pulse and receiving its echo from
the target determines its range. Weather radar measures back-scattering of the radar signal
from rain drops and snow flakes. The strength of the back-scattered signal depends on the
amount and size of these hydrometeors.
Spatial and temporal resolution of weather radar is good compared with that from
satellite data; the average radius of area covered by weather radar is about 130 km.
Weather radar can detect even small showers and significantly complement precipitation
information gathered by conventional methods, with accuracy depending largely on the
correlation between the back-scattering factor and rainfall rate. Comparisons with rain
gauge observations are needed to calibrate weather radar. Collier (1989) has described
some of the problems arising from characteristics of the radar and the radar site. These
include ground clutter and occultation, the choice of radar wavelength and the radiometric
attenuation. In addition, there are problems arising from characteristics of the precipita-
tion. These problems include signal fluctuations, variation in drop size distribution and
variability in reflectivity. There is also the effect of the evaporation of falling rain as well
as distortion of the precipitation field by below-cloud winds.
The variability that exists between rain intensities and the radar echo intensity reflected
by the precipitation prevents extensive application of weather radar for obtaining true
rainfall values. However, recent methodological advances in the technology of rainfall
measurement with conventional radars (see Rosenfeld et al. 1994, 1995a,b) obtained with
the Window Probability Matching Method (WPMM), make it possible to account for
much of the variation of the relation between rain intensities and the radar echo intensity,
and to improve the accuracy of the rainfall estimate. The WPMM approach matches
probabilities of radar-observed reflectivity to rain gauge measured rain intensity taken
from small ‘windows’ centered over the gauges, which have been objectively classified
into different rain types. The windows are small enough for the gauge to represent rain
depth within the radar window above the gauge, yet large enough to encompass the timing
and geometric errors inherent in such measurements. Morin et al. (1995) applied the
WPMM method to radar measurements over several catchment areas in central Israel.
They found good agreement between daily rain gauge measurements and radar rainfall
estimates; the standard error of radar-estimated rainfall was reported to be only 7% for a
storm with a total average rainfall accumulation of 328 mm.
Carleton (1991) and Rango (1994) discuss the application of space-borne passive
microwave radiometry. The microwave radiation (roughly 0.1–10 cm in wave length)
emitted by an object is called its brightness temperature. The absorption and transmission
of microwave radiation is much less affected by liquid water than for infrared radiation.
Microwave radiation from the surface has been measured with passive microwave
systems on Nimbus satellites. The important bands are 10 cm (in tropical regions), 5.6 cm,
and 3 cm (in polar regions). Although microwave methods are more physically-based than
the methods referred to above, the results thus far have shown promising results over
oceans where the elevation in brightness temperature is related to rainfall rate. Inference
of rain over land is possible with microwave radiation at high frequencies because rain
drops become strong scatterers of microwaves at frequencies exceeding 80 GHz.
In a recent study, Martin and Hinton (1999) describe a rainfall analysis for the Indian
and west Pacific Oceans using brightness temperatures measured by the Nimbus-7
ScanningMulti-channel Microwave radiometer. In general, the analysis scheme adequately
represented ambient conditions over both regions. Elsewhere, Anagnostou et al. (1999)
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 39
described satellite microwave monthly rainfall estimates over Amazonia, using half-
degree monthly rainfall estimates produced from the Special Sensor Microwave Imager
(SSM/I) carried by Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP) satellites.
Barrett (1997) has pointed out that satellite rainfall monitoring in recent years has seen
an increasing use of data from multiple sources; he argues that many of today’s leading
techniques are multi-source technologies. For example, the Global Precipitation
Climatology Project of WMO involves satellite infrared and passive microwave mostly
over the world’s oceans, rain gauge data over the better served land areas and is considering
the use of numerical prediction models in higher latitudes (see Adler et al. 1994; WMO
1988). Lanza and Siccardi (1997) describe the ACROSS project, which was aimed at
producing a unified climatology over the eastern Mediterranean region using passive
microwave imagery over the sea, based on SMMR (Scanning Multi-channel Microwave
Radiometer) and SSM/I (Special Sensor Microwave/Imager), and ground-based observa-
tions over land. The various data sets were implemented within a relational data base and a
hydrologically-oriented Geographical Information System. Other studies include a report
on a specialist GEWEX workshop (WMO 1993).
2.8 RAINFALL ANALYSIS
Rainfall analysis includes interpretation of rainfall data, the analysis of rainfall frequency
and intensity, and storm rainfall analysis.
2.8.1 Data interpretation
Data interpretation includes checking long-term consistency of a rainfall record with
double-mass curves, which is a graphical method for identifying and adjusting inconsist-
encies in a station record (due to changes in observational procedures) by comparing its
time trend with those of other stations. Data interpretation also involves interpolation of
rainfall for locations without gauges. Such interpolation may be achieved by fitting smooth
surfaces to the existing network, or by using techniques that include the arithmetic average
method, the normal ratio method and the inverse distance method.
2.8.2 Computing areal rainfall
Areal rainfall may be calculated by using the arithmetic means of observations obtained
with multiple rain gauges. However, this method is limited to regions with minimal
variation in surface characteristics and with a uniformly-spaced network. An alternative
approach for estimating areal rainfall is based on the Thiessen polygon method, which
employs areally weighted means in order to allow for the effects of non-uniform rainfall
distribution. This method is objective, but not particularly good in mountainous areas
because altitudinal effects are not explicitly allowed for. When lines of equal rainfall
(isohyets) have been drawn, based on the existing network, the isohyetal method may be
used which is more accurate in mountainous areas. This method is often used for com-
puting mean rainfall over a drainage basin from individual storms. It involves determining
weighted average rainfall based on the land area between adjacent isohyets.
40 Understanding water in a dry environment
2.8.3 Frequency analysis
The occurrence frequency of rainfall of various magnitudes is important in a wide range
of hydrological applications and for design purposes in engineering. It also plays an
important role in assessing the hazards associated with large rainfall events. Frequency
analysis relates the magnitude of extreme events to their frequency of occurrence using
probability distributions. The main parameters that are needed to describe frequency
distributions are the duration, intensity, and the return period. Frequency analysis may be
conducted either graphically or mathematically. The mathematical approach to frequency
analysis requires determination of a specific probability distribution and a statistical
method of parameter estimation. Estimating the return period for a given rainfall duration
usually involves determining the statistical distribution of rainfall amounts for the duration
of interest, plotting that distribution on log-probability graph paper and interpolating from
the graph to determine the storm associated with the return period of interest.
Several authors have observed that gamma probability distribution functions fit
monthly rainfall data in arid regions quite well (see for example Sen & Eljadid 1999).
Sharma (1996) observed that the sum of total rain over a wet spell during a rainy season
forms a sequence which has the potential to provide the statistics for design of a rainwater
catchment system. It was found that the probability density function of the rain-sum,
coupled with the Poisson law of occurrence of wet spells, may be used as building blocks
to generate the cumulative distribution function of the largest rain-sum. For semi-arid
environments in Kenya it was found that the rain-sumtends to obey a Weibull distribution,
while successive occurrences of wet days obey the Markov law of persistence.
2.8.4 Intensity–duration–frequency curves
Frequency analysis of rainfall data is a means of computing the amount of rain falling over
a given area in a certain time interval with a given probability of occurrence. This has led
to generalized estimates of rainfall frequencies for a duration up to ten days and return
periods up to 100 years (see for example Pilgrim & Canterford 1987). Such frequency
analysis, in association with the development of Intensity–Duration–Frequency (IDF)
curves based on observations taken over a long period of time, is a key component in
rainfall analysis (see WMO 1989; WMO 1994, Chapter 28).
IDF curves for short duration storms over relatively small areas allow the calculation of
rainfall intensity (mm hr
À1
) for a given probability of exceedance (expressed as average
recurrence interval of n years) and rainfall duration (hr). Such data are essential in flood
estimation when there are no streamflowdata available. IDF data can be summarized either
graphically or algebraically using regression equations expressing intensity as a function of
storm duration, with the constants in the expressions fixed for given recurrence intervals.
IDF curves are essentially cumulative distributions of rainfall intensity conditioned on
the rainfall duration. They are estimated from rainfall observations by subdividing
the rainfall record into overlapping intervals of a given duration. Annual maxima for aver-
age rainfall intensities over each of the selected intervals can be ranked. Based on these
rankings one can then calculate the conditional return period corresponding to each
intensity value (see Sivapalan & Bloeschl 1998).
IDF curves are based on several major assumptions: (1) for a given duration the
heaviest rainfall recorded in a calendar year is part of a statistically independent series;
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 41
(2) for durations between 5 minutes and 72 hours, each annual series of heaviest rainfall is
distributed according to a statistical distribution; (3) the observed record is representative
of long-term conditions; and (4) there are no long-term trends in the local climate.
The IDF curves developed for individual locations apply to point rainfall and are
applicable to areas up to 4 km
2
; for larger areas they over-estimate average rainfall inten-
sity. Catchment IDF curves have a lower mean and variance and are flatter in appearance
than the corresponding point curves (Sivapalan & Bloeschl 1998). Areal reduction factors
are therefore required, which are empirically derived functions of catchment area and
storm duration (see WMO 1994, p. 405).
2.8.5 Depth–area–duration analysis
As the catchment size increases the point rainfall becomes less representative of catch-
ment rainfall. This fact is recognized in the WMO manual for Depth–Area–Duration
(DAD) analysis (WMO 1969). The purpose of DAD analysis is to determine the
maximum amounts of precipitation that occur over various sizes of drainage area during
standard passages of time or storm periods in hours or days.
DAD analysis is often important in the design of engineering structures such as
spillways, detention basins or major bridges, in order to determine extreme precipitation
values that have a very low probability of being exceeded. The costs of failure with such
structures may be considerable. Storm rainfall analysis expresses the depth–area–duration
characteristics of rainfall from a particular storm. The depth is usually defined for various
combinations of enveloping area and duration, and is usually portrayed by tables and cur-
ves. This provides useful information for the design of spillways and other minor structures
(see WMO 1994).
DAD analysis is also used in many engineering and planning situations where design
may be based on an event with a specified exceedance probability, the inverse of which
is the return period. Two methods are used in DAD analysis: (1) the mass-curve method,
and (2) the incremental isohyetal method. The first involves the construction of mass-
curves for individual stations, an average mass-curve for the entire area and the
construction of one isohyetal map for the total storm rainfall. The incremental isohyetal
method involves the construction of a number of isohyetal maps. Areas enclosed by each
isohyet are then evaluated by planimeter (or by computer if using a Geographical
Information System), and the resulting values plotted on a graph of area versus depth with
a smooth curve drawn for each duration. Sets of DAD curves have thus been developed
which can be used to convert point rainfall (at the storm centre) to areal rainfall (see WMO
1994, p. 411).
2.8.6 Probable maximum precipitation
One of the more widely used, yet controversial concepts is that of Probable Maximum
Precipitation (PMP), which refers to the quantity of precipitation that approximates the
upper limit for a given duration for a particular location, at a specified time of year and
over a particular basin. PMP is thus an estimate of the maximum storm event that could be
expected to occur from the most severe combination of critical meteorological conditions
that are reasonably possible in the region under consideration. PMP is used as input to
42 Understanding water in a dry environment
hydrological models to provide an indication of the largest flood that could occur in a
particular drainage basin. Methods for estimating PMP are described in considerable
detail in the WMO Manual for the Estimation of Probable Maximum Precipitation
(WMO 1986).
The storm size and duration appropriate for a given situation are determined by the size
and location of the drainage basin of interest. For small areas of less than 1000 km
2
and for
periods up to 3 or 6 hr, depending on location, it may be assumed that extreme rainfall is
produced by large, efficient and virtually stationary thunderstorms. This is not universally
true in drier regions and the assumption may therefore cause considerable difficulties in
determining PMP in (semi-)arid regions. In general, the validity of the above assumption
depends on the synoptic conditions and the nature of the topography. Its extension to
larger regions and longer periods will present considerable uncertainty. PMP estimates for
large areas and longer duration thus require input from experienced hydrometeorologists
to allow for different moisture charges, synoptic variations and terrain differences.
2.8.7 Rainfall intensity analysis
Sharon (1972b) has described spatial analysis of rainfall data and discusses the use of
correlation analysis to obtain a generalized quantitative assessment of the extent of rain
spottiness, especially in arid regions. Correlation analysis is particularly useful for
localized rainfall (see Sharon 1974a). Elsewhere, Sharon (1974b) describes the use of a
correlation–distance relationship to assess the mesoscale structure of the short-term
rainfall distribution in a semi-arid region of Tanzania, based on daily rainfall totals from
existing network stations.
The need for improved rainfall intensity data in semi-arid and arid regions has been
stressed in papers by Morin and Sharon (1993) and Morin et al. (1994), who outline the
development of a national data base on rainfall intensities for use in a wide range of water
management applications including erosion, flood control and water harvesting. Another
aspect of rainfall intensity analysis that has received some attention is the issue of actual
rainfall intensity on sloping soil surfaces. Sharon (1980) has noted that rain in mid-
latitudes falls at considerable inclination, and has described differences in the hydro-
logical and erosional response of different slopes (see also Sharon et al. 1983).
2.9 CLIMATIC VARIABILITY AND CHANGE
Numerous arid and semi-arid areas face serious environmental and agricultural problems,
many of which are fundamentally linked to hydrology and climate variability. Under-
standing the weather and climate systems that deliver hydrological variability may thus
contribute to effective management of those problems. Studies of temporal rainfall vari-
ability in semi-arid regions include papers by Yatagai and Yasunari (1995) for China and
Mongolia and by Shinoda (1990, 1992) for semi-arid regions of tropical Africa.
Much research has focused on the understanding of teleconnections such as the El Nin˜o
Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and other modes of variability. The following discussion
attempts to summarize recent research of relevance to hydrological variability on multiple
time scales.
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 43
2.9.1 El Nin˜o southern oscillation
The phenomenon known as the El Nin˜o/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) has long been
shown to produce significant temporal and spatial variability of weather phenomena
(Walker 1923; Philander 1990). The occurrence of warm and cold temperature anomalies
in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean, which induce El Nin˜o and La Nin˜a events, are shown to
significantly impact the distribution of rainfall in many parts of the globe. Numerous
studies have investigated the historical correlation between ENSO phenomena and time
series of rainfall (e.g. McBride & Nicholls 1983; Ropelewski & Halpert 1986; Stone &
Auliciems 1992), river flows and runoff (e.g. Simpson et al. 1993; Chiew et al. 1998;
Piechota et al. 1998; Wooldridge et al. 2001). Regional studies linking ENSO and rainfall
in semi-arid regions include the work of Lucero (1998), Shinoda and Kawamura (1996)
and Hutchinson (1992).
2.9.2 Measures of the southern oscillation
A widely used index of ENSO phenomena is the Southern Oscillation Index (Troup 1965).
The SOI is the standardized difference between mean sea level pressures (MSLP),
measured between Darwin and Tahiti. The SOI is defined as: SOI ¼10
*
(P
diff
ÀP
diffav
)/
SD (P
diff
), where P
diff
¼(average Tahiti MSLP for the month) À(average Darwin MSLP
for the month), P
diffav
¼long-term average of P
diff
for the month in question, and
SD(P
diff
) ¼standard deviation of P
diff
for the month in question.
The SOI displays quasi-periodic dynamics associated with the occurrence of ENSO.
This periodicity of the ENSO is typically about 3–6 years (Trenberth 1976), though
significant high-frequency fluctuations are also observable in the record. It should be noted
that any adopted measure of ENSO is purely an index of the phenomenon and that other
indices of the same phenomenon could be adopted (see e.g. Trenberth 1976; McBride &
Nicholls 1983). As noted by Trenberth (1976), the use of specific stations for deriving an
SOI means that they represent not only ENSO dynamics, but also local and transient
features. As such, any index must be an imperfect measure of ENSO-related phenomena.
The availability of historical sea surface temperature (SST) records (e.g. Bottomley
et al. 1990) has enabled alternative measures of ENSO phenomena. SST anomalies over
specific areas of the East Equatorial Pacific Ocean are aggregated and provide more direct
indices of the ENSO extremes. However, the use of specific areas to compile these indices
is somewhat subjective, and hence multiple SST-based and composite ENSO indices have
been derived. It is likely that different geographic areas may show a range of correlations
to different SST-based indices. These may be more representative of ENSO effects in
comparison with the Troup SOI index, as the constituent data are actual measures of the
ocean anomalies. Figure 2.7 shows the different areas of the equatorial Pacific used for
different ENSO indices, whilst Figure 2.8 indicates the differences in their time series for
1981–1991.
More recently, another ENSO monitor termed the Multivariate ENSO Index (MEI) has
been developed (Wolter & Timlin 1993, 1998). The MEI is derived from multiple climate
parameters and aims to reflect the nature of the coupled ocean–atmosphere system better
than either the SOI or SST-based indices. In an application to Australian rainfall and
runoff prediction, results suggest that the MEI outperforms other available indices (Kiem
& Franks 2001). This is because the MEI integrates more information than other indices
and is less vulnerable to non-ENSO related variability in a single variable.
44 Understanding water in a dry environment
2.9.3 Empirical approaches to assessing the influence of the southern oscillation
Empirical studies are easily achieved through relating historical rainfall records to ENSO
indices, though this may be achieved in different ways. McBride and Nicholls (1983)
investigated the linear correlation between monthly SOI and rainfall records for 92 rain
gauges across Australia. The strength of the linear correlation was then taken as a meas-
ure of the influence of ENSO on rainfall regimes. An alternative approach is to investigate
the probability distributions of monthly rainfall totals after stratifying the rainfall
record according to different periods of ENSO activity. Studies have employed simple
classifications of ENSO according to El Nin˜o (warm), La Nin˜a (cold) and neutral phases.
160°E 150°W 90°W
10°S
Niño 2
Niño 1
Niño 3
Niño 3.4
Niño 4

Figure 2.7. Equatorial Pacific regions used for various SST-based ENSO indices (after Glantz
et al. 1991).
4
3
2
1
0
-1
-2
-3
-4
Dec-81 Dec-83 Dec-85 Dec-87 Dec-89
Time
4
3
2
1
0
-1
-2
-3
-4
Niño 3
Niño 4
SOI/10
S
O
I
/
1
0
N
i
ñ
o

3

-

N
i
ñ
o

4

S
S
T

a
n
o
m
a
l
y
Figure 2.8. Time series of Nin˜o 3, Nin˜o 4 and SOI ENSO-indices.
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 45
Stone and Auliciems (1992) found further insight into expected rainfalls by subdividing
ENSOactivity into five classes (phases) of the SOI. The additional phases, namely increas-
ing and decreasing SOI, were identified through a cluster analysis approach.
Irrespective of the choice of classification scheme, the advantage of probabilistic
analyses over linear models lies in the acknowledgement that the coupling between
ENSO phenomena and rainfall production may not necessarily be linear. The SOI is an
approximate measure of the complex ENSO cycle, and both the atmosphere and oceans
display markedly non-linear behavior. ENSO phenomena are therefore non-linearly
coupled to rainfall processes. A low linear correlation between SOI and rainfall does not
mean that ENSO phenomena do not affect rainfalls. A probabilistic approach requires
no such assumption of linearity, and hence must be preferable for revealing the influence
of ENSO.
Figure 2.9 shows a comparison of the linear and probabilistic approaches in assessing
the role of ENSO. As can be seen, a weak linear trend may not truly reflect the nature of
ENSO control on local rainfalls, nor does it indicate the utility of the relationship.
2.9.4 ENSO-induced ‘hydrological’ variability
Whilst many semi-arid areas will show significant correlation between ENSO and
monthly rainfalls in particular seasons, the true worth of ENSO-rainfall correlation in
hydrological practice cannot be fully appreciated without a corresponding analysis of
streamflow generation. This is necessary for a number of reasons.
First, different antecedent moisture conditions in a catchment might lead to enhanced
runoff variability relative to the ENSO-induced monthly rainfall variability alone. Hydro-
logical processes are highly non-linear and thus rainfall variability can be accentuated in
the resultant runoff. Second, it has been shown that whilst ENSO processes can be
correlated to monthly rainfall totals, rainfall intensities can also be significantly affected
(Franks 1998). Since rainfall intensity is a key parameter in the production of infiltration–
excess overland flow, enhanced intensities will lead to enhanced runoff production.
Additionally, reduced rainfall intensities may lead to increased evaporative losses through
interception and enhanced groundwater recharge. Finally, ENSO processes also affect
atmospheric evaporative demand—higher demands must be associated with drier
conditions and with fewer rain days. It is therefore clear that non-linear hydrological
processes may in many circumstances produce enhanced variability in the translation of
rainfall to runoff. It is also worthwhile to note that ENSO phases may affect demand for
water provision.
A recent study by Wooldridge et al. (2000) has shown how these factors interact to
enhance runoff variability relative to rainfall variability. Figure 2.10 shows the variability
of streamflow and the runoff coefficient (Q/R) periods for the Chichester Dam site using
the phase approach (see Figure 2.9b for corresponding rainfall variability). These plots
indicate that whilst rainfall varies in terms of the medians by approximately a factor of
two, runoff variability is approximately a factor of four.
Figure 2.11 shows daily rainfall intensities for different phases of the SOI. As can be
seen, for the site illustrated there is a likelihood of high daily intensities for the cool phase
(La Nin˜a) of the ENSO cycle.
46 Understanding water in a dry environment
2.9.5 Secular variability of climate and ENSO phenomena
Typical approaches to the investigation of ENSO coupling with hydrological variability
implicitly assume that any correlation is/will be stationary in time. However, it is well
known that marked secular changes in climate have occurred on multi-decadal time scales
(e.g. Allan et al. 1995; Janicot et al. 1996; Dai et al. 1997, 1998; Nigam et al. 1999). Such
secular variability in climate may change associations between ENSO and corresponding
rainfalls.
(a)
(b)
Y = M0 + M1*X
Figure 2.9. Comparison of: (a) linear, and (b) probabilistic approaches in assessing the role of
ENSO.
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 47
(a)
(b)
Figure 2.10. Variability of: (a) Stream flow, and (b) runoff coefficient (Q/R) periods for the
Chichester Damsite using the phase approach (see Figure 2.9b for corresponding rainfall variability).
Figure 2.11. Daily rainfall intensities for the different phases of the Southern Oscillation Index
(SOI), indicating the possibility of enhanced hydrological variability.
48 Understanding water in a dry environment
The correlation between summer Sahel rainfalls and ENSO events was investigated by
Janicot et al. (1996). They showed that strong associations between ENSO and drought
were present after 1970, and that this coupling could be related to differences in Pacific
and Atlantic Ocean SST anomalies. Dai et al. (1998) examined global variations in
droughts and wet spells over the last century using the Palmer Drought Severity Index
(PDSI). Their results indicated marked increases in drought area since the late 1970s;
these changes were especially marked over the Sahel region. It was also inferred that the
global increases were related to a general increase in the occurrence of El Nin˜o events and
also corresponded to record high global mean temperatures.
Investigating changes across Australia, Allan et al. (1995) attributed shifts in regional
climate to changes in long-term Indian Ocean sea surface temperatures. It has recently
been suggested that this shift led to a step change in flood frequency across New South
Wales of, on average, a factor of two (Franks & Kuczera 2001). The key role of the Indian
Ocean in modulating ENSO effects over Southern Africa has also been demonstrated by
Landman and Mason (1999). Power et al. (1999) examined ENSO rainfall predictability
against low frequency Indian and Pacific Ocean SST anomalies (the Inter-decadal Pacific
Oscillation, or IPO). Using data from over 100 rain gauges from around Australia, they
subsequently demonstrated variable predictability of rainfall during the periods of
different IPO phase (positive and negative anomalies). Similarly, Gershunov and Barnett
(1998) and McCabe and Dettinger (1999) have shown how ENSO correlations with
American rainfalls vary on multi-decadal time scales. The changing correlations vary in
accordance with long-term multi-decadal persistence in both North Pacific sea surface
temperatures (named the Pacific Decadal Oscillation or PDO; see Mantua et al. 1997) and
sea level pressures (Minobe 1997, 1999). The changes in IPO and PDO occur in the mid-
1940s and then in the early to mid-1970s, in line with global warming and cooling trends
observed over the last century (Franks 2002).
Intuition suggests that persistent large scale SST anomalies of this nature must influence
regional climates. Despite the observed changes in mid-latitude anomalies, exact causal
mechanisms have not yet been proven. Previous studies have raised the prospect that some
of the observed multi-decadal variability in the Pacific might arise fromocean-atmosphere
interactions, a response of the ocean to essentially stochastic atmospheric forcing, or
oscillations between tropical and extra-tropical regions of the ocean (e.g. Latif & Barnett
1994; Gu & Philander 1997; Minobe 1999). Other authors have suggested that band-
specific solar variability may play a significant role through complex solar-terrestrial
interactions (see for instance Reid 1999). In any case, given the key role of the oceans
in determining general circulation and global weather patterns, and the overall general
warming observed over the last century, stationarity of ENSO phenomena cannot be
guaranteed. Correlations may therefore increase or decrease with time under different
‘climate states’. Nonetheless, quantification of ENSO effects can prove useful for water
resource and environmental management especially in marginal areas.
2.9.6 Assessing future hydro-meteorological regimes under a changing climate
It must be conceded that changes of ‘climate state’ in (semi-)arid regions do occur.
Climate shifts may occur naturally, but future shifts may be additionally affected through
anthropogenic influences. In any case, hydrologists must adapt their perspectives under
the uncertainty of changed climate regimes. If a climate is undergoing a fundamental
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 49
change, then by definition the regime of a given area will not necessarily correspond to
that which applied historically. The derivation of rainfall/climate parameters based on
historical records may therefore not be adequate for future hydrological application. To
acknowledge that the future climate may not correspond to that historically observed must
ultimately raise the question of whether purely empirical approaches to hydrological
water resource management can be sufficient. The understanding of multi-temporal scale
climate variability may point to mechanisms that could improve concepts of climate risk.
Reliable historical data sets remain of great utility, however, as they provide a mechanistic
understanding of rainfall generation processes at individual locations. General Circulation
Models (GCMs) are a key scientific tool in the understanding and prediction of future
climates. However, at present they have many shortcomings, including inadequate treat-
ment of land–ocean interactions, inherently uncertain descriptions of sea ice processes,
and coarse representation of land surface and rainfall processes. Given the uncertainty of
methods for predicting the future, better understanding of multi-scale climate processes
remains a key feature of hydrological and multi-disciplinary research.
2.10 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The introduction (Section 2.1) notes that dry climates prevail over 30% of the earth’s land
surface. The dry climates of arid and semi-arid regions are associated with very limited
rainfall, which is characterised by extreme temporal and spatial variability due to con-
siderable variety in synoptic controls, prevailing weather patterns and rainfall mech-
anisms. Water resource management in these regions requires good knowledge of water
resources in all phases of the hydrological cycle. However, meteorological observation
and rainfall measuring systems in arid and semi-arid regions are often not very well
developed. Rainfall information is frequently inadequate, and records are rarely of
sufficient duration to fully assess the impact of climatic variability in dry regions.
Recommendations
Conventional rainfall observing systems in arid and semi-arid regions must be
improved.
New rainfall monitoring technologies, particularly those involving remote sensing,
must be developed and applied in regions with dry climates.
Section 2.2 describes how precipitation involves the condensation of water vapour into
liquid or solid water that will fall onto the land surface. This condensation occurs when air
laden with water vapour cools to dew point or below it. The cooling involves adiabatic
lifting of large air parcels. The key cooling processes are orographic lifting, convergence
and frontal lifting, and the associated major rainfall types are convectional, orographic
and cyclonic rainfall.
Rainfall thus depends on synoptic scale processes as well as the presence or absence of
water vapour and/or rain inducing substances. Important mesoscale effects include terrain
and orographic effects as well as the presence and proximity of substantial water bodies.
It is also noted that advective inflow of humid air into arid and semi-arid regions with
suitable meteorological conditions may result in dew fall and fog, which may provide
important inputs affecting hydrology and agriculture in those regions.
50 Understanding water in a dry environment
Finally, a brief reference is also made to the long history of attempts at precipitation
augmentation through cloud seeding. As yet, however, there is no worldwide consensus
on the importance of cloud seeding as a water resources management tool.
Recommendations
Research is needed to investigate how orography and distance from substantial water
bodies such as seas and large lakes affect rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions.
Fog collection in arid and semi-arid regions can be utilized to supply domestic water
to small villages, as well as provide water for reforestation and agriculture.
Further studies will be required to assess the potential of cloud seeding for water
resources management in selected dry regions.
Section 2.3 describes general circulation aspects and the global distribution of dry
climates. Most of the world’s desert and steppe climates lie between 10

and 35

N and S,
and are controlled by the east–west elongated subtropical belt of high-pressure cells.
These cells are characterised by subsidence resulting in stable, dry air masses with limited
rainfall and near surface divergence. Subtropical regions with maximum variability in air
subsidence are often called semi-deserts, whereas regions with minimum variability are
true desert regions. In addition, there are vast areas of the world bordering on the
subtropical high-pressure belt that receive their precipitation in one season of the year.
This generalized model of atmospheric circulation indicates that low pressure prevails
near the equator and high pressure in the subtropics. At higher latitudes there are eastward
moving, alternating high- and low-pressure systems. Low-pressure areas are associated
with surface convergence and ascending air motion, with a strong likelihood of precipita-
tion, whereas high-pressure systems show descending air masses with clear skies and dry
weather. It should also be noted that seasonal differences in the thermal contrasts between
land areas and ocean areas may cause significant regional reversals in airflow and air mass
properties that may impact on rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions.
Recommendation
There is a need for increased awareness of seasonal variations and longitudinal dif-
ferences in general circulation patterns over most continental areas.
General circulation patterns define large-scale climatic conditions, whereas mesoscale
studies address inter-regional variability imposed on such broad patterns. In Section 2.4
mesoscale atmospheric systems are divided into synoptically-induced and terrain-induced
mesoscale systems.
Synoptically-induced mesoscale systems are primarily forced by instabilities of travel-
ling larger-scale disturbances. It is noted that convective cloud systems produce most of
the rain in arid and semi-arid regions. Superimposed on the general circulation patterns of
the tropical atmosphere and its regular seasonal variations (monsoons) are transient low-
pressure systems. Cyclones are vigorous tropical disturbances which develop over oceans
at latitudes >5

. Over land they become tropical lows or depressions that can bring
significant rainfall to arid and semi-arid regions.
Terrain-induced mesoscale systems are due to non-homogeneities in topography, land
cover and surface hydrology, which may lead to mesoscale circulations and may hence act
as regional and local scale causes of rainfall variability. Numerous studies have addressed
biophysical feedback between land surface properties such as albedo, surface roughness
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 51
and soil moisture. However, it is noted that numerical studies on the impact of land use
changes such as deforestation on local or regional scale rainfall are difficult to validate in
the absence of adequate observational data.
Recommendation
Experimental data must be obtained for the validation of numerical predictions of the
impact of changes in land surface properties on rainfall at local and regional scales.
Section 2.5 describes the rainfall regimes in Australia and Israel. Significant differences
exist between these countries in the scale of rainfall studies that reveal differences in
the impact of large- and mesoscale climate systems and local controls. The climate of
Australia’s arid and semi-arid zone is controlled by the regular west to east passage
of anticyclones across the continent and the seasonal migration in the location of the tracks
of these anticyclones. In summer, southward penetration by humid tropical air masses
associated with the northwest monsoon and (especially in late summer) tropical cyclones
may bring significant rain to regions north of latitude 30

. In winter, fronts associated with
southern depressions may penetrate northwards between successive high-pressure cells
and bring rain to the southern semi-arid zone. Appreciable rain in Australia’s arid and
semi-arid zone appears to be frequently associated which extensive and spatially uniform
storms. This does not support the general concept of sporadic and torrential rain associated
with many arid regions elsewhere (see Section 2.1, and WMO 1996a).
Israel’s climate is determined by its geographical position between sea and desert and
its orography. The climate is characterized by a dry, hot summer and a mild, wet winter.
The semi-arid zone (with 200–400 mm annual rainfall) and arid zone (with <200 mm
rain) occupy most of the southern half of the country. Observations in such arid regions
have shown a predominance of high-intensity storms that result from strong surface
heating. Orography and local wind effects are largely responsible for spatial differences at
the local scale. It has been noted that rainfall in extremely arid parts is highly localized
and results from small convective cells with typical diameters of about 5 km. It appears
that the spatial distribution of cells, which has commonly been assumed to be random, is
tied in with mesoscale climatic systems that impose systematic arrangement of localized
storm cells.
Recommendation
Observational research is required to investigate the temporal and spatial character-
istics of rainfall in selected arid and semi-arid regions, to assess rainfall mechanisms at
local and regional scales, and to investigate the role of orography and land surface
properties.
Section 2.6 reviews conventional ground-based rainfall measurements. There is a general
lack of rainfall data for hydrological and agricultural applications and for use in rainfall
research. The lack of daily and monthly rainfall data, and especially rainfall intensity
information, is particularly serious in arid and semi-arid environments. The preferred
network density of non-recording and recording rain gauges depends on the prevailing
climate, the terrain, the application of the rainfall data and the type of analysis required. It
is pointed out that the sampling errors of rainfall amount will increase with decreasing
network density, rainfall duration and the rainfall’s areal extent. Most existing techniques
52 Understanding water in a dry environment
for optimizing network design assume linear variations between stations and homo-
geneous rainfall areas.
Recommendations
Improved methods are required for optimizing network design which will maximize
the point and areal rainfall information obtained with rain gauge networks.
Remote sensing methods for rainfall estimation are addressed in Section 2.7. The indirect
method uses cloud characteristics, as observed in visible and infrared satellite imagery, as
indicators for rainfall occurrence. Such satellite-based rainfall monitoring methods may
yield improved estimates of areal rainfall in real or near-real time over relatively large
areas and may complement conventional ground-based measurements. However, it must
be noted that the success of satellite methods is closely linked to the precipitation
processes and the type of precipitation.
The direct method uses microwave techniques to obtain instantaneous rain rates.
Ground-based weather radar is used for rainfall measurement by relating measured radia-
tion to a range of physical rain parameters. The spatial and temporal resolution of weather
radar is good compared with that from satellite data. Extensive application of weather
radar to obtain true rainfall values is not yet possible due to the variability which exists
between rainfall intensity and radar echo intensity, though there have been recent promis-
ing methodological advances in the use of conventional ground-based radar.
Recommendations
Space-borne and ground-based remote sensing methods for precipitation estimation
need to be more fully exploited, especially in data sparse arid and semi-arid regions.
Space-borne passive microwave radiometry offers considerable promise for rainfall
monitoring in data sparse regions.
Combining conventional ground-based observations and direct and indirect remote
sensing methods will yield improved large-scale rainfall distribution information in
many dry regions.
Section 2.8 provides an overview of methods for interpreting rainfall data as well as the
analysis of rainfall frequency and intensity. Following a review of methods for computing
areal rainfall and graphical and mathematical techniques for rainfall frequency analysis,
rainfall intensity-duration-frequency (IDF) curves are discussed. IDF curves are essen-
tially cumulative frequency distribution of rainfall intensity, conditioned on the rainfall
duration. They are based on point rainfall observations taken over a long period of time
and are applicable for areas up to about 4 km
2
. Such IDF curves tend to overestimate
average rainfall intensity for larger areas and require areal reduction factors based on
catchment area and storm duration.
Depth–area–duration (DAD) analysis aims to determine the maximum amounts of
precipitation over various sizes of catchment area during standard passages of time or
storm periods in hours or days. It is used in engineering and planning situations when
design may be based on an event with a specified exceedance probability.
Considerable difficulties may be expected in determining probable maximum
precipitation (PMP) in drier regions. PMP is an estimate of the maximum precipitation
that can be expected for a given duration in a particular location, at a specified time of the
year, and over a particular basin. For regions smaller than 1000 km
2
and for periods up
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 53
to 3–6 hrs, the PMP concept assumes that extreme rainfall is produced by large, efficient
and virtually stationary thunderstorms. The validity of such an assumption depends on
synoptic conditions and the nature of the topography (as discussed earlier in Sections 2.4
and 2.5). Extension of the PMP concept to larger regions and longer periods also presents
considerable uncertainty.
Recommendations
Care needs to be taken in the use of IDF curves; these involve assumptions about the
statistical independence and distribution of time series of extreme events, the represen-
tativeness of the data and the absence of long-term trends in the data.
Catchment-scale IDF curves require region-specific areal reduction factors that are
empirically derived functions of catchment area and storm duration.
PMP estimation for areas exceeding 1000 km
2
and for periods exceeding 6 hours
involves modification of the methods outlined in WMO (1986) and requires region-
specific hydrometeorological advice.
There is a need for improved rainfall intensity data in many arid and semi-arid
regions for use in a wide range of water management applications, including erosion,
flood control and water harvesting.
Section 2.9 provides an overview of climatic variability and its relevance to hydrological
processes. Much research is concerned with understanding teleconnections such as the El
Nin˜o-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and other modes of climatic variability. ENSO events
have been shown to have a significant impact on rainfall distribution in many parts of the
globe, including semi-arid regions.
The assessment of hydrological consequences of rainfall variability requires detailed
corresponding analysis of surface and subsurface runoff and of streamflow generation.
Non-linear hydrological processes may, in many circumstances, result in enhanced
variability in the translation from rainfall to runoff.
Secular changes in climate may change the associations between ENSO and
corresponding rainfalls. Examination of ENSO rainfall predictability against sea surface
temperature (SST) anomalies has shown correlations between ENSO and rainfall to vary
on multi-decadal time scales. In addition, future shifts in climate may be affected by
anthropogenic influences. It is concluded that better understanding of multi-scale climate
variability may improve concepts of climate risk and will therefore remain a key objective
of hydrological and multi-disciplinary research.
Recommendations
There is a need for more studies linking ENSOand rainfall in semi-arid and arid regions.
Coupling between ENSO phenomena and rainfall production may not necessarily
be linear. A probabilistic approach to investigating this link must be preferable for
revealing the influence of ENSO.
The true worth of the ENSO–rainfall correlation can only be assessed with a cor-
responding analysis of streamflow generation.
Secular changes in climate have occurred on multi-decadal time scales and this
necessitates investigations of changes in the associations between ENSO and rainfall.
The quantification of such ENSO effects may prove useful in the water resources and
environmental management of marginal regions.
54 Understanding water in a dry environment
2.11 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
We wish to express our gratitude to David Sharon and Simon Berkovicz (Institute of Earth
Sciences, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel). These colleagues read an early
manuscript of this chapter, made many helpful suggestions and provided a number of
useful references to relevant mesoscale climate studies and papers on dew research. We
also thank Mick Fleming (CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra, Australia) and Sri
Srikanthan (Bureau of Meteorology, Melbourne, Australia) for their helpful comments on
drafts of this chapter. Scott Wooldridge and Anthony Kiem (University of Newcastle,
Callaghan, Australia) provided Figures 2.7–2.11.
2.12 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS
AgRISTARS Agriculture and Resources Inventory Surveys through Aerospace
Remote Sensing
ARR Australian Rainfall and Runoff
AVHRR Australian Very High Resolution Radiometer
B Ko¨ppen’s Group of Dry Climates
BS Ko¨ppen’s Semi-arid Steppe Climate
BW Ko¨ppen’s Arid Desert Climate
CCD Cold Cloud Duration
CSIRO Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization
DAD Depth–Area–Duration
DMSP Defense Meteorological Satellite Program
ENSO El Nin˜o Southern Oscillation
GCM General Circulation Model; Global Climate Model
GEWEX Global Energy and Water Cycle Experiment
GMS Geostationary Meteorological Satellite
GOES Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite
IDF Intensity–Duration–Frequency
IPO Inter-decadal Pacific Oscillation
ITCZ Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone
MEI Multivariate ENSO Index
METEOSAT Meteorological Satellite
MSLP Mean Sea Level Pressure
NAO North Atlantic Oscillation
NATMAP National Mapping
NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
PDO Pacific Decadal Oscillation
PDSI Palmer Drought Severity Index
PMP Probable Maximum Precipitation
SMMR Scanning Multi-channel Microwave Radiometer
SOI Southern Oscillation Index
SPOT Satellite Probatoire d’Observation de la Terre
SMMR Scanning Multi-channel Microwave Radiometer
SSM/I Special Sensor Microwave/Imager
Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 55
SST Sea Surface Temperature
UNESCO United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
WMO World Meteorological Organization
WPMM Window Probability Matching Method
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Rainfall in arid and semi-arid regions 63
CHAPTER 3
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration
Ambro S.M. Gieske
International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation ITC,
Water Resources Division, Enschede, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT: Land surface evapotranspiration is governed by conditions in the lower part of the
atmosphere, the vegetation layer and soil moisture conditions below the surface. Water vapour and
heat exchanges between land and atmosphere control the living environment. However, while
quantification of this important hydro-meteorological process has made rapid progress over the last
50 years, simple and robust procedures to directly estimate actual rates of evapotranspiration are
still under development.
Atmospheric transport of water vapour near the surface takes place mainly by diffusive
processes, while further away the transport is dominated by turbulent transfer due to increasing
wind speed and buoyancy effects. Although a complete account of the theoretical development is
clearly beyond the scope of this chapter, an outline is indispensable in order to understand the
parameterisation of current operational applications (Section 3.2).
Evaporation of water uses energy and this is primarily supplied by the sun’s radiation. However,
part of the available solar energy escapes as sensible heat H into the atmosphere, heating the
overlying air. Another part heats the surface leading to downward transport of heat by conduction.
This partitioning of available energy (Section 3.3) can be written as an energy balance equation,
which serves as a starting point not only for the Penman formulae but also for many methods to
determine actual evapotranspiration by remote sensing.
The most usual method to determine ET
0
is through the Penman–Monteith approach using standard
weather station instruments. However, the use of automated equipment with data loggers is becoming
more common, with costs decreasing. A short description (Section 3.4) is given of the traditional
methods (pans and lysimeters) and some of the methods that are becoming increasingly popular
because of technological advances (Bowen ratio, eddy correlation technique and the scintillometer).
After comparison and testing of several methods, the FAO Penman–Monteith equation is now
recommended as the sole standard method for computing ET
0
. In situations where data are scarce,
approximate methods may be used such as: (a) temperature methods, (b) radiation methods, or (c)
combination methods (Section 3.5). Surface evapotranspiration is closely connected to subsurface
transport of heat and moisture. Many methods take these subsurface processes into account in order
to allow for losses due to surface runoff, bare soil evaporation, plant respiration and deep ground-
water recharge. However, in the absence of chemical and isotopic data and sap flow measurements,
recourse has to be taken very often to hydrological modelling, especially when processes are
considered on a basin-wide scale. Several approaches are discussed in Section 3.6.
The capacity of remote sensing to identify and monitor landsurface processes has expanded
greatly during the last 20 years. Rising concerns about global water availability and long-term
climate changes have added more urgency to the need for developing practical techniques.
A variety of methods have thus been developed recently, capable of processing remotely sensed
data for the measurement of evapotranspiration on global, regional and local scales; a short
introduction is given in Section 3.7.
3.1 INTRODUCTION
A vast amount of literature describes the determination of evaporation and evapo-
transpiration under varying climatic and agricultural circumstances. Recently, the FAO
published new practical guidelines for computing crop evapotranspiration (as Publica-
tion 56; Allen et al. 1998), replacing the classical Irrigation and Drainage Report 24
(Doorenbos & Pruitt 1977). In these reports the calculation of reference crop evapo-
transpiration (ET
0
) (formerly called potential evapotranspiration) and actual evapotran-
spiration under standard and non-standard conditions is described in great detail, at
the same time providing a large number of references to the scientific work underlying
developments in this particular field of applied science. Furthermore, standard hydro-
logical textbooks such as Dingman (1994) give clear accounts of the physical background
of evaporative processes.
Land surface evapotranspiration is governed by conditions in the lower part of the
atmosphere, the presence and properties of the vegetation layer and the subsurface soil
moisture conditions. This complexity makes the determination of evapotranspiration a
difficult and fascinating subject. The energy related to water evaporation is the latent heat
flux; water vapour and heat exchanges between land and atmosphere control the living
environment and vice versa. A vast amount of literature describes the determination of
evaporation (water and soil) and evapotranspiration (partially vegetated surfaces). The
quantification of this important hydro-meteorological process has made rapid progress
over the last 50 years, essentially after the introduction of Penman’s (1948) surface energy
balance combination equation.
Despite the encouraging progress made in biophysical understanding of the
evapotranspiration processes, simple and robust procedures to directly estimate actual
rates of evapotranspiration from the land surface into the atmosphere are still under
development. The major bottleneck is that routine weather stations provide variables that
can be used only to compute the reference and potential evapotranspiration. These provide
an upper limit, the actual vapour flux density usually being lower. The box below is
presented to better explain the principal differences. A difficulty is that the actual vapour
fluxes cannot be measured in situ, which is a particular problem when dealing with
heterogeneous watersheds where spatial differences are significant.
3.2 PHYSICAL BACKGROUND OF TURBULENT TRANSPORT
3.2.1 Introduction
Atmospheric transport of water vapour close to the surface takes place mainly by diffusive
processes, while further away the transport is dominated by turbulent transfer due to
increasing wind speed and buoyancy effects. The theory of these physical transport
processes has been extensively described by, for example, Brutsaert (1982), Panofsky and
Dutton (1984) and Garratt (1992). Although a complete account of the theoretical
development is clearly beyond the scope of this chapter, a short outline is indispensable
in order to understand the parameterisation of current operational applications. Asummary
description is therefore given of the atmospheric boundary layers and types of surface
involved. This is followed by discussion of the mean logarithmic wind profile, shear stress
and friction velocity. The approach is then extended to include similar expressions for
66 Understanding water in a dry environment
specific humidity and temperature: The so-called scalar quantities. The theory for CO
2
transport and radioactive deposition follows along the same lines, but is not discussed
further here. It is necessary to consider the roughness parameters for momentum, heat and
water vapour transport in some detail because these appear in the Penman–Monteith
formulation for reference crop evapotranspiration, and because their determination forms
a major bottleneck in the determination of land surface fluxes. Finally, the effects of stable
and unstable atmospheric conditions are incorporated in the equations.
Box 1. Reference (ET
ref
), potential (ET
pot
) and actual (ET
act
) evapotranspiration.
3.2.2 The atmospheric boundary layer
In the atmosphere the largest changes in wind, temperature and humidity take place near
the surface. For this reason the air near the surface may be regarded as a boundary layer
for momentum, heat and mass transport. In this context one usually refers to the
Atmospheric Boundary Layer (ABL), which is subdivided as follows (Figure 3.1).
Flow in the ‘free’ atmosphere above the ABL is that of a free stream, affected mainly by
the pressure field and Earth rotation, but very little by friction with the surface. The top of
the ABL varies between 500 and 2000 m. However, this strongly depends on atmospheric
conditions and on whether it is day or night. For example, over deserts under strong
surface heating the thickness of the ABL may be 5 km or more. Over open oceans the ABL
thickness is usually less than over land. The top of the ABL is, in convective conditions,
often well defined by a stable inversion layer.
The ABL is subdivided into an inner and outer region, the transition between the two
being gradual rather than abrupt. The outer region is also called defect sublayer or Ekman
layer; flow in this region is nearly independent of surface characteristics and is largely
determined by the free stream velocity. Flow in the inner region, or surface sublayer, is
characterized by the nature of the Earth’s surface. The lower part of the inner region is
called the dynamic sublayer.
ET
ref
: The maximum possible evapotranspiration by a reference crop (usually clipped
grass) according to prevailing atmospheric conditions and constant biophysical
properties. The reference crop has a horizontally homogeneous coverage, is optimally
supplied by soil moisture and free from diseases. It is achieving full production
potential under the given growing environment.
ET
pot
: The maximum possible evapotranspiration according to prevailing atmospheric
conditions and vegetative properties. The land surface in question (can by any part of
the landscape that contains a certain fraction of vegetation) should be well supplied by
water such that soil moisture forms no limitation to the stomatal aperture. One major
difference with the reference crop is that the biophysical properties of a potentially
evaporating vegetation are spatially and temporally variable. The reference
evapotranspiration ET
ref
is a special case of ET
pot
with fixed properties and without
variability.
ET
act
: The actual rate of evapotranspiration caused by the conditions of the
atmosphere, the real vegetation development (also due to various types of stress
functions) and the actual soil moisture and soil temperature regimes in the root zone of
the vegetation.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 67
Below the dynamic sublayer and directly above the surface lies the interfacial sublayer,
where turbulence is strongly affected by the roughness of surface elements. In this layer
molecular diffusivities can no longer be neglected in the description of water vapour and
heat transport mechanisms. In the case of smooth flow this layer is often called the viscous
sublayer, while over a rough surface it may be referred to as the roughness sublayer
(Brutsaert 1982). Finally, over vegetation many complications arise depending on foliage
density and canopy depth, and in this case the layer is often called the canopy sublayer.
3.2.3 Logarithmic wind profile
When wind blows across a surface it is observed that the wind speed is a function of height
above that surface. Wind speed is zero at the surface, because of frictional effects of the air
with the surface, and increases steadily with increasing height. The air momentum thus
becomes less with decreasing height. Downward transport of momentum is caused mainly
by turbulent eddies, and the effectiveness of this transport mechanism is described by the
friction velocity u
Ã
which, by definition (Brutsaert 1982), is related to shear stress t
0
as:
u
Ã
¼
ffiffiffiffi
t
0
,
_
ð1Þ
The shear stress t
0
is generally taken as constant for the inner region of the ABL; it
appears that this is a sufficiently precise assumption for heights up to 100 m above the
surface.
smooth bluff-rough permeable-rough
dynamic sublayer
(logarithmic profile)
(logarithmic profile with
stability corrections)
outer region or defect sublayer or Ekman layer
free atmosphere
inner region
or
surface sublayer
500–2000 m
50–100 m
0.01– 1 m
interfacial sublayer
(viscous, roughness
or canopy sublayer)
Figure 3.1. Sketch showing simplified sublayers of the Atmospheric Boundary Layer (after
Brutsaert 1982). The heights in m indicate the variable height of the boundaries (not to scale).
68 Understanding water in a dry environment
The nature of wind speed change with elevation has been investigated extensively since
the 1920s and was first introduced in meteorology by Prandtl (1932). Results are usually
expressed as:
u
Ã
z d" u,dz ð Þ
¼ k ð2Þ
It was found experimentally that the left-hand side of eqn. (2) is constant k, which is
referred to as Von Ka´rma´n’s constant and is usually taken as 0.41. The logarithmic wind
profile equation follows immediately from integration of eqn. (2):
u
2
À u
1
¼
u
Ã
k
ln
z
2
z
1
_ _
ð3Þ
where the subscripts refer to two levels in the dynamic sublayer. The level at which u
1
becomes zero is called the momentumroughness length z
om
, and eqn. (3) is then written as:
u ¼
u
Ã
k
ln
z
z
om
_ _
ð4Þ
The momentum roughness length may be visualized graphically as the zero velocity
intercept of the straight line resulting from a semi-logarithmic plot of mean velocity data
versus elevation (see Figure 3.2).
In the case of rough surfaces there is some ambiguity concerning the reference level
z ¼ 0 as used in eqns. (2)–(4). For very sparsely spaced roughness elements on a flat plane
this level can be taken at the level of the plane. However, as these roughness elements
become denser, the top of the zero level has to be placed closer to the top. In practice this
difficulty is solved by introducing a displacement distance d. The reference level (z ¼ 0)
is at the base of the roughness elements, and the wind speed is zero at z ¼ d þ z
om
. The
variable (z Àd) is then used instead of z in eqns. (2)–(4). For example, eqn. (4) becomes:
u ¼
u
Ã
k
ln
z À d
z
om
_ _
ð5Þ
1 2 3 4
u (ms)
Ϫ1
l
n
(
z
)
6
4
2
Ϫ2
Ϫ4
Ϫ6
ln(z
om
) = Ϫ4.41
z
om
= 0.012 m
Figure 3.2. Example plot of mean wind speed against ln(z). The intercept with the vertical axis
leads to z
om
¼ 0.012 m.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 69
Figure 3.3 illustrates the situation for a crop of height h. The displacement height d is
then usually taken as 0.7 or 0.8 times h. The wind speed becomes zero at d þ z
om
.
3.2.4 Mean specific humidity and temperature profiles
The approach that led to eqns. (2)–(5) can now be used to derive expressions for the mean
specific humidity and temperature profiles. In the dynamic sublayer these are passive
admixtures of the air and do not affect the dynamics of flow. As opposed to wind speed
and momentum, which are vectors, humidity and temperature are scalar quantities. The
same holds for CO
2
transport.
Through application of the same principles as used in establishing eqn. (2) (Reynolds
analogy), the specific humidity gradient q can be related to the water vapour flux E by:
E
, u
Ã
z À d ð Þ d" q,dz ð Þ
¼ Àk
v
ð6Þ
where k
v
¼ a
v
k is Von Ka´rma´n’s constant for water vapour. It has been found that a
v
is
usually close to unity, and the difference between k
v
and k will therefore be ignored.
Integrating eqn. (6) between two arbitrary levels z
1
and z
2
within the dynamic sublayer
yields:
q
1
À q
2
¼
E
k, u
Ã
ln
z
2
À d
z
1
À d
_ _
ð7Þ
If q
s
is the value of q at the surface, the profile can also be written as (see eqn. 5):
q
s
À q ¼
E
k, u
Ã
ln
z À d
z
ov
_ _
ð8Þ
where z
ov
is the water vapour roughness length. The integration constant z
ov
can be
visualized as the level above the displacement distance d, where the mean specific
h
e
i
g
h
t

z
wind speed u
log( )
=
u
*
k
crop height h
d = 0.7h
d ϩ z
om
zϪd
z
om
u
Figure 3.3. Vertical distribution of wind speed over a vegetated surface of height h. The profile
follows the logarithmic distribution of eqn. (4). The zero plane displacement d is about 0.7h. The
wind speed becomes zero at d þ z
om
.
70 Understanding water in a dry environment
humidity q would assume its surface value if the logarithmic profile were extrapolated
downward. It should be noted that z
ov
has no real physical meaning, because close to the
surface diffusive processes prevail and the assumptions underlying eqns. (6)–(8) with
regard to turbulent transport are no longer valid.
Similar procedures for temperature profiles are followed, with the exception that
potential temperature 0 is used rather than air temperature T:
0 ¼ T þÀz ð9Þ
where À is the dry adiabatic lapse rate (0.01 km
À1
). Because of its low value the difference
between À and T can be ignored in many applications.
The expression for the temperature profile is similar to the relation for specific humidity
(eqn. 6):
0
1
À0
2
¼
H
k, c
p
u
Ã
ln
z
2
À d
z
1
À d
_ _
ð10Þ
or
0
s
À0 ¼
H
k, c
p
u
Ã
ln
z À d
z
oh
_ _
ð11Þ
where H is the sensible heat flux as a result of temperature differences in the profile and
z
oh
is the roughness length for sensible heat. The same comments hold for z
oh
as for z
ov
.
Close to the surface, diffusive rather than turbulent processes prevail and care should be
taken in attaching a physical meaning to z
oh
. The determination of a representative surface
temperature 0
s
or T
s
is a difficult practical problem, especially with infrared sensor
techniques. This aspect is further discussed in Section 3.7.
3.2.5 Stability corrections in the surface sublayer
Above the dynamic sublayer the stability of the atmosphere needs to be considered; that is,
the effect of buoyancy resulting from the effective vertical density gradient. The common
way to include stability corrections is through introduction of a variable L, the stability
length, as was first proposed by Monin and Obukhov (1954). This variable was defined by
similarity theory through dimensional analysis of the variables involved:
L ¼
Àu
3
Ã
, c
p
T
a
kgH
ð12Þ
A more precise formulation is (Brutsaert 1982):
L ¼
Àu
3
Ã
,
kg
H
c
p
T
a
_ _
þ 0.61E
_ _
ð13Þ
However, eqn. (12) is often used instead of eqn. (13). After introducing the dimen-
sionless variable ¸ as:
¸ ¼
z À d
L
ð14Þ
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 71
the expressions for wind speed, water vapour and temperature become:
kðz À dÞ
u
Ã
du
dz
¼ c
sm
ð¸Þ ð15Þ
À
k, u
Ã
ðz À dÞ
E
dq
dz
¼ c
sv
ð¸Þ ð16Þ
À
k, c
p
u
Ã
ðz À dÞ
H
d0
dz
¼ c
sh
ð¸Þ ð17Þ
After integrating eqns. (15), (16) and (17) the following set of equations is obtained:
u
2
À u
1
¼
u
Ã
k
ln
¸
2
¸
1
_ _
À·
sm
¸
2
ð Þ þ·
sm
¸
1
ð Þ
_ _
ð18Þ
q
1
À q
2
¼
E
k, u
Ã
ln
¸
2
¸
1
_ _
À·
sv
¸
2
ð Þ þ·
sv
¸
1
ð Þ
_ _
ð19Þ
0
1
À0
2
¼
H
k, c
p
u
Ã
ln
¸
2
¸
1
_ _
À·
sh
¸
2
ð Þ þ·
sh
¸
1
ð Þ
_ _
ð20Þ
Note that the overbars in these equations have been left out for convenience; averaging is
implied in the remainder of this chapter. The · functions are defined as:
· ¼
_
1 Àc ð¸Þ
¸
_ _
d¸ ð21Þ
Much experimental work has been done to determine the proper c and · functions for
different meteorological conditions, and a distinction is usually made between stable
conditions, prevailing at night, and unstable conditions that arise from the strongly
convective conditions normally encountered during the day. Under unstable conditions
heat flow is away from the surface, while under stable circumstances heat flow is towards
the surface. Under neutral conditions in the dynamic sublayer the c functions are equal to
unity, and the equations reduce to those of the mean logarithmic profiles discussed above.
Unstable conditions
Several experimentally determined forms of the c functions exist; one common choice is:
c
sv
¼ c
sh
¼ c
2
sm
¼ 1 À 16¸ ð Þ
À1,2
ð22Þ
where the following ·-functions are found when using eqn. (22) in the evaluation of eqn.
(21):
·
sm
ð¸Þ ¼ 2 ln
ð1 þ xÞ
2
_ _
þ ln
ð1 þ x
2
Þ
2
_ _
À 2 arctanðxÞ þ¬,2 ð23Þ
·
sv
ð¸ Þ ¼ ·
sh
ð¸ Þ ¼ 2 ln
ð1 þ x
2
Þ
2
_ _
ð24Þ
72 Understanding water in a dry environment
and x is defined as:
x ¼ 1 À 16¸ ð Þ
1,4
ð25Þ
Stable conditions
Some discrepancies exist between various experimental results, and many forms of c are
suggested in the literature. It appears, however, that fluxes are small under stable
conditions and the exact form of these relations is not critical. For practical work it was
suggested by Brutsaert (1982) to use:
c
sv
¼ c
sm
¼ c
sh
¼ 1 þ 5¸ for 0 < ¸ < 1
c
sv
¼ c
sm
¼ c
sh
¼ 6 for ¸ 1
ð26Þ
3.2.6 Applications
Suppose that wind measurements are taken at a level z
1
, and measurements of temperature
at levels z
1
and at the surface (z À d ¼ 0). Suppose further that neutral conditions prevail,
and therefore stability corrections do not have to be made. Equations (5) and (11) then
allow determination of u
Ã
and H. First u
Ã
is determined from eqn. (5):
u
Ã
¼
ku
ln
z
1
Àd
z
om
_ _
ð27Þ
and H is then determined by substitution of eqn. (27) into eqn. (11) as:
H ¼
k
2
, c
p
u T
s
À T
1
ð Þ
ln
z
1
Àd
z
om
_ _
ln
z
1
Àd
z
oh
_ _
ð28Þ
This can be done provided, of course, values for z
om
, z
oh
and d have been determined
beforehand. The surface roughness for ordinary farm grassland is usually much smaller
than 0.1 and may range up to 0.5 for dense forests. The values for z
oh
show much more
variability (see for example, Sugita and Brutsaert 1990; Verhoef et al. 1997). For
reference crop evapotranspiration (Allen et al. 1998), z
oh
is normally taken as 0.1z
om
. The
logarithmic ratio of roughness lengths for momentum and heat is defined as kB
À1
:
kB
À1
¼ ln
z
om
z
oh
_ _
ð29Þ
For a ratio of 10 this gives kB
À1
¼ 2.3. Much higher values may be found especially in
semi-arid areas and, moreover, these show distinct diurnal and seasonal variability. The
interpretation of z
oh
still appears unclear in many field situations.
Equation (28) is used in the Penman–Monteith formulation (Allen et al. 1998) for
reference crop evapotranspiration through the definition of sensible heat H as:
H ¼ , c
p
T
s
À T
a
r
ah
ð30Þ
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 73
where T
a
is the air temperature at height z and r
ah
is defined as the aerodynamic resistance
to heat transport. Comparing eqn. (28) with eqn. (30) leads to:
r
ah
¼
1
k
2
u
ln
z À d
z
om
_ _ _ _
ln
z À d
z
oh
_ _ _ _
ð31Þ
If the stability corrections · are used in formulating the profile equations, then eqn. (28)
changes to:
H ¼
k
2
, c
p
u T
s
À T
z
ð Þ
ln
zÀd
z
om
_ _
À·
sm
zÀd
L
_ _
_ _
ln
zÀd
z
oh
_ _
À·
sh
zÀd
L
_ _
_ _
ð32Þ
Since L depends on H through eqn. (13), eqn. (32) is an implicit equation in H, which is
usually solved by iteration.
Note that the water vapour flux E can in principle be solved in the same way as the
sensible heat flux H, for example by combining eqns. (8) and (5) for neutral atmospheric
conditions.
3.3 SURFACE ENERGY BALANCE
3.3.1 Introduction
Evaporation of water uses energy, and when evaporation and transpiration take place from
natural water or land surfaces this energy is primarily supplied by the sun’s radiation. The
energy required is determined by the latent heat of evaporation l
v
, which is a function of
the evaporating surface temperature:
l
v
¼ 2.501 À 2.361 Â 10
À3
t ð33Þ
where t is in

C and l in MJ kg
À1
. The latent heat LE required for evapotranspiration is
related to the evaporation rate E by:
LE ¼ ,
w
l
v
E ð34Þ
where LE is expressed in Wm
À2
if E is in ms
À1
, l
v
in J kg
À1
and ,
w
in kg m
À3
.
However, part of the available solar energy escapes from the surface as sensible heat H
into the atmosphere, heating the overlying air. Another part heats the surface itself and
flows down below the surface. This partitioning of available energy can be written in the
form of a balance equation as:
LE ¼ R
n
À G À H þ A ÀÁQ,Át ð35Þ
where LE is the latent heat, R
n
the net radiation, G is soil heat flux, A the laterally
advected energy at the surface and ÁQ is the change in energy at the surface during
time Át.
Equation (35) is not only the starting point for the well-known Penman formulae for
determining reference crop evapotranspiration, but is also a crucial element in many
modern methods to determine actual evapotranspiration by remote sensing.
74 Understanding water in a dry environment
3.3.2 Net radiation R
n
Net radiation is the sum of all incoming and outgoing radiation (see Figure 3.4). This term
is usually split into short- and long-wave components. Net short-wave radiation is defined
as the incoming short-wave energy at the surface minus the reflected outgoing short-wave
radiation. The relation is given in simplified form by:
K
net
¼ ð1 ÀcÞtK
sun
ð36Þ
where t is the atmospheric absorption coefficient, c the surface albedo (Brest & Goward
1987) and K
sun
the extra-terrestrial solar radiation (depending on latitude and day of the
year). The astronomical formulae to determine K
sun
are comprehensively detailed in
FAO-56 (Allen et al. 1998), while the atmospheric transmission coefficient t is tradition-
ally determined on a daily basis from Angstrom’s formula, which makes use of the frac-
tional sunshine duration n/N: K
24
¼ (a þ bn,N)K
24exo
.
If t has to be determined for a particular time of day, then the incoming radiation
has to be measured (usually by pyranometer or net radiometer). For reference crop evapo-
transpiration calculations the albedo c is defined as 0.23.
Net long-wave radiation can be expressed as:
L
net
¼ L
in
À L
out
À ð1 À·
s
ÞL
in
ð37Þ
The outgoing long-wave radiation is determined by Stefan–Boltzmann’s Law as a
function of surface temperature and emissivity, while incoming long-wave radiation is
determined from the air temperature and emissivity. For complete sets of equations see
Absorbed by
water vapour,
dust, O
3
Space
Atmosphere
Ocean, Land surface
Absorbed
by clouds
Incoming
Solar
Radiation
Outgoing Radiation
Shortwave Longwave
Net emission
by water vapour
CO
2
, O
3
Emission
by clouds
Absorption
by clouds
water vapour
CO
2
, O
3
Absorbed
Back
scattered
by air
Reflected
by clouds
Reflected by
surface
incoming
longwave
radiation
Net
Longwave Radiation
Latent
heat flux LE
Sensible
heat flux H
K
L
Figure 3.4. Simplified Surface–Atmosphere Energy Exchange, showing main long- and short-
wave radiation components, sensible heat flux H and latent heat flux LE. The main balance
equation is LE ¼ R
n
À G À H, where incoming components are positive and outgoing are counted
as negative. The net radiation is the sum of the incoming and outgoing short- and long-wave
components R
n
¼ K
in
À K
out
þ L
in
À L
out
À ð1 À·
s
ÞL
in
.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 75
Allen et al. (1996) or FAO-56 (Allen et al. 1998). In summary:
L
out
¼ ·
s
oT
4
s
ð38Þ
where ·
s
and T
s
are respectively, the surface emissivity and temperature. The constant o is
the Stefan–Botzmann constant, which is equal to 5.67 Â 10
À8
Wm
À2
K
À4
, and:
L
in
¼ ·
0
o T
4
a
ð39Þ
where ·
0
is the atmospheric emissivity and T
a
the air temperature at the measuring height.
Empirical formulae to calculate L
net
on a daily basis are given in FAO-56.
3.3.3 Sensible heat H
The upward rate of sensible heat exchange H is usually given in the form already
discussed in the previous section (eqn. 31):
H ¼ , c
p
T
s
À T
a
r
ah
ð40Þ
with the aerodynamic resistance r
ah
given by eqns. (31) or (32).
When using the energy balance approach to estimate evapotranspiration it is often
useful to use the Bowen ratio u, defined as:
u ¼
H
LE
ð41Þ
The latent heat of evapotranspiration can be written in the same form as eqn. (40), as a
function of the difference between the saturated- and actual vapour pressures e
s
and e
a
.
Moreover, the aerodynamic resistances are the same for transport of heat or water vapour,
and therefore the Bowen ratio is often written as:
u ¼ ¸
T
s
À T
a
e
s
À e
a
ð42Þ
where ¸ is the psychrometric constant, defined as:
¸ ¼
c
p
P
· l
ð43Þ
where at sea level c
p
¼ 1.013 kJ kg
À1
K
À1
for moist air, P¼101.3 kPa (at one
atmosphere), ¸ ¼ 2.453 MJ kg
À1
at 20

C and · is the ratio of molecular weights for
water vapour and dry air (% 0.622); ¸ is then 0.067 kPa K
À1
.
3.3.4 Soil heat flux G
Solar energy heats up the surface during the day. It is well known that temperatures of
dry sand, soil and rock are much higher during the day than wet and vegetated surfaces.
The surface temperature thus depends not only on the incoming radiation but also on the
available moisture.
Evaporation over land surfaces is characterized by three sequential stages (Castelli et al.
1999). In the first (wet) stage following precipitation events or episodes of low available
surface energy (e.g. mornings), surface moisture availability is sufficient to allow latent
76 Understanding water in a dry environment
heat flux at a rate limited by near-surface micrometeorological conditions. In this stage the
amount of energy in the surface moisture exceeds that available for latent heat flux. In the
second stage of evaporation (the intermediate or drying stage) the capacity of soil to
deliver water is less than would be possible in view of the available energy. Evaporation
falls below the potential rate, the immediate consequence of this being that the surface
temperature starts to rise, which in turn means that both the sensible heat flux and soil heat
flux are increasing. In the third stage the loss of surface moisture is determined by
molecular diffusion and vapour flow in the soil under temperature gradients.
Soil heat flux is therefore dynamically coupled to incoming radiation energy and
available moisture. Flow of heat in the subsurface is governed by the equation:
,
s
C
s
0T
0t
¼
0
0z
i
s
0T
0z
_ _
ð44Þ
where i
s
is the thermal conductivity and ,
s
C
s
the volumetric heat capacity. Because these
quantities both depend on soil moisture content, good field measurements are essential
for a solution of eqn. (44), and the coupling of surface heat flux to soil moisture content
(Boni et al. 2001; Margulis & Entekhabi 2001).
In many remote-sensing applications G is usually evaluated through empirical relations
(see Section 3.7 on remote sensing).
3.3.5 Laterally advected energy A
When there is no significant horizontal transport into or out of the area considered this
term may be taken as zero. In such a situation only vertical components are present in the
energy balance.
3.3.6 Diurnal changes of energy components
Figure 3.5a illustrates a measured diurnal evolution for the four components LE, R
n
, H and
G on a cloudless day over a sparse maize crop (Noilhan & Planton 1989). The Figure
shows that the components are small during the night and are usually neglected. It is also
clear that the soil heat flux G is much less important than the other three components.
Figure 3.5b shows an idealized scheme.
Daily averages are normally used to arrive at a daily evapotranspiration rate. The
Penman–Monteith approach is designed to take advantage of total daily radiation, the
average daily temperature, wind speed and vapour pressures. However, when using
remote sensing, instantaneous parameters such as surface temperature and albedo are
measured, from which instantaneous energy balance components can be determined. This
leads to the problem of estimating a daily evapotranspiration value from these single time-
of-day measurements. Figures 3.5a and 3.5b show that this is not an easy problem: A few
clouds and sudden wind changes can cause substantial deviations from the idealized
pattern of Figure 3.5b. Jackson et al. (1983) developed a set of coefficients to relate these
instantaneous measurements to daily ET values. Instantaneous energy values can also be
converted to daily values by introducing the evaporative fraction Ã, defined as:
à ¼
LE
R
n
À G
ð45Þ
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 77
Through the use of eqns. (35), (41) and (45), it can be shown that under equilibrium
conditions the evaporative fraction is related to the Bowen ratio as:
à ¼
1
1 þu
ð46Þ
The instantaneous evaporative fraction remains fairly constant during the day (in a
statistical sense) and can therefore be taken as the daily average (Brutsaert & Sugita 1992;
Crago 1996; Bastiaanssen 2000). Because the soil heat flux G is small compared with the
4 8 12 16 20 24
700
600
500
200
100
0
-100
t (hr)
t (hr)
F
l
u
x

(
W

m
Ϫ
2
)
R
n
R
n
␭E
␭E
H
H
G
400
300
4 8 12 16 20 24
F
l
u
x

(
W

m
Ϫ
2
)
(a)
(b)
Figure 3.5. Diurnal variation of net radiation R
n
, turbulent sensible- and latent heat fluxes H and
LE, and soil heat flux G under cloudless skies for a sparse maize crop. Observations are from
Noilhan & Planton (1989). Schematic flux diagram as often used (Allen et al. 1998).
78 Understanding water in a dry environment
net radiation, the following relation holds approximately for the actual daily
evapotranspiration:
ET
24
¼ ÃR
n24
ð47Þ
Use of the evaporative fraction à is therefore a convenient way to transform the
instantaneous energy balance components into actual daily evapotranspiration.
3.4 DIRECT MEASUREMENT TECHNIQUES
3.4.1 Introduction
The most usual method to determine ET
0
is through the Penman–Monteith approach,
where the variables radiation (sunshine duration), wind speed, temperature and relative
humidity are measured with standard weather station instruments. The use of automated
equipment with data loggers is becoming more common, with costs decreasing. In this
section a short description is given of the traditional methods (pans and lysimeters)
and some of the methods that are becoming increasingly popular (Bowen ratio, eddy
correlation technique and the scintillometer) because of technological advances. The
Penman–Monteith method is discussed in Section 3.5.
3.4.2 Evaporation pan measurements
Measuring evaporation from a small, standardized pan (Figure 3.6) is the simplest and
most direct way to determine evaporation. The link with reference crop evapotranspir-
ation is made through a so-called pan coefficient:
ET
0
¼ k
p
E
pan
ð48Þ
15 cm
Stilling well
Water level
5–7.5 cm from rim
25 cm
1
2
0
.7
cm
Figure 3.6. Typical Class A pan (after FAO 56, Allen et al. 1998).
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 79
Two standard types of pans may be used: The Class A evaporation and Colorado sunken
pans (ASCE 28, Ch. 5, Allen et al. 1996; FAO-56, Allen et al. 1998). However, several
factors may induce significant differences in evaporation from a small, essentially open
water surface and evapotranspiration from a cropped surface:
Reflection of radiation may be significantly different between a pan and a cropped
surface.
Heat loss through the sides of the pan and heat storage changes in the pan water can
be appreciable (even during the night when crop ET
0
is normally negligible).
Because the pan is small (1.21 m diameter), the environment of the pan plays an
important role. If the surrounding area is dry, pan evaporation will be higher than in
the case of a wet environment, for example, an irrigated crop (see Figure 3.7).
The determination of an appropriate pan coefficient therefore depends not only on pan
type but also on the nature of the area surrounding the pan (the so-called fetch). Complete
instructions are given in FAO-56 (Allen et al. 1998) on how to install and maintain a pan,
and with the selection of an appropriate pan coefficient (Figure 3.7). Calibration of data
against the Penman–Monteith procedure is recommended. Principal regression relations
to determine the pan coefficient are given in Table 3.1; these show dependence of the
coefficient on wind speed, relative humidity and fetch.
3.4.3 Lysimeters
The purpose of a lysimeter is to determine evaporation in a natural environment by
accurately measuring the other water balance components; i.e. precipitation, soil moisture
storage and deep drainage. To accomplish this, part of the natural environment has to be
partitioned off allowing collection and weighing of the drained moisture (Figure 3.8).
Lysimeters offer the only absolute way of precisely measuring water loss from soil and
crop canopy surfaces. Because of this, lysimeters have played a very important role
in the development and testing of methods for estimating actual evapotranspiration
(Aboukhaled et al. 1982; Shaw 1988; Allen et al. 1991). Lysimeters can range in size from
less than 1 m
3
to over 150 m
3
.
Case A
Case B
Green
crop
Dry
surface
Pan
50 m or more Fetch 50 m or more Fetch
Dry
surface
Green
crop
Pan
Wind
Wind
Figure 3.7. Two cases of evaporation pan siting and their environment (FAO 56, Allen et al. 1998).
80 Understanding water in a dry environment
It should be realized that any lysimeter provides a measure of evapotranspiration from
a very limited sample size and the method’s validity depends on how representative the
lysimeter is for the surrounding area. Its soil and vegetation should therefore resemble the
natural or irrigated field situation as closely as possible, which imposes strict conditions
on construction and maintenance methods. Errors are reportedly due to different con-
ditions inside and outside the lysimeter:
Differences in soil characteristics (especially in semi-arid to arid areas).
Differences in soil moisture regime, especially in the study of evapotranspiration
from irrigated fields.
Differences in farm practices.
Table 3.1. Regression equations for pan coefficients 1
j
as a function of pan type and fetch.
Class A pan with green fetch K
p
¼ 0.108 À 0.0286u
2
þ 0.0422 ln(FET) þ0.1434 ln(RH
mean
)
À0.000631[ln(FET)]
2
ln(RH
mean
)
Class A pan with dry fetch K
p
¼ 0.61 þ 0.00341RH
mean
À 0.000162u
2
RH
mean
À0.00000959u
2
FET þ 0.00327u
2
ln(FET)
À0.00289u
2
ln(86.4u
2
) À0.0106 ln(86.4u
2
) ln(FET)
þ0.00063 [ln(FET)]
2
ln(86.4u
2
)
Colorado sunken pan with K
p
¼ 0.87 þ 0.119 ln(FET) À0.0157 [ln(86.4u
2
)]
2
green fetch À0.0019 [ln(FET)]
2
ln(86.4u
2
) þ0.013 ln(86.4u
2
)
ln(RH
mean
)À0.000053 ln(86.4u
2
) ln(FET)RH
mean
Colorado sunken pan with K
p
¼ 1.145 À 0.080u
2
þ 0.000903ðu
2
Þ
2
ln(RH
mean
)
dry fetch À0.0964 ln(FET) þ0.0031u
2
ln(FET)
þ0.0015 [ln(FET)]
2
ln(RH
mean
)
Coefficients and parameters K
p
pan coefficient []
u
2
average daily wind speed at 2 m height (ms
À1
)
RH
mean
average daily relative humidity
[%] ¼(RH
max
þ RH
min
)/2
FET fetch, or distance of the identified surface type
(grass or short green agricultural crop for case A,
dry crop or bare soil for case B upwind of the
evaporation pan)
Range for variables 1 mFET 1000 m (these limits must be observed)
30%RH
mean
84%
1 ms
À1
u
2
8 ms
À1
Vegetation
Bare soil
Soil
Rock
Gravel
Ca 1 m
Collecting
Pit
Ca 3 m
Figure 3.8. Traditional lysimeter setup.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 81
The so-called ‘bloom effect’ on small lysimeters where the area of the plant canopy
exceeds the assumed lysimeter area.
Despite these drawbacks and the sometimes seriously flawed results, lysimeters have
been used in a large number of comparative studies. Figures 3.9, 3.10 and 3.11 show the
12 0
0
2 4 6 8 10
Lysimeter (m day
Ϫ1
)
E
v
a
p
o
t
r
a
n
s
p
i
r
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
m
d
a
y
Ϫ
1
)
12
2
4
6
8
10
Figure 3.9. Comparison of average monthly potential evapotranspiration computed by the
Priestley–Taylor equilibrium method with values determined from lysimeters containing well-
watered alfalfa (Jensen et al. 1990).
12 0
0
2 4 6 8 10
Lysimeter (m day
Ϫ1
)
E
v
a
p
o
t
r
a
n
s
p
i
r
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
m
d
a
y
)
Ϫ
1
12
2
4
6
8
10
Figure 3.10. Comparison of average monthly potential evapotranspiration computed by the
Penman–Montieth equation with values determined from lysimeters containing well-watered
alfalfa at 11 locations (Jensen et al. 1990).
82 Understanding water in a dry environment
results of a study by Jensen et al. (1990), where lysimeter results are compared with those
obtained by respectively the Priestley–Taylor equilibrium equation, the Penman–
Monteith procedure (Section 3.5) and the Pan Evaporation method. Figure 3.12 shows
a comparison of hourly evapotranspiration obtained by a lysimeter and by Penman’s
12 0
0
2 4 6 8 10
Lysimeter (mday
Ϫ1
)
E
v
a
p
o
t
r
a
n
s
p
i
r
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
m
d
a
y
Ϫ
1
)
12
2
4
6
8
10
Figure 3.11. Comparison of average monthly Class-A pan evaporation with values determined
from lysimeters containing well-watered alfalfa at 11 locations. Over-estimation is presumably due
to heat exchange through the sides of the pan (Jensen et al. 1990).
1.0
2.0
0 6 12
Time (h)
18 24
E
v
a
p
o
r
a
t
i
o
n

r
a
t
e

(
m
m

h
Ϫ
1
)
Alfalfa
21 June 1963
E
0
E
0
Figure 3.12. Comparison of observed hourly evapotranspiration for well-watered alfalfa (closed
circles) and that calculated via the Penman equation (open circles) (after Van Bavel 1966).
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 83
equation (Van Bavel 1966). From these types of study the realization has come that the
Penman–Monteith method is probably the best point estimator of ET
0
for all types of
vegetated surfaces (Dingman 1994).
Choudhury (1997) made a recent global comparative study of lysimeters with ET
0
results obtained from satellite data, applying the Penman–Monteith method. The dif-
ferences between the two methods range from 5 to 15%, depending on the size of area and
time span considered.
3.4.4 Bowen ratio method
Writing eqn. (35) in its simplest form as:
LE ¼ R
n
À G À H ð49Þ
and using the Bowen ratio (eqn. (41), u ¼ H,LE), the sensible heat H can be eliminated
from eqn. (18) which leads to:
LE ¼
R
n
À G
1 þu
ð50Þ
Furthermore, the Bowen ratio can be written as (Dingman 1994; ASCE 28, Allen et al.
1996):
u ¼ ¸
T
2
À T
1
þÀðz
2
À z
1
Þ
e
2
À e
1
ð51Þ
where ¸ is the psychrometric constant (eqn. 43), T
2
and T
1
are measured air temperatures
at heights z
1
and z
2
, e
2
and e
1
are the measured water vapour pressures at z
1
and z
2
and À is
the adiabatic lapse rate, generally taken as 0.01 km
À1
. The Bowen ratio can thus be
determined from measurements of air temperature and water vapour pressure at two
different heights. Equation (50) then gives the evapotranspiration, provided net radiation
R
n
and the soil heat flux G are known.
Measurement of z
1
should generally be made 0.3 m above the crop canopy for a smooth,
dense canopy and higher in the case of tall, sparse canopies. The height z
2
is usually taken
1 to 2 m higher than z
1
and in this case the termÀ(z
2
À z
1
) can be neglected from eqn. (51).
Modern implementation of this technique generally requires data loggers with humidity
and temperature sensors (Allen et al. 1996), making it possible to obtain continuous
records for long periods of time.
Important advantages of the Bowen ratio method are :
The ability to measure actual evapotranspiration;
The elimination of wind and turbulent transfer coefficients.
The main disadvantages of the method are:
The implementation requires data loggers and (fragile) sensors.
Numerical instability when the Bowen ratio has a value close to À1; this may affect
evapotranspiration values near dawn and dusk (see Figure 3.13).
An adequate upwind fetch is required.
The Bowen ratio method is one of the most accurate procedures to determine actual
evapotranspiration, provided that net radiation, soil heat flux and the gradients of
84 Understanding water in a dry environment
temperature and humidity can be measured accurately. The Bowen ratio method is
therefore not suited to dry land surfaces. For tree crops and forest canopies it is difficult to
avoid the effect of individual trees; if measurement heights are taken higher, the gradients
become much smaller and more difficult to measure reliably.
The error in obtaining the Bowen ratio from well-designed and operated systems is in
the order of 20%.
3.4.5 Eddy Correlation method
In the Eddy Correlation approach, fluctuations of vertical wind (w
0
) and deviations (q
0
)
from the mean of the absolute humidity (q) are measured directly with fast response
sensors (Brutsaert 1982; Dingman 1994; Allen et al. 1996). The statistical theory of these
wind, temperature and humidity fluctuations lies at the core of the turbulent transfer
equations introduced in Section 3.2. The expression for evapotranspiration ET is
accordingly given by:
ET ¼
w
0
q
0
,
w
ð52Þ
where the overbar indicates means over 1 to 5 minute intervals. Practical implementation
of this method requires high-speed measurements, usually at frequencies of 10 Hz (Tanner
1988). The sensors are mounted in a vertical tower array.
The advantages of the eddy correlation method are:
Direct sampling of the turbulent boundary layer is possible;
Actual evapotranspiration can be measured directly.
1.0
6 12
Time (h)
18
E
T

(
l
y
s
)

a
n
d

E
T

(
B
R
E
B
)


(
m
m

h
Ϫ
1
)
0.12 m perennial ryegrass
Davis, CA, 8/4/1963
0
5.0
0.0
Ϫ3.0
B
o
w
e
n

r
a
t
i
o
Ϫ0.6
ET(lys) ET(BREB)

Figure 3.13. Examples of early tests of the BREB method: Comparison of ET for perennial
ryegrass with BREB calculations for 14 August, 1962 at Davis, CA (USA) (Allen et al. 1996).
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 85
Disadvantages are:
Complex instrumentation and skilled staff are required;
An adequate upwind fetch is required to establish an equilibrium transport within the
boundary layer considered (Brutsaert 1982).
Gas analyzers used for the air humidity deviations q
0
are not very accurate and eddy
correlation systems for measuring LE are therefore less accurate than those for sensible
heat H. Despite commercial availability of the instrumentation, application of the eddy
correlation method requires personnel well-trained in electronics, biophysics and
boundary-layer meteorology. However, the method has become a standard tool in many
Universities, Research Institutes and Meteorological Departments. To assess overall
accuracy in measuring the individual energy balance components, it is important to realize
that ‘closure’ is normally not achieved; there appears to be a hitherto unexplained gap
(Oncley et al. 2002).
3.4.6 Scintillometers
An electromagnetic wave passing through the turbulent atmosphere exhibits fluctuations
in intensity, known as scintillations. The ‘twinkling of stars’ is one example of this phe-
nomenon. These fluctuations are physically related to variations in temperature, humidity
and pressure of turbulent air flow, and cause rapid changes in the atmosphere’s refractive
index; i.e. in this case in the refractive index structure parameter C
2
n
(m
À2,3
). Although
this phenomenon has been known for a long time, it has only fairly recently been
applied to evaporation and energy balance studies (Hill 1992; De Bruin et al. 1995;
Nieveen 1999).
Figure 3.14 shows the operational principle of a scintillometer. Light froma LED(Light
Emitting Diode, 0.94 mm wavelength) is modulated by a 7 kHz square-wave oscillator,
transmitter
LED 0.94 ␮m
7 kHz carrier
receiver
logger
sensible heat H
Figure 3.14. Operational principles of a scintillometer. Light from a Light Emitting Diode (LED;
0.94 mm) is bundled into a parallel beam and modulated by a 7 kHz oscillator. At distances of
200 m to 5 km the light signal is amplified by a receiver to produce a signal that is representative of
changes in the refractive index of the atmosphere. These in turn are caused by the flow of sensible
heat from the surface into the atmosphere. The setup shown here makes use of 3 m high tripods. In
practice, high towers are often required in order to measure over undulating terrain and tall trees.
86 Understanding water in a dry environment
and collimated by a parabolic mirror. At a distance of 200 m to 5 km the light signal is then
collected by another mirror and hence amplified and processed by the receiver to produce
C
2
n
directly. This type of instrument was first designed and built by Wang et al. (1978) and
is commercially available at present.
Several studies carried out in the recent past have shown that the method has some
attractive characteristics. These are reflected in the increasing number of scientists using
the technique in a variety of landscape and vegetation types (Thiermann & Grassl 1992
(bare soil); De Bruin et al. 1995 (vineyard); McAneney et al. 1995 (pasture); Green &
Hayashi 1998 (rice paddy); Nieveen 1999 (pasture)).
The refractive index structure parameter C
n
is related to the temperature structure
parameter C
T
as:
C
T
¼ 10
6
Á
C
n
T
2
0.78p
_ _
Á 1 þ
0.03
u
_ _
ð53Þ
where p is the atmospheric pressure (bar), T the temperature (K) and u the Bowen ratio.
The sensible heat H is then related to C
T
through, for example, a relation of the form
(Kohsiek 1982):
H ¼ AC
3,2
T
ð54Þ
where A is a constant, depending on temperature and boundary layer parameters.
Equation (53) shows that the Bowen ratio (¼ H,LE) is a complicating factor. For dry
land u is usually greater than 1 and then the factor (1 þ 0.03,u) may be neglected.
However, for wet areas, if u is about 0.1, the factor is about 30%. To avoid having to
determine u independently, two scintillometers are sometimes used at different heights
(C
T
profiling, Nieveen 1999).
Disadvantages of the method are the fairly sophisticated and sensitive electronics of
the instrument, which requires skilled personnel and, if the method is to be used for
determining actual evapotranspiration, the need for additional equipment to measure net
radiation, soil heat fluxes and Bowen ratios. The major advantage, however, is that a really
representative sensible heat fluxes can be obtained over areas as large as 10 km
2
.
3.4.7 Temperature fluctuation method
Alternatively, it also possible to determine the sensible heat H through measurements of
w
0
and T
0
, where T
0
is the deviation from mean temperature T. In this case ultra-fine wire
thermocouples (13 micron) are used to measure the rapid temperature fluctuations.
Although these thermocouples are fragile, they are much cheaper than quick response
hygrometers. When the sensible heat H is determined, then the net radiation R
n
and soil
heat flux G must also be derived (cf. eqn. 49).
It was shown by Tillman (1972) that sensible heat flux can be determined through the
standard deviation o
T
of temperature. The relation has a form similar to eqn. (54):
H ¼ Co
3,2
T
ð55Þ
where constant C depends on boundary layer parameters (De Bruin 1982; Weaver 1990).
Signal sampling frequency is in the order of 1 Hz. Studies by Lloyd et al. (1991) and
De Bruin et al. (1993) have shown the validity of this approach.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 87
Disadvantages of applying this method for evaporation studies are:
The need to have additional information on solar radiation and soil heat flux;
The relative fragility of the thin wire thermocouple sensors.
Essentially, point values of the sensible heat flux are obtained with this method.
However, in view of the simplicity of the instrument setup and the increasing availability
of low-cost data loggers, the procedure offers promise in the near future.
3.4.8 Measurement techniques
Our understanding of interactive land–atmosphere processes comes to a large extent from
analysis of field measurements. These have been made for centuries with instruments such
as mercury thermometers, solarimeters and hygrometers. A range of instruments was
traditionally combined in a fenced weather station, where observers noted the instrument
readings at regular time intervals. However, with the development of chip technology this
methodology is rapidly changing. An impressive array of digital sensors, data logging and
processing techniques are now available at low cost, providing quality data with high
temporal resolutions.
Data capture and storage
The modern sensor produces a pulse (e.g. related to amount of rainfall) or a voltage (e.g.
proportional to temperature). Pulses are stored in a data logger together with a time stamp,
while voltages are sampled at regular preset intervals, converted to digital format and then
stored (Figure 3.15). Data logging equipment is usually located at the field site, while
downloading data from the logger can be done in various ways. Common practice is that
the operator makes regular checks of the field sites, then stores the logged data into his
laptop computer. There may also be a telemetric connection or satellite link, so that the
data are received at a central site. It is also becoming feasible to download data through
ordinary cell phone links from a remote site. Standard PCs are now capable of handling
the processing of complex multi-site networks, and CD-ROM technology is sufficient for
most archiving purposes.
PC
1. storage
2. processing
3. display
4. printouts
5. archiving CD
sensors
data logger
downloading
Figure 3.15. Data logging setup. A large number of sensors is connected to a data logger. The data
are downloaded from the logger into a standard PC at regular time intervals. Downloading may
take place at the station by an operator taking his laptop computer to the site, or by remote access
through satellite telemetry, or even by ordinary cell phone connection. Standard PCs are capable of
most processing, while archiving is now most commonly done on a CD-ROM.
88 Understanding water in a dry environment
Sensors
Sensors can be classified into various categories (Stull 1999):
Direct or remote;
Active or passive;
Fast response or mean value.
Direct sensors are those placed on some instrument platform to make in-situ
measurements of the air, soil and groundwater parameters at the location of the platform.
They essentially provide point measurements at high temporal resolution. Remote
sensors, on the other hand, measure variables indirectly by the radiation generated. For
example, soil surfaces emit thermal infrared radiation depending on their temperature, and
this can be recorded from balloons, aircraft or satellites. These sensors characteristically
provide data with good spatial resolution. However, their periods of measurement are
limited to the time of aircraft and satellite overpass.
Active sensors generate their own waves (sound, light, radar) which are modified or
reflected by the atmosphere or surface; they have transmitter and receiver components.
Passive sensors have only receiver components; most standard weather station equipment
falls into this latter category. Satellite sensors that measure solar surface reflection or
thermal infrared radiation also belong to this category.
Atmospheric boundary layer data are usually split into two categories: those obtained
from mean value sensors and those from fast response sensors. Fast response sensors are
used to measure the small scale turbulent fluctuations from which the sensible and latent
heat fluxes are determined. These instruments are usually small, fragile and costly to
maintain. For accurate measurements of small and short-lived turbulent eddies, sampling
rates are required that vary from once per second to 100 times per second. The data
loggers must be capable of handling the speed of Analogue–Digital Conversion, and have
sufficient memory to store the large amount of data that this type of data acquisition
requires. If only mean values are required then less expensive and more durable equip-
ment can be used. Most field experiments use a mixture of mean and fast-response
sensors, depending on budget and objectives.
Platforms
A diagram of common platform types is shown in Figure 3.16.
The Stevenson Screen: The classic, white, louvered instrument shelter called the
Stevenson screen is mounted on a stand to place the instruments inside at a height of about
2 m above the local surface. The shelter protects the instruments from rain, wind and
direct sunlight, and also filters out much of the local scale turbulence. As a result, mean
values are measured of temperature, humidity and pressure.
Masts: The mast is a simple structure that allows instruments to be mounted at various
heights. Sometimes scaffolding is used to create a short tower. Atypical mast height is 10 to
50 m. It is relatively inexpensive and can be erected with simple equipment. Because of the
limited height, it is primarily useful for surface layer measurements; wires carry the sensor
signals to a data logger at the bottom. Very often soil temperature and humiditiy sensors are
also coupled to the system, together with automatic groundwater level measuring devices.
Mesonet Stations: These are smaller and more portable than the mast structures. A
typical implementation will consist of temperature, humidity, rain, pressure and radiation
measurements at a height of 2 m, and a 10 m pole to measure wind speed and direction.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 89
Towers: Tall expensive towers have been erected at a few sites for permanent use (Stull
1999). Examples include the 213 m tower near Cabauw, about 50 km southeast of the
North Sea shoreline in The Netherlands. Another is the 300 m Boulder Atmospheric
Observatory (BAO) tower in Colorado, about 25 km east of the Rocky Mountains.
These are large structures with built-in elevators and many support guy-wires. Because
they are so large the flow in a downwind direction is disturbed, and therefore horizontal
booms are constructed at various heights that project away from the tower in various
directions. The sensors are mounted on these booms and can be selected depending on
which direction is best, given the current wind speed. Permanent buildings need to be
established to house the data logging, processing and maintenance facilities.
Radiosondes, tetroons and kytoons: A radiosonde is an expendable instrument and
transmitter package attached below a free-flying helium balloon that measures
temperature, humidity and pressure. The balloons drift away from the launch site and
rise until they burst, allowing the instrument package to parachute to the ground. Several
types exist depending on the particular application (Stull 1999).
A special class of free balloon is the tetroon, a constant pressure balloon. It is made of
non-stretchable material and rises to an altitude where the overall balloon and package
density match the air density, allowing it to stay at approximately constant elevation.
Sometimes an aerodynamically shaped balloon with instrument package attached is
connected to the ground with a cable. Because of its shape it soars like a kite—hence the
name kytoon. The altitude is adjustable through the winch operated cable. Heights to 2 km
can be reached, although deployment is usually restricted to below 800 m because of flight
regulations. Kytoons are more portable than tall towers, but are limited to light winds.
top of the boundary layer
a)
c)
b)
d)
e)
f)
g)
h)
upper atmosphere
i)
Figure 3.16. Sketch of instrument platforms for direct and remote sensors: (a) Mast; (b) Kytoon;
(c) Instrument (screen) shelter; (d) Mesonet station; (e) Aircraft; (f) Tetroon; (g) Tower; (h)
Radiosonde; (i) Satellites (adapted from Stull 1999).
90 Understanding water in a dry environment
Aircraft: A variety of aircraft ranging from model drones, ultra-lights, gliders, single
and multi-engine aircraft to military jet planes have been used for boundary layer studies
with direct sensors. However, remote sensing from aircraft is also common practice; when
new sensors for satellite applications are developed, they are usually first tested with
aircraft.
Satellite Platforms: Remote sensing from satellite platforms is becoming increasingly
important. Advances in sensor technology and miniaturization of equipment not only
result in greater effective payloads and hence cheaper launching costs, but also in better
images. This is accompanied by development of the algorithms required for combining
multi-spectral image information with turbulent transport theory of the lower atmosphere.
Satellite remote sensing as a branch of Earth Sciences started in the 1960s with the
NOAA/AVHRR, METEOSAT and LANDSAT programs. The study of the different types
of satellite platforms and the range of sensors is a subject in itself. Only a short review is
given here. Basic information with regard to satellites may be found on Internet sites; e.g.
http://www.howstuffworks.com/satellite6.htm; more specific satellite information with
regard to water resources management is given by Bastiaanssen (1998).
Geostationary Satellites: These satellites circle the Earth at a distance of about
40,000 km so that their orbital revolution matches the rotational speed of the Earth. They
are therefore always pointed towards the same part of the Earth. Apart from telecom-
munications, the Earth Resources satellites such as METEOSAT play an important role in
continental weather observations. The METEOSAT sensors operate in three bands: visible
(0.4–1.1 mm), short-wave infrared (5.7–7.1 mm) and thermal infrared (10.5–12.5 mm), with
pixel sizes of respectively 2.3, 5.0 and 5.0 km.
Polar Orbiting Satellites: This type of satellite circles the Earth from North to South
Pole at a distance of about 800 km, with an orbit time of a little over an hour. They are able
to scan the entire Earth surface at regular intervals and usually cross the equator about
the same time every day (geosynchronous orbits). Depending on pixel size and spectral
information, the main platforms currently in operation are given in Table 3.2.
Recently the TERRA satellite was launched with on board ASTER (pixel size 15 to
30 m, three VNIR, six SWIR and five TIR bands) and MODIS sensors (comparable to
NOAA/AVHRR with a range of resolutions from 250 m to 1 km, and with a wide range of
bands from visible to infrared). Extensive data bases are available for both the LANDSAT
and NOAA programs. The NOAA and MODIS images are freely downloadable, while the
LANDSAT images cost about US$ 600. The TERRA/ASTER images currently cost
US$ 55, though the ASTER coverage of the Earth is not as extensive as for LANDSAT.
Some dedicated programs such as the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission have just
started (TRMM satellite with an orbit between 35

S and 35

N), and many new satellite
programs are being planned, such as the ENVISAT program of the European Space
Agency (ESA).
Table 3.2. Main polar orbiting satellite programs with extensive image data bases.
Satellite Pixel size Bands (visible)
VNIR
Bands(shortwave-
infrared) SWIR
Bands (thermal
infrared) TIR
NOAA (12,14,15) 1 km 2 – 3
Landsat (5,7) 30 m 3 3 1
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 91
3.5 REFERENCE CROP EVAPOTRANSPIRATION AND
ANALYTICAL EXPRESSIONS
3.5.1 Introduction
The transport of water vapour, latent and sensible heat through the lower atmosphere has
been discussed in Sections 3.2 and 3.3, while current methods to measure this transport
were reviewed in Section 3.4. Traditionally, however, a different approach is taken to
evaluate field evapotranspiration. Since many of the methods discussed in previous
sections were either too sophisticated in terms of equipment requirements—such as the
eddy correlation method—or prone to substantial error because of their simplicity—such
as pan measurements—a method was already devised by Penman (1948) to relate
evaporation to a set of easily measurable climatic variables: radiation, wind, humidity and
temperature.
Several procedures have been developed to assess the evaporation rate from these
parameters. It is important to briefly discuss the concept of reference crop evapo-
transpiration ET
0
; this parameter represents the evaporative power of the atmosphere
under standardized conditions. The use of the earlier term Potential Evapotranspiration
(PET) is strongly discouraged because of ambiguities in the definitions (Allen et al. 1998).
The way in which ET
0
should be used is illustrated in Figure 3.17. The reference crop ET
0
climate
radiation
temperature
wind speed
humidity
grass reference
crop
well-watered
length 0.12 m
albedo 0.23
resistance 70 sm
-1
ET
0
reference crop
evapotranspiration
ET
c
= K
c
ϫ ET
o
Crop evapotranspiration ET
c
for a specific crop under well-watered and
optimal agronomic conditions leads to crop coefficient K
c
ET
c
= K
s
ϫ K
c,adj
ϫ ET
o
Crop evapotranspiration under non-standard conditions leads to an ET
c
adjusted
for water stress, environmental and management conditions ET
c,adj
with coefficients
K
s
and K
c,adj
Figure 3.17. Reference ET
0
, crop evapotranspiration under standard (ET
c
Þ and non-standard
conditions (ET
c.adj
Þ (after Allen et al. 1998).
92 Understanding water in a dry environment
is strictly valid for only a well-defined grass reference crop under the prevailing climatic
conditions. To determine the evapotranspiration ET
c
under optimal agronomic conditions
of another crop type, crop coefficients K
c
are used. Further adjustments are required when
the crops are under water stress or other adverse environmental or management condi-
tions. This leads to the use of water stress coefficients K
s
and adjusted crop coefficients
K
c.adj
.
The need to define a standard ET
0
method arose fromthe fact that significant differences
were found between experiments and results obtained through application of the guidelines
described in FAOdocument 24 (Doorenbos &Pruitt 1977). Four methods were discussed in
this work: The Blaney–Criddle, radiation, modified Penman and pan evaporation methods.
It was found, for example, that the modified Penman procedure frequently overestimated
ET
0
by 20% for dry surfaces with a high evaporative demand by the atmosphere.
As a result of the inter-comparison of a number of techniques, the FAO Penman–
Monteith procedure is now recommended as the sole standard method for computing ET
0
,
when data permit. In situations where data are scarce, several other approximate methods
may be used. Those available are classified as: (a) temperature methods; (b) radiation
methods; or (c) combination methods. The Penman and Penman–Monteith are the most
important methods and will be discussed first in Section 3.5.2. Temperature and radiation
methods are summarized in Section 3.5.3. Most of these approximate methods are
intended to estimate potential evapotranspiration, especially in environments where data
are scarce. The complementary hypothesis by Bouchet (1963) is discussed in Section
3.5.4, with some recent applications. Concluding remarks are offered in Section 3.5.5.
It should be noted that detailed information and software are available from several
internet sites, for example:
http://www.fao.org/icatalog/inter-e.htm
http://www.kimberly.uidaho.edu/ref-et
http://www.wiz.uni-kassel.de/kww/irrisoft/all/all_i.html
http://www.silsoe.cranfield.ac.uk
hhtp://www.ilri.nl/publications/pub46.html
Readers wishing to make a detailed study should also consult the guidelines in FAO 56
(Allen et al. 1998), the Hydrology Handbook of the American Society for Engineers
Vol. 28, Ch. 4 (Allen et al. 1996), Shuttleworth (1993), or the review by Jacobs and Satti
(2001). The following software is readily available at low cost:
AWSET (Hess 1999) This software computes potential evapotranspiration for
automatic weather stations.
REF-ET (Allen 2001) This software makes it possible to compute a wide range of
different ETs.
CROPWAT (Smith 1992) This software is aimed at determining Penman and modified
Penman evapotranspiration for agricultural applications. It can be used together with
CLIMWAT, a worldwide data base with information for 3252 meteorological stations
from 144 countries.
CRIWAR 2.0 (Bos et al. 1996) A simulation model for crop water requirements.
Detailed worldwide maps for the mean monthly variables of temperature, humidity,
wind and radiation are available in the World Water and Climate Atlas (IWMI 2000;
http://www.iwmi.org).
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 93
3.5.2 Combination methods
Penman (1948) was the first to show that the mass-transfer and energy-balance approaches
could be combined to arrive at an evaporation equation that did not require surface
temperature data. Penman originally developed his method for open water surfaces, but
this was later generalized to (wet) land surfaces by e.g. Van Bavel (1966) and Brutsaert
(1982). The ongoing experiments and validation studies were synthesized by Doorenbos
and Pruitt (1977) into FAO publication 24.
As mentioned in the introduction to this section, later research revealed that significant
discrepancies between theory and practice still existed, especially in low evaporation
environments. For this reason modifications were suggested by, among others Thom
(1972), leading to the so-called Penman–Monteith approach.
Penman evaporation formulae
Starting point is the energy-balance equation (eqn. 49), repeated here:
LE ¼ R
n
À G À H ð56Þ
Substituting the Bowen ratio u as defined by eqn. (41) and solving for LE gives:
LE ¼
R
n
À G
1 þu
ð57Þ
The Bowen ratio was also given as:
u ¼ ¸
T
s
À T
a
e
s
À e
a
ð58Þ
with the psychrometric constant ¸ as defined by eqn. (43).
A crucial step in Penman’s analysis is the assumption:
e
Ã
s
À e
Ã
a
T
s
À T
a
¼ Á ð59Þ
where Á is the slope of the saturated water vapour pressure curve e
Ã
¼ e
Ã
ðTÞ; at air
temperature T
a
this is e
Ã
a
¼ e
Ã
ðT
a
Þ, and at the surface this is equal to e
Ã
s
¼ e
Ã
ðT
s
Þ. Note that
for a wet surface e
s
¼ e
Ã
s
. The Bowen ratio can thus be written as:
u ¼
¸
Á
1 À
e
Ã
a
À e
a
e
s
À e
a
_ _
ð60Þ
Substituting eqn. (60) into eqn. (57) yields:
R
n
À G ¼ 1 þ
¸
Á
_ _
LE À
¸
Á
e
Ã
a
À e
a
e
s
À e
a
LE ð61Þ
The second term on the right hand side of eqn. (61) can be simplified by using the
following mass transfer function for LE, where u
2
is the wind speed measured at 2 mheight:
LE ¼ f ðu
2
Þðe
s
À e
a
Þ ð62Þ
Substituting eqn. (62) into eqn. (61) and solving for LE yields:
LE ¼
Á
Áþ¸
R
n
À G ð Þ þ
¸
Áþ¸
f ðu
2
Þ e
Ã
a
À e
a
_ _
ð63Þ
94 Understanding water in a dry environment
This is the well-known Penman equation that has been the subject of numerous theo-
retical and experimental studies. Penman (1948) originally proposed the following wind
speed function:
f ðu
2
Þ ¼ 0.26ð1 þ 0.54u
2
Þ ð64Þ
in which the constants have been changed frequently, depending on the outcome of
particular studies. The importance of the Penman approximation lies in the fact that it
eliminates the need for measurements at two different levels as in the profile methods
discussed in Section 3.2; standard weather station measurements at one level are sufficient.
Penman–Monteith formulation
To account for the fact that an evaporating surface can not usually be taken as completely
wet, resistance parameters were introduced to parameterize moisture transfer between the
vapour-saturated stomatal cavities and the atmosphere. A similar resistance may also be
introduced when evaporation from a bare soil is considered; these two type of resistance
can be combined into a single bulk surface resistance (Figure 3.18). Two resistances there-
fore govern the evaporative process: The bulk surface resistance r
st
and the aerodynamic
resistance r
ah
, which was already discussed in Section 3.2 (Equation (31)).
Figure 3.18 shows that water vapour transport can be split into two phases (after
Brutsaert 1982):
1. Transport from the soil and vegetation to canopy level c, governed by:
LE ¼ l, ðq
Ã
s
À q
c
Þ,r
st
ð65Þ
where q is the specific humidity, equal to ,/,
v
(, is the density of air and water, and ,
v
is the density of water vapour). The asterisk indicates saturated water vapour. Note that
q is the average specific humidity; the overbars indicating averages have been left out
for convenience.
air flow
r
ah
aerodynamic
resistance
reference
level z
evaporating
surface
level c
soil level s
r
st
(bulk) surface
resistance
stomata
soil
Figure 3.18. Simplified representation of the (bulk) surface and aerodynamic resistances for water
vapour transport (after Allen et al. 1998).
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 95
2. Transport from the canopy layer to the measuring height z, governed by:
LE ¼ l, ðq
c
À q
z
Þ,r
av
ð66Þ
where r
av
is the aerodynamic resistance to water vapour transport. Although r
av
is
conceptually different from r
ah
, in practice r
av
% r
ah
as in eqn. (31).
The combined transport from the surface to level z is then:
LE ¼ l, ðq
Ã
s
À q
z
Þ,ðr
st
þ r
ah
Þ ð67Þ
The relation between specific humidity q and water vapour pressure e is given by
Brutsaert (1982) as:
q ¼
c
p
¸l
e ð68Þ
When the vegetation is not actually wetted, the vapour pressure e
s
at canopy level c is not
equal to e
Ã
s
. However, it can be related to e
Ã
s
by using eqns. (66), (67) and (68) as follows:
e
s
À e
z
¼
r
ah
r
st
þ r
ah
_ _
e
Ã
s
À e
z
_ _
ð69Þ
Furthermore, the Bowen ratio can now be written in the same way as was shown in
eqns. (59) and (60):
u ¼
¸
Á
r
st
þ r
ah
r
ah
_ _
1 À
e
Ã
z
À e
z
e
Ã
s
À e
z
_ _
ð70Þ
Substituting eqn. (70) into eqn. (57) as for derivation of the Penman formula, yields:
R
n
À G ¼ LE þ
¸
Á
r
st
þ r
ah
r
ah
LE À
¸
Á
r
st
þ r
ah
r
ah
e
Ã
z
À e
z
e
Ã
s
À e
z
_ _
LE ð71Þ
Expressing LE in eqn. (67) in terms of e rather than q through the use of eqn. (68) leads to:
LE ¼
, c
p
¸
e
Ã
s
À e
z
r
st
þ r
ah
ð72Þ
After substituting eqn. (72) in the third term of the right hand side of eqn. (71) and
solving for LE, the general Penman–Monteith expression is found:
LE ¼
Á R
n
À G ð Þ þ
, c
p
r
ah
e
Ã
z
À e
z
_ _
Áþ¸ 1 þ
r
st
r
ah
_ _
ð73Þ
It now remains to rewrite expression (73) using parameters for the reference crop
situation, with a specified bulk resistance of 70 s m
À1
(see Figure 3.19) and r
ah
given by
eqn. (31). Allen et al. (1998) show in detail how this is done, and the resulting FAO
Penman–Monteith formula becomes:
ET
0
¼
0.408Á R
n
À GÞ ð Þ þ¸
900
Tþ273
u
2
e
Ã
2
À e
2
_ _
Áþ¸ 1 þ 0.34u
2
ð Þ
ð74Þ
Several variations of eqn. (74) exist depending on the type of reference crop considered.
96 Understanding water in a dry environment
It is important to note that eqn. (73) allows evaluation of actual evapotranspiration if the
resistances can be determined.
3.5.3 Temperature and radiation methods for potential evapotranspiration
A number of techniques have been developed to determine potential evapotranspiration
by approximate methods. These have sometimes been developed for specific types of
climate, thus allowing simplifications, such as the Makkink (1957) method which was
developed for western European humid conditions. Others have been produced for
situations for which very few climate data are available, such as the Hargreaves method
(Hargreaves & Samani 1985) which uses only air temperature as an observed variable.
Because the emphasis in this chapter is on methods to determine actual evapotranspir-
ation, these approximate methods are not discussed in further detail here. A summary with
references is given in Tables 3.3 and 3.4.
3.5.4 Complementary relationships between actual and potential evapotranspiration
Bouchet’s hypothesis: Bouchet (1963) arrived at the following complementary relation-
ship, shown in Figure 3.20, between potential evaporation E
p
and actual regional
evaporation E (after Brutsaert 1982):
E
p
þ E ¼ 2E
p0
ð75Þ
The actual evaporation rate is the average value from a large uniform surface of
regional size, involving characteristic scale lengths in the order of 1 to 10 km. The
potential evaporation E
p
is the evaporation which would take place under prevailing
atmospheric conditions if the available energy were the only limiting factor. Under
conditions when E equals E
p
, it is denoted by E
p0
. Szilagyi (2001a) recently suggested a
proof of the hypothesis.
Further work: The Bouchet relationship was tested and applied by Morton in a large
number of basins (Morton 1969, 1983; only two main references are given here). Relation
(75) allows determination of actual evapotranspiration, provided good expressions for
2

m
r
a
= 208/u
2
s/m
reference level
weather measurements
␣R
s
= 0.23R
s
h = 0.12 m
R
s

s
o
l
a
r

r
a
d
i
a
t
i
o
n
r
s
= 70 s/m
d + z
oh
Figure 3.19. Characteristics of the hypothetical reference crop (after Allen et al. 1998).
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 97
Table 3.3. Temperature methods for potential evapotranspiration.
Thornthwaite–Mather
Thornthwaite and Mather (1955) PET in mm/month PET
i
¼ 16.0ð10T
i
Þ
a
I ¼

12
i¼1
T
i
,5 ð Þ
1.514
Wilmott et al. (1985) T
i
mean monthly air a ¼ 0.49 þ 0.0179I À 0.0000771I
2
temperature in

C þ0.000000675I
3
Blaney–Criddle
SCS (1967) PET in mm/month PET ¼ kpð0.46T
a
þ 8.13Þ
Doorenbos and Pruitt (1977) T
a
mean monthly air k empirical crop factor
Shuttleworth (1993) temperature in

C p monthly percentage daylight
hours of annual total
Hargreaves
Hargreaves and Samani (1985) PET in mm/day PET ¼ 0.0023ðT
max
À T
min
Þ
0.5
T in

C ÂðT
mean
þ 17.8ÞR
a
R
a
in mm/day R
a
extraterrestrial radiation
Table 3.4. Radiation methods for potential evapotranspiration*.
Priestley–Taylor
Priestley and Taylor (1972) PET in mm/day PET ¼ c
Á
Áþ¸
R
n
ÀG
l
R
n
, G in MJ m
À2
d
À1
Á and ¸ as defined for the Penman equations
c ¼ 1.26 (or 1.74 for arid climates)
Makkink
Makkink (1957) PET in mm/day PET ¼ 0.61
Á
Áþ¸
R
s
2.45
À 0.12
R
n
in MJ m
À2
d
À1
R
s
is incoming short-wave radiation
Turc
Turc (1961) PET in mm/day PET ¼ 0.013a
T
mean
T
mean
þ15
23.89R
s
þ50
l
R
n
in MJ m
À2
d
À1
R
s
is incoming short wave radiation
T
mean
in

C a depends on humidity
*Methods by Jensen and Haise (1963) and Doorenbos and Pruitt (1977) not further discussed here.
0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
E/E
p
E
v
a
p
o
t
r
a
n
s
p
i
r
a
t
i
o
n
1.0
0.5
0
E
p
E
p0
E
Figure 3.20. Sketch illustrating Bouchet’s (1963) hypothesis. E and E
p
are plotted against E/E
p
,
such that E þ E
p
¼ 2E
p0
.
98 Understanding water in a dry environment
E
p
and E
p0
can be found. Morton (1983) assumed that E
p
is given by a Penman-type
expression (63), and that E
p0
is in principle given by the Priestley–Taylor expression
(Table 3.4). He arrived at the following result:
E ¼
Á
Áþ¸
1.76R
n
þ 2.76M
m
ð Þ À
¸
Áþ¸
e
Ã
a
À e
Ã
da
Þf
A
_
ð76Þ
where M
m
and f
A
are empirical terms and e
Ã
da
is the saturation vapour pressure at the dew-
point temperature of the air.
Brutsaert and Stricker (1979) proposed a so-called Advection–Aridity approach by
combining Bouchet’s complementary relationship with regional advection effects. This
idea was further developed by Parlange and Katul (1992).
Recent applications: An interesting application and possible confirmation of Bouchet’s
hypothesis was proposed by Brutsaert and Parlange (1998) in their explanation of the
evaporation paradox. In recent years several independent studies have indicated that
evaporation, as measured with evaporation pans, has decreased in the northern hemi-
sphere over the past few decades. The interpretation of this negative trend has usually
been that it probably results from increasing cloudiness, and that it indicates decreasing
terrestrial evapotranspiration. However, if pan evaporation is a measure of potential
evaporation E
p
, then according to eqn. (75) the actual evaporation E must go up when E
p
goes down. Decreasing pan evaporation would thus mean increasing evapotranspiration.
This explanation appears to be confirmed by Golubev et al. (2001). However, Shuttle-
worth (1993) reports that the Bouchet hypothesis does not appear to be valid in all field
circumstances.
Recent applications of Morton’s work include evapotranspiration maps of Australia
(Wang et al. 2001) and a study of areal evaporation trends in the United States (Szilagyi
2001b).
3.5.5 Concluding remarks
In the preceding sections a review has been made of a large number of methods to
determine actual and reference evapotranspiration under varying field conditions and with
varying data requirements. The type of method used to determine evapotranspiration
depends on the type of application and the available data. Much also depends on the
experience gained with specific methods and with sets of area-adjusted coefficients.
For large-scale applications including basin-scale water balances, application on a
monthly time scale of a crop-coefficient reference ET should be considered (k
c
ET
0
). ET
0
should preferably be calculated using the Penman–Monteith expression. Alternatively,
Hargreaves’ air temperature method may be used, since air temperatures are usually
readily available and are generally accurate in most countries where synoptic data are
scarce. For smaller scale areas with homogeneous cover both methods are equally
appropriate. Calculations are then usually made on an hourly or 24-hour basis.
In studies of environmental stresses or climate change, Allen et al. (1996) recommend
energy-balance methods in combination with Penman–Monteith, using hourly or shorter
time steps. If the effects of changes in vegetation type, density, height or water availability
are to be studied, the Penman–Monteith method has the advantage in that vegetation
characteristics can be more readily incorporated into the aerodynamic and surface resist-
ance models. For specific research studies in small areas, micrometeorological
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 99
instrumentation for the Bowen Ratio and Eddy Correlation techniques are recommended,
or lysimeters with direct soil profile measurements.
Generally, as one progresses from the k
c
ET
0
approach to the direct Penman–Monteith
procedure, the necessary calculation time step decreases and the requirements for accuracy
and representativeness of data increase. It is difficult to apply the Penman–Monteith
method to historical weather station data, since these are obtained at the measuring height
above the surface, and therefore do not reflect changes in vegetation cover.
Two calculation approaches are outlined for crop coefficients in FAO-56 (Allen et al.
1998): the single and dual approach. In the single crop coefficient approach, the difference
between the reference crop and actual field evapotranspiration is given by a single crop-
dependent coefficient k
c
. In the dual coefficient (Figure 3.17) the crop coefficient is split
into two factors. The single crop coefficient is used for most applications related to
irrigation planning, design and management. The dual crop coefficient is relevant for
detailed estimates of soil water evaporation (FAO-56 Allen et al. 1998), such as in real-
time irrigation scheduling applications, water quality modelling and in research. An
example of the dual coefficient approach may be found in Allen (2000).
3.6 HYDROLOGICAL MODELS AND AREAL SOLUTIONS
3.6.1 Introduction
Actual evapotranspiration is usually approached from the perspective of turbulent transfer
through the lower atmospheric boundary layer. Atmospheric measurements are trad-
itionally taken as a starting point for the calculations. However, it was already pointed out
in Section 3.4 that surface evapotranspiration is closely connected to subsurface transport
of heat and moisture. Many models take these subsurface processes into account in order
to allow for losses due to surface runoff, bare soil evaporation, plant respiration and deep
groundwater recharge. One of the simplest models uses an increase of chloride content in
the saturated and unsaturated zones (see Edmunds, Ch. 7 this volume) to evaluate long-
term average groundwater recharge, and therefore implicitly the long-term average
evapotranspiration. Provided the conditions of validity are met, these chloride mass
balance methods give a good estimate of average recharge rates over large areas.
Environmental isotopes and tracers, on the other hand, may be also be used for detailed
studies of evapotranspiration. Similarly, tree sap flow determination by heat transport
measurements can be used to determine evapotranspiration from deep rooted species in
detailed field studies (Granier 1985; Timmermans & Meijerink 1999; Lubczynski 2000).
However, in the absence of chemical and isotopic data and sap flow measurements,
recourse very often has to be taken to hydrological modelling, especially when processes
are considered on a basin-wide scale. In this section three approaches are discussed. First,
a brief description is given of how moisture transport modelling through the unsaturated
zone may be used to assess soil evaporation and plant respiration rates. Second, surface
runoff modelling on a basin-wide scale may be used to arrive at spatially and temporally
varying soil moisture conditions, and through this at the actual evapotranspiration in all
locations of the basin. Thirdly, Soil–Vegetation–Atmosphere (SVAT) models are increas-
ingly being employed by large-scale Global Circulation Models (GCMs) to assess atmos-
pheric processes and climate change. The complexity of these models is scale-dependent
100 Understanding water in a dry environment
to reduce computational effort when dealing with very large areas. However, some form
of heat and water vapour transport assessment is indispensable.
3.6.2 Agro-hydrological modelling
The approach by Droogers (2000) is used as an illustration of the methodology. The Soil–
Water–Atmosphere–Plant model (SWAP, Van Dam et al. 1997) is applied to estimate
actual ET values for an instrumented catchment in Turkey (Kite & Droogers 2000b).
SWAP is an integrated, physically-based simulation model for water, solute and heat
transport in the saturated–unsaturated zone in relation to crop growth. For this study only
the water transport module was used. The core of the program is the vertical flow of water
in the unsaturated zone, which is described by the Richards equation:
00
0t
¼
0
0z
Kð0Þ
0h
0z
þ 1
_ _
À SðhÞ
_ _
ð77Þ
where 0 is the volumetric soil water content (cm
3
cm
À3
), t is time (d), h (cm) the soil
matric potential, z (cm) is depth taken positive upwards and K the hydraulic conductivity
(cmd
À1
) Á S (d
À1
) represents the water uptake by plant roots, defined as:
SðhÞ ¼ cðhÞ
T
pot
z
r
j j
ð78Þ
with T
pot
the potential transpiration (cmd
À1
), z
r
the rooting depth (cm) and c(h) an
empirical reduction factor (accounting for water and oxygen deficit).
Using irrigation water, precipitation and soil data, the total actual transpiration is
calculated as the integral of S(h) with respect to depth. Actual soil evaporation can be
estimated using the Richards equation, with the upper boundary condition equal to ET
0
.
Application of the method on a basin-wide scale requires a vast amount of soil data. In this
case the soils were classified in terms of texture and organic matter, and the necessary data
were then obtained from a soil data base. Additional calibration information was derived
from observed groundwater levels. Despite the various simplifications and general-
izations, the results were found to compare well with those obtained by other methods
applied in the study area (Kite & Droogers 2000a). A good alternative to SWAP, which
requires many data that are not always available in developing countries, is the use of a
lumped parameter model such as EARTH (see Gehrels & Gieske, Ch. 6 this volume). This
latter model was developed by Van der Lee and Gehrels (1990) to determine groundwater
recharge in semi-arid countries. Groundwater level, precipitation, soil moisture and
reference ET data are used as input. Although the software was written for modelling deep
groundwater recharge, it may also be used to determine actual ET in semi-arid
environments where data on characteristics of the unsaturated zone are scarce.
3.6.3 Hydrological modelling
A study by Kite (2000) is used as an illustration of how a surface runoff model may be
employed to assess a catchment’s areal evapotranspiration. SLURP (Semi-Distributed
Landuse-based Runoff Processes) is a conceptual model which includes a full hydro-
logical cycle simulation, as well as inclusion of man-made factors such as reservoirs,
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 101
diversions, extractions and irrigation from both surface- and groundwater. The SLURP
model divides a basin into many smaller subbasins on the basis of topography. Each
subbasin is termed an Aggregated Simulation Area (ASA) and is, in turn, subdivided into
smaller areas of different land use. The aggregation by land use area is to reduce
computation time, while retaining physical similarities.
The ASAs are defined by an automated delineation of the stream network from digital
elevation data. This program computes all the areas, slopes and distances that are needed
to run the SLURP basin model; land cover data are derived from satellite imagery. Each
ASA element is simulated by four non-linear reservoirs (Figure 3.21) representing canopy
interception, snow pack, rapid runoff and slow runoff (may be considered groundwater
flow). The model routes precipitation through the appropriate processes and generates the
outputs of evaporation, transpiration and runoff. Evapotranspiration is calculated by
interpolating between zero and ET
0
(Penman–Monteith) on the basis of the modelled soil
moisture content.
The SLURP model requires data commonly available from public domain sources (land
cover, NDVI), as well as climate data and information on the operation of regulatory and
diversion structures. A difficulty is to establish and calibrate the model, but once this is
precipitation
canopy storage
interception
sublimation
snowmelt
irriga-
tion
withdrawals
evapo-
transpi-
ration
infiltration
percolation
transpi-
ration
snow storage
runoff
fast storage
interflow
ground water
flow
slow storage
Figure 3.21. Vertical water balance of the SLURP model as applied to each ASA element (Kite
2000).
102 Understanding water in a dry environment
done operating time and costs are minimal. An advantage of this type of model is that
results are available in raster format for the entire study area, so that comparison with
satellite based methods is straightforward.
3.6.4 Soil–Vegetation–Atmosphere (SVAT) modelling
The hydrological cycle is to a large extent determined on regional and global scales by
Soil–Vegetation–Atmosphere (SVAT) interactions. The models for these interactions
depend critically on the proposed parameterisations, which in turn depend on available
data and scales considered. Our understanding of the exchange of energy, water, CO
2
and
trace gases between atmosphere and land surfaces has improved substantially as a result of
research conducted over the last 30 years (La Jolla 1997). Notwithstanding these results,
experience gained with Global Climate Models has revealed the need for increased
complexity in the parameterisation of land surface processes.
In the earliest generation of SVAT models it was recognized that the net radiation, and
the transport of latent and sensible heat through turbulent transfer models were important
in modelling global climate (Sellers et al. 1997). The role of vegetation in the partitioning
of energy between radiative and turbulent fluxes was recognized since the early 1980s,
with vegetation and soil maps being produced to allow the description of spatially and
temporally varying surface parameters. In recent years land surface models have also
started to implement the role of vegetation in the global carbon cycle. The most recent
development is to include nutrients and models of biogeochemical processes.
Remote sensing is used increasingly in combination with SVAT modelling. The images
obtained from microwave, radar, visible or thermal infrared wave length ranges can be
used in two ways. First, parameters derived from the imagery can be integrated in the
proposed modelling. Second, the images can be used to provide model calibration
information. It is not possible to adequately describe this multidisciplinary field of science
within the scope of the present chapter; Dolman et al. (2001), for example, present no less
than 48 recent papers on the subject. Direct methods to determine actual evapotrans-
piration are discussed in more detail in the next section. A single illustration of a SVAT
model by Cayroll et al. (2000) is given here.
Figure 3.22 shows a flow chart of the model, which is intended to simulate vegetation
Leaf Area Index (LAI) as a function of time. The model data consist of ground- and
airborne data for three semi-arid grassland sites (HAPEX Sahel project, Niger 1992).
Meteorological data, energy balance components and biomass data were collected from
three super-sites. In addition, three series of radiative (brightness) temperatures and
reflectances were collected. The AVHRR/NOAA-11 satellite data were acquired from
afternoon overpasses in the period May to October 1992. Surface temperature maps and
Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) maps were obtained by processing these
images. The actual model consists of two interactive submodels. First, a water and energy
balance submodel, where soil and vegetation contributions to sensible and latent heat
fluxes are explicitly parameterized and second, a vegetation growth submodel which aims
at simulating the time evolution of three components: the shoots biomass, the roots
biomass and the standing necromass. Satellite data are used to calibrate the model. The
conclusion was drawn that this type of coupled vegetation growth-SVAT model can be
used to improve the simulation of surface energy and water exchanges. The approach may
also be used to address the scaling-up of surface fluxes to regional scale.
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 103
The approach described in this paper combines data sets with different spatial and
temporal characteristics. On one hand there are data from the super-sites, where climate
data and energy balance characteristics are determined at 20-minute intervals for long
periods of time, while on the other hand satellite overpasses occur once a day at best. The
data from the super-site are valid for rather small areas around these sites, while the
satellite images cover large areas at 1 km
2
resolution. Combined with these two types of
data are the incidental measurements from various parts of the study area describing, for
example, biomass development and crop patterns. The integration of all these different
types of data in the modelling process is called data assimilation.
Finally, information from the satellite images was used here to calibrate the models.
However, satellite imagery can also be used directly in the modelling process. In the next
section a summary is given of current methods for use of satellite images in the direct
evaluation of actual evapotranspiration, with a minimum of ground information.
Comparison with observations
Thermal domain Solar spectral domain
soil water
r
u
n
o
f
f
shoot biomass root biomass
precipitation
energy budget
evapotranspiration
T
r
NDVI
SAIL model
r
c
LAI
photosynthesis
partitioning
Figure 3.22. Coupled vegetation growth and energy–water budget model (Cayroll et al. 2000). The
large bold arrow indicates carbon, water and energy fluxes. The state variables are the carbon
contents in the shoots and the roots, and the water content of the soil. The thin arrow represents
some of the model links. The dashed-line arrow shows how radiative properties are derived from
model variables. The outlined arrow represents the meteorological forcing (air temperature, relative
humidity, wind speed, solar radiation and precipitation).
104 Understanding water in a dry environment
3.7 REMOTE SENSING TECHNIQUES
3.7.1 Introduction
The capacity of remote sensing to identify and monitor land surface processes has
expanded greatly during the last 20 years, and many national and international research
programs have encouraged scientists to study the spectral radiative properties of the
Earth’s surface as measured from satellites (Bastiaanssen et al. 1999). Rising concerns
about global water availability and long-term climatic changes have added more urgency
to the need for developing practical methods. Evapotranspiration not only plays a crucial
role in the assessment of regional and global climate through the hydrological cycle, but
its estimation also has important applications on a local scale such as runoff prediction,
recharge evaluation, crop yield estimation and land use planning (Kalma & Calder 1994;
Kustas & Norman 1996).
A variety of methods and models have thus been recently developed, capable of
processing remotely sensed data for the measurement and monitoring of evapotranspir-
ation on global, regional and local scales.
Pioneer work on utilizing thermal infrared observations for estimating consumptive use
in agriculture was carried out by Idso et al. (1975) and Jackson et al. (1977). Methods
for determining actual evaporation from bare soil surfaces and vegetative transpiration at
the regional scale have been reviewed by Choudhury (1989), Baily (1990), Engman and
Gurney (1991), Moran and Jackson (1991), Schmugge and Becker (1991), Menenti
(1993), Norman et al. (1995) and more recently by Bastiaanssen et al. (1999).
If crops and vegetation are stressed by limited moisture availability the stomatal
apertures close, which increases the resistance to evapotranspiration. Evaporation from
bare soils is simply limited by availability of soil moisture. In general, the bulk resistance
r
st
(eqns. 65 and 67) increases when moisture availability falls below the optimum
required for reference evapotranspiration. The result of this increase in resistance is that
LE goes down and because net radiation remains the same, the sensible heat flux H has to
go up to maintain an energy balance. Since the sensible heat flux is driven by the surface–
air temperature difference, this means that the surface temperature has also increased.
There is, therefore, a relationship in principle between surface temperature and
evapotranspiration. Surface temperature was eliminated when deriving the Penman and
Penman–Monteith formulae by using the relation between temperature and saturated
vapour pressure. This was done to be able to relate all measured variables to those
determined at one measuring height (e.g. wind speed, humidity and air temperature).
However, surface temperature is normally an observed variable when applying remote
sensing techniques. Thermal infrared (TIR) images in the wavelength range from 8 to
14 mm are therefore an essential requirement in this type of study.
The objective of this section is to present a short outline of the main methods in current
use. These differ mainly in the type of land use, the spectral characteristics of the sensors
used, frequency of satellite and platform overpasses, dependency on ancillary
micrometeorological data, and the use of numerical models to convert spectral radiances
into water and energy balances. This field of applied science is still in strong development
and many new methods and variations on existing methods are being proposed, as shown
by the large number of recent research papers. Only a few methods can be discussed in
the context of the present chapter. Physical approaches based on the Penman–Monteith
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 105
resistance model and surface energy balance equations are the most common (Li & Lyons
1999). This can be done by using surface temperature to calculate sensible heat flux H and
then the latent heat flux LE through the energy balance equation. Alternatively, surface
temperature can be used to determine crop water stress indices and then ET (Moran et al.
1996). Several problems arise from the fact that satellites determine radiometric surface
temperature rather than aerodynamic surface temperature. The difference between these
two temperatures is discussed briefly in the next section. Another complication lies in the
fact that the smallest elements of the TIR images are usually quite large (60 m for
LANDSAT, 90 m for ASTER images), and are therefore often composed of a mixture of
vegetated and non-vegetated areas. Methods that take these two types of vegetation cover
explicitly into account are called two-source models. More complicated multi-layer
models have also been introduced (Lhomme et al. 1994).
3.7.2 Energy balance methods
The latent heat flux LE can be determined directly from the bulk transfer relation (72) if
the bulk resistance r
st
and aerodynamic resistance r
ah
are known, because the saturated
surface vapour pressure is a function of the surface temperature.
Latent heat flux can in principle also be determined in a straightforward manner through
combining the energy balance eqn. (49) with the expression for sensible heat flux eqn. (40):
LE ¼ R
n
À G À, c
p
T
s
À T
a
r
ah
ð79Þ
where r
ah
is the aerodynamic resistance given in eqn. (31) or eqn. (32) and T
s
is the surface
temperature as determined by infrared remote sensing. The net radiation R
n
is usually
determined through the equations outlined in Section 3.3, while the soil heat flux G is
normally only a minor fraction of R
n
. On a daily basis Gis even smaller because the daytime
soil heat flux is to a large extent cancelled out by the night time flux. Note that surface
temperature also plays a role in determining the outgoing long-wave radiation (eqn. 38).
In practice, however, there are several difficulties associated with using eqns. (72) and
(79). First, it is necessary to define the concept of surface temperature more precisely
(Norman & Becker 1995; Crago 1998). The surface temperature as used in the turbulent
transfer theory discussed in Section 3.2 is in fact the aerodynamic temperature (T
aero
).
That is, the temperature obtained by extrapolating the logarithmic air temperature profile
to the roughness length for heat transport (z
oh
) or, more precisely, to (d À z
oh
) as discussed
in Section 3.2. The ‘real’ surface temperature is defined as that corresponding to the
average kinetic energy of the surface layer molecules (kinetic temperature T
k
). Finally, the
temperature observed by infrared sensors in the satellite is the radiative or radiometric
surface temperature T
r
. This is related to the kinetic temperature by the emissivity · of the
surface through:
T
r
¼ ·
1,4
T
k
ð80Þ
When converting radiometric temperature to kinetic temperature, not only does the
surface emissivity have to be taken into account (through eqn. 80), but also the radiance of
the atmosphere. Furthermore, the radiative temperature shows a directional (zenith angle)
dependence.
106 Understanding water in a dry environment
The problem of determining the temperature difference in eqn. (79) can be addressed by
either introducing an extra resistance to r
ah
(Kustas et al. 1989), changing from single
resistance to two-source models (Norman et al. 1995), developing an empirical formula to
estimate the aerodynamic temperature (Huang et al. 1993), or by defining an image-based
calibration procedure (Bastiaanssen et al. 1998). Modification and calibration of the air-
surface temperature difference are usually accompanied by changes in the denominator
resistance term. Extra terms are added (‘excess resistance’), expressions for the roughness
length for heat transport (z
oh
) as used in r
ah
are empirically altered, or complex empirical
resistance schemes are used. In principle the relation between z
om
and z
oh
(see, for
example, Brutsaert 1982) is given by the parameter kB
À1
(as in eqn. 29):
kB
À1
¼ ln
z
om
z
oh
_ _
ð81Þ
The parameter kB
À1
has been found to vary substantially (0–20). Since z
om
is normally
only changing by a factor 10 to 100, the roughness length for heat transport z
oh
varies over
large orders of magnitude (Verhoef et al. 1997).
There is no clear consensus at present as to the accuracy of the satellite methods; a
thorough comparison between the latest proposed methods has not yet been made.
Moreover, a proper validation of the methods is hampered by the fact that eddy flux
measurements of individual components in the energy balance do not add up to zero;
there is no closure of the energy balance (Oncley et al. 2002). Discrepancies are found to
be in the order of 10 to 37% of the net radiation, which is equivalent to an evaporation
of several mm per day. Moreover, the components of energy transfer are usually highly
variable and it is difficult to separate systematic deviations from noise in the data. There
appears to be an error of approximately 1 mm day
À1
under favourable circumstances,
which means that for irrigated or wet humid areas the percentage error is then about 10%.
However, for arid to semi-arid areas the percentage error may exceed 100% when actual
ET is in the order of 1 mm day
À1
or less. These difficulties notwithstanding, the methods
for determining actual evapotranspiration by satellite offer considerable promise and
are capable of deriving areal evapotranspiration at regular intervals in a very cost-
effective manner.
Figure 3.23a shows a sensible heat flux map obtained from a remote sensing study
(Bastiaanssen 2000) in western Turkey (near Izmir), while Figure 3.23b presents daily
evapotranspiration for the same image obtained as a residual from the energy balance
equation.
3.7.3 Further literature and concluding remarks
For a review of early methods the reader is referred to Bastiaanssen et al. (1999). More
recently, Li and Lyons (1999) compared three different remote sensing models. A
comparison of several field methods, including some remote sensing methods, may be
found (as mentioned already in Section 3.6) in Kite and Droogers (2000a,b) and in the
special issue of J. Hydrology (2000, 229: 1–2): Comparing Actual Evapotranspiration
from Satellite Data, Hydrological Models and Field Data.
Information is also available from a large number of projects that have been conducted
over the past 15 years to quantify and validate remotely determined sensible and latent
Operational solutions of actual evapotranspiration 107
heat fluxes. Only a few are mentioned here: FIFE (Norman et al. 1995), Monsoon ’90 and
SGP97 (Norman et al. 2000), Hapex-Sahel (J. Hydrology, special issue, 1997: 188–189).
Table 3.5 below lists some recent literature in this field. Interested readers are also
referred to the websites of the TERRA and AQUA satellite platforms. Many products
relating to surface temperature, vegetation indices, and even evapotranspiration estimates
are now becoming available as standard items. Some methods use observations on the
same day from different satellites to resolve the energy balance equations. For these
methods the term ‘time-integrated’ is used as opposed to ‘single time’ solutions.
Aegean Sea
Aegean Sea
Izmir
Izmir
H (Wm
Ϫ2
)
western Turkey
western Turkey
0 10000 m
scale
0 10000 m
scale
N
N
E (mmday
Ϫ1
)
0–10
10–30
30–60
60–90
>90
(a)
(b)
0–1
1–2
2–3
3–4
4–5
5–6
6–7
Figure 3.23. (a) Sensible heat flux map of western Turkey, derived from Landsat energy balance
calculations according to Bastiaanssen (2000). The date of the image is 29 August 1998. The dark
green area corresponds to irrigated land. (b) Daily evaporation and transpiration rates derived from
the energy balance through use of the sensible heat flux map from (a).
108 Understanding water in a dry environment
3.8 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The persistent yet patient and friendly pressure by Prof. Ian Simmers is warmly
acknowledged. I am also grateful to Prof. Wim Bastiaanssen for his critical comments on
earlier drafts.
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114 Understanding water in a dry environment
CHAPTER 4
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and
semi-arid regions
Jens Lange and Chris Leibundgut
Institute of Hydrology, University of Freiburg, Fahnenbergplatz, Freiburg, Germany
ABSTRACT: Surface flow plays an important role in the ecological balance of dry areas, being
responsible for the distribution of renewable water resources and for enhanced sediment dynamics.
The present chapter first provides an overview of dominant processes, followed by a practical
concept which applies process knowledge to water harvesting. Different techniques for quantifying
surface runoff and sediment dynamics are then introduced. Direct measurements are compared with
indirect estimation tools, the latter providing valuable alternatives in areas with missing data. Finally,
to illustrate the general characteristics as they are now known, case studies from different parts of
the globe are presented. Since the processes occurring and methods applied are pre-defined by scale
and climate, the studies are grouped accordingly. To a certain degree all the presented findings are
site specific. However, if the scale and climatic regime are similar, the principal results may be
translated to other locations. They then are of particular value in the search for adequate research
tools or for first approximations.
4.1 GENERAL ASPECTS
4.1.1 Runoff generation processes
In humid regions there is an obvious excess of precipitation over the seasonally integrated
water need for an abundant plant cover. Different runoff generation processes (e.g. runoff
from saturated areas, piston-flow effects, macropore flow and the slow outflow of large
groundwater bodies) sustain the flow of perennial rivers. On the other hand, semi-arid
zones can be viewed as those where a favourable water balance is achieved only seasonally.
During the wet season most precipitation infiltrates to refill underground storages emptied
during the long dry period. Humid runoff generation processes, dependent on the
abundance of water, lose significance; runoff is increasingly generated as infiltration
excess overland flow following the ideas of Horton (1933). Conditions for this process are
even more favourable in arid areas, mainly as a result of the absence of a developed soil and
vegetation cover and exposure of impervious surfaces. Surface runoff hence achieves
renewed significance in desert environments (Gat 1980).
Overland flow may be defined as flow of water over the land surface towards a stream
channel and as the initial phase of surface runoff in dry regions. If rainfall intensity at any
time during a storm exceeds the infiltration rate of a soil, water accumulates on and near
the surface. The soil infiltration rate usually declines exponentially with time reaching
a constant final value. When surface depressions are filled, water spills over to run
downslope. On plane surfaces (e.g. paved urban areas or a laboratory flume) a thin film or
even sheet of flowing water may develop, often termed sheet flow. On natural slopes,
however, topographic irregularities direct most runoff water into lateral concentrations of
flow. Following anastomosing paths, these concentrations often give the appearance
of flow in a wide braided channel and hence no simple description or modelling of
overland flow hydraulics is possible (Emmet 1978).
Experimental fieldwork by Lavee et al. (1998) in the Near East has shown the climatic
dependence of surface flow generation. Sites were located along a climatic transect, from
the Mediterranean (600 mm annual precipitation) through the semi-arid (300 mm annual
precipitation) to an arid climate (100 mm annual precipitation). Organic matter content
and the stability of soil aggregates generally decreased with aridity. As a consequence
infiltration rates also decreased, as observed from a set of rainfall simulation experiments
(Figure 4.1). Widespread infiltration was the dominant process in the Mediterranean
climate area and Hortonian overland flowdominated in the arid area. The transitional semi-
arid area was characterized by a mosaic-like pattern of patches contributing and accepting
surface water.
Similar patterns of different hydro-ecological and vegetational characteristics were also
found for semi-arid areas in the Sahelian Zone of Northern Africa (Bromley et al. 1997).
In general these spatial patterns are highly vulnerable to anthropogenic or climatic
changes, and highlight the delicate ecological balance of semi-arid environments. Other
experimental studies also emphasise the transitional character of semi-arid zones.
Martinez-Mena et al. (1998) studied the natural hydrological response of four (0.3–
0.75 ha) micro-catchments in semi-arid Spain over a three year period. In more degraded
areas with fine textured and poorly permeable soils Hortonian overland flow was found to
be the dominant runoff generation process. In soils with coarser texture runoff occurred
only after saturation. In terms of runoff generation the environment could be separated
into areas where humid processes prevail and those where arid processes dominate. The
Figure 4.1. Typical infiltration rates for Mediterranean (A), semi-arid (B) and arid (C) sites along a
climatic transect (Lavee et al. 1998).
116 Understanding water in a dry environment
runoff response for the latter area was more accentuated (9% runoff coefficient, 3.6 mm as
threshold for runoff initiation) than for the former (<3%, 8 mm respectively). In a similar
environment Bergkamp (1998) studied a cultivated, terraced slope. He found that in
extreme natural events overland flow was generated on several parts of the slope, but did
not reach the channel. Observed runoff at the catchment scale had to be attributed to areas
adjacent to the stream bed or uncultivated parts of the catchment.
In drier, truly arid regions (annual rainfall below 100 mm) plant cover is only concen-
trated in small patches and in most areas organic matter is totally absent on the ground
surface. The surface soil is largely the first point of contact by rainfall. Physical and
chemical properties of surficial material thus play a primary role in runoff generation. Two
different landscapes may be distinguished: terrain with thick unconsolidated sediments of
aeolian or fluvial origin, and terrain where rocky or debris mantled slopes dominate. With
increasing aridity bare rock or scree slopes are increasingly important. Only a minority of
global deserts are covered by aeolian sands; for example 15%of the Sahara (Mabutt 1977).
In rocky deserts underlying rocks are usually exposed or covered by either a thin veneer
of debris or shallow lithosols. At the base of most slopes colluvium accumulates. Infilt-
ration rates of bare rock surfaces are low (about 1 mm of threshold for runoff initiation and
1 to 5 mmhr
À1
final rate) and vary little due to differences in rock type or jointing (Schick
1988). However, infiltration characteristics may differ significantly with slope position.
On rocky upslope areas, for example, large amounts of runoff may be generated immedi-
ately after the onset of rain. Infiltration rates of the colluvial base, on the other hand, are an
order of magnitude higher and allow losses of large amounts of runoff originating from
upslope areas (Yair 1992). Different aspects of runoff generation and flow discontinuity
were studied on a limestone slope in the arid northern Negev desert, Israel, and are
discussed in a later case study (see Section 4.3.2).
Infiltration characteristics for unconsolidated sediments depend mainly on grain size
distribution and the tendency to surface sealing. In many deserts final infiltration rates for
bare coarse sands exceed 100 mmhr
À1
(Agnew & Anderson 1992). Nevertheless, even
within an arid sand dune area a biological topsoil crust may reduce infiltration signifi-
cantly and lead to runoff (Yair 1990); the formation of surface crusts is more accentuated
in sediments with a high silt and clay content. During high intensity storms rain drops
disperse the soil matrix and form a stable surface layer of reduced permeability. Most
runoff in silty arid and semi-arid terrain is caused by these crusts. The effect of rock
fragments on surficial properties is more complex; these have been reported to both
increase and decrease infiltration rates and amounts (Brakensiek & Rawls 1994).
Accounting for all losses (slope- and channel losses), estimates for the threshold of run-
off initiation in small (ca. 2 km
2
) desert catchments depend on lithology and differ between
4.5 and 11 mm (Table 4.1). Despite this variability comparisons of maximum probable
floods in small desert catchments yield similar results in markedlydifferent lithologies. One
may therefore assume that, at least in small arid catchments, differences in terrain char-
acteristics only leave their mark in normal or large flood events. During truly high magni-
tude events they tend to be blurred and rainfall parameters are more decisive (Schick 1988).
4.1.2 Wadi flow and transmission losses
Some of the largest rivers in the world (e.g. Nile and Indus) flow partly in arid and semi-
arid regions. These perennial streams are important water resources but originate from
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 117
more humid areas. Streams which originate within arid and semi-arid lands remain dry for
most of the year. They flow only occasionally as a result of runoff generating rainstorms.
Graf (1988) distinguished three kinds of ephemeral wadi floods. Flash floods limited to
small catchments (<100 km
2
) are produced by convective rainstorm cells. Hydrographs
are characterized by a rapidly rising limb, a sharp peak and an equally sharp falling limb.
Single-peak floods in larger catchments are generated by regional rain systems (e.g.
frontal or tropical rain). Multiple peak floods result if multiple precipitation events occur,
or different tributaries of a dendritic channel system are active.
Schick (1988) reviewed the characteristics of flashy high magnitude floods in rocky
arid catchments located in the southern Negev and in Sinai. These are geomorphologically
highly efficient, modifying the landscape by erosion and depositing huge amounts of
debris. Flow rises from insignificant levels to high, short flood peaks within several
minutes forming ‘walls of water’. Direct observation of one of these floods indicated
supercritical flow with float determined surface velocities of about 5 ms
À1
. In these envir-
onments many characteristics of small flashy floods are preserved even in large catch-
ments, where peak flows of up to 1650 m
3
s
À1
are reached.
In arid and semi-arid areas evaporation is pronounced and the time span between single
flood events is usually long. Ephemeral floods hence mostly travel on a dry bed allowing
significant infiltration losses into the channel alluvium on their way downstream. These
transmission losses, which result in a downstream decrease in runoff, have been observed
for many years (e.g. Renard & Keppel 1966; Wheater 2002). During a flood event
Table 4.1. Infiltration characteristics of different terrain types in an arid catchment (after Lange
et al. 1999).
Terrain type Initial loss (mm) Final infiltration rate (mm h
À1
)
Limestone plateau** 4.5 5
Dissected limestone plateau** 7 15
Steep active slope 10 30
Dissected loessial colluvium 10 20
Loessial plateau 7.5 15
Sandy crusted plain 9 15
Sandy vegetated plain 11 50
Pleistocene terrace** 6 8
Early Holocene terrace** 7 12
Late Holocene terrace** 11 40
Flint plateau 6 10
Dissected flint plateau 8 20
Marly sediment 9.5 15
Lisan Marl, uncovered 7.5 12
Lisan Marl, covered 6 8
Marine Jurassic 7.5 10
Active alluvium* – –
Agricultural area* – –
Disturbed area* – –
Badlands on marl** 9.5 20
Iron crust 7 20
* Terrain where all rain infiltrates.
** Terrain type with performed field experiment.
118 Understanding water in a dry environment
different processes (e.g. air entrapment, scour and fill) are active, constantly modifying
the intensity and amount of transmission loss. Dunkerley and Brown (1999), for example,
directly observed a discrete flow event in a small desert stream in western Australia.
Transmission loss totally consumed the flow over 7.6 km resulting in a rapid loss rate
of 13.2% per km with marked spatial variability. Different factors governing flow losses
were observed, including abstractions of flow to pools, scour holes and other low points
along the channel, overflow abstractions into dead-end channel filaments, and extensive
mud drapes settling on sand bars and other porous channel materials. Silt carried by flood
waters can effectively seal the alluvial surface even during flood events at unexpectedly
high flow velocities (Crerar et al. 1988). The interplay of scour and fill is complex and not
fully understood, which prohibits accurate quantification of loss volumes and makes
reach-scale studies essential for further insight (Wheater et al. 1997).
At the reach scale Knighton and Nanson (1994) compared the water balances of about
30 individual events in two reaches of Cooper Creek, Australia, of 32 and more than
400 km long. Plotting outflow/inflow ratios against event magnitudes they obtained
striking differences. In the short 32 km reach, ratios increased with event magnitude
approaching a near constant value in medium to high flows, whereas the same events
caused a highly non-linear pattern in the long reach. There outflow/inflow ratios increased
with event magnitude only to an intermediate maximum. With further increase they fell
rapidly to a fairly constant level before again rising at only very high discharges. The
intermediate maximum was explained by the authors as bank full discharge in primary
channels with maximum flood transmission efficiency. Only during larger events was the
floodplain considered to act as an additional area of losses. Later on the same authors
found other indirect evidence for a stage-dependent flooding of over-bank areas. Using
the same data set, they related catchment travel time to discharge and again obtained an
intermediate maximum, equated as the onset of flood plain flow with maximum channel-
floodplain interactions (Knighton & Nanson 2001). Applying a non-calibrated flow
routing scheme to a 150 km arid channel reach of the Kuiseb river, in the Namib Desert,
Namibia, Lange et al. (2002) showed similar characteristics of reach-scale channel trans-
mission losses. Channel transmission losses were deliberately excluded from the scheme.
By doing this, transmission losses could be identified at the downstream end of the reach,
when model simulation results (including their uncertainty range) plotted significantly
higher than measured discharges. This methodology showed directly during flow events
that channel transmission losses concentrate during high discharge peaks and are minor
during small to medium flows. In the Kuiseb river this behaviour was also attributed to
a flow-dependent scour of clogging silt layers and, more important, to enhanced water
losses in flooded over-bank areas.
4.1.3 Sediment dynamics
Arid and semi-arid regions are characterized by intense physical weathering and sparse
vegetation cover. High rainfall intensities are prominent during most runoff producing
storm events. All these factors promote soil dispersion by rain splash, with subsequently
generated Hortonian overland flow removing the dispersed soil particles. Further down-
slope rills and gullies are carved into the land surface by concentrated flow. These
erosional features are most recognizable in badlands, characterized by intensely dissected
landscapes on unconsolidated or poorly cemented material. Throughout the arid and
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 119
semi-arid zone such badlands develop on marls, shales and silty-clay formations, enhanced
by sparse vegetation and marked seasonal climatic variations. Long-term annual denuda-
tion rates may cover a wide range (0.4–4 mm yr
À1
) even in morphologically similar areas,
producing a discrepancy that cannot be completely explained (Bryan & Yair 1982).
Eroded material makes up the huge sediment load of ephemeral wadi floods and is
contributed from either adjacent slopes or derived from unstable beds and banks in the
wadis. Small particles may travel for long distances downstream as suspended load before
settling to the bed, with bed load of larger particles moving by traction on the river bed.
Walling and Webb (1996) have provided a global overview of annual suspended sediment
yield within the world’s rivers (Figure 4.2). Catchment size, relief, loess cover and climate
were the predominant factors modifying the global pattern. Since arid and semi-arid
precipitation and runoff events are variable both in time and space, caution should be
exercised in comparing annual sediment yields. Nevertheless, some interesting features
resulted. Despite decreasing annual runoff, semi-arid regions are characterised by higher
values of sediment yield than most temperate regions, pointing to enhanced sediment
dynamics during single runoff events. Within arid deserts relatively low values are deter-
mined, revealing the effect of the rare occurrence of wadi floods. Data on bed load are
globally scarce. Sediment budgeting in a small hyperarid catchment indicated the impor-
tance of bed load in rocky desert environments (Schick & Lekach 1993). During a decade
two-thirds of the sediment was made up by bed load and more than four-fifths by the
sand-and-larger fractions.
4.1.4 Water harvesting adapted to aridity: the concept of micro-catchments
The quantity of water available is a principal constraint in arid zone agriculture. Civili-
sations settling in desert environments had two options: they either conveyed water from
Figure 4.2. World wide distribution of sediment yield (Walling & Webb 1996).
120 Understanding water in a dry environment
distant regions or developed techniques to exploit the meagre local resource. Ancient desert
civilisations usually did not have the skills or resources to transport water over long dis-
tances. Hence, in many arid regions local water harvesting techniques date back for more
than 2000 years. This ancient knowledge is also applicable today, providing a cheap
alternative for agriculture adapted to limited rainfall; the concept of micro-catchments
(Shanan et al. 1970).
The general principle behind this concept is to modify the surface in order to use runoff
water more efficiently, achieving increased agricultural yields. Runoff water from small
(less than 10 ha), mostly rocky ‘contributing’ catchments is collected and spread over a
soil covered ‘receiving-cultivated’ area. This leads to the introduction of a ‘catchment-
cultivated ratio’ (ratio between contributing and receiving catchments) depending on the
local environmental setting (Table 4.2).
The concept of micro-catchment systems has the following principal advantages:
Simple construction at low cost;
Use of low-salinity runoff water;
Easy operation and cheap maintenance.
In the contributing catchments slope runoff should be collected before it reaches
rills and gullies, and the depth of flow should be less than 2 mm with velocities below
7 cms
À1
. Thereby, the maximum length of overland flow may be related to slope gradient
(Table 4.3).
Planning the layout of micro-catchments must take into account the quantity and
frequency of runoff, the permeability of the soil and tolerance of the crop to drought and
standing water. Detailed surveys of soils and topography should therefore be accompanied
Table 4.2. Catchment-cultivated ratios in different environments.
Setting Catchment-cultivated
ratio
Source
Sorghum in semi-arid North Dakota, USA 2 Haas et al. 1966
Orchards in the semi-arid Beersheva-Plain, Israel 1.5–6 Hillel 1967
Different field crops and pasture plants in the
arid Negev Desert, Israel
Around 20 Evenari et al. 1982
Table 4.3. Maximum recommended length of overland flow on a bare desert surface (Shanan &
Tadmor 1979).
Slope gradient (%) Max. recommended length of
overland flow (m)
1 25
3 14
5 11
10 8
20 5
40 4
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 121
by measurements of the real runoff producing potential for several (3–5) years on runoff
plots.
From the results of such a measuring campaign, Shanan and Schick (1980) quantified
initial losses (the amount of stormrainfall lost until runoff initiation) in the rocky Northern
Negev Desert, Israel. In this region, with 100 mmof annual rainfall, about 5 mmof rain was
lost during each storm in a 1–7 ha catchment due to crust wetting (2.5 mm) and overland
flow losses (2.5–3 mm).
4.2 ASSESSMENT TECHNIQUES
4.2.1 Direct measurement of flow and sediment
Runoff gauging stations are rare in arid and semi-arid environments, since in most
countries the necessary financial means for installation and maintenance are restricted.
Recent studies in Africa, for example, have demonstrated that networks of hydrological
observing stations are in decline (Sehmi & Kundzewicz 1997). Continuously recording
standard gauges only measure the water stage by floats or pressure transducers. In
ephemeral streams flows with depths of !0.5 m cause particles of up to gravel size to
become unstable on channel beds (Graf 1988). Direct measurement of velocity by current
meters becomes difficult or even impossible during most high flows because of this bed
and bank instability. A common alternative is to compute discharge indirectly using the
slope–area method. This adapts a uniform-flow equation (the Manning equation) using
channel characteristics, water–surface profiles and a roughness coefficient. The fact that
cross-sectional geometry may permanently change during a flood event is therefore
neglected. As a result, gauged stream flow data in most arid and semi-arid channels have
a high inherent uncertainty. Moreover, gauging stations are frequently destroyed by the
huge erosive power of high magnitude events and data records are incomplete (e.g.
Greenbaum et al. 1998).
Field measurements of suspended sediment load comprise the collection of water and
sediment samples during flood events. Mean concentration of sediment is multiplied by
simultaneously measured flow volumes to obtain the total suspended load. Direct
measurement of bed load is more difficult and realistic results are highly dependent on
particle size and the sampling instrument. The relative efficiency of different samplers
ranges from less than 50% to more than 100% (Graf 1988). Reservoirs facilitate the most
accurate determination of total yield from a catchment, since both suspended sediment
and bed load are completely trapped (e.g. Schick & Lekach 1993).
4.2.2 Indirect estimation tools
Paleoflood technique
Peak stages of historic and recent floods may be reconstructed by paleoflood techniques
using morphological and sedimentary evidence (Baker 1987). Where flow boundaries
produce markedly reduced flow velocities during times of high flow, suspended sediment
is deposited forming slack water sediments. These deposits are minimum paleostage
indicators, since some flood water must have been above them at the time of emplace-
ment. Absolute high water indicators, including scour marks and lines of silt, driftwood
122 Understanding water in a dry environment
or organic debris, are more accurate. Due to reduced biological activity both slack water
deposits and high-water marks may be preserved for long periods in arid and semi-arid
settings. Bedrock-confined reaches are preferable, since they accommodate high
discharges by largely increasing flow depth and show a high cross-sectional stability.
Peak stages are transformed to paleodischarge estimates by slope-area calculations or
hydraulic modelling; e.g. by the HEC-2 package (Hydraulic Engineering Center 1982).
Since absolute ages of slack water deposits may be assessed using radiocarbon dating,
paleoflood hydrology may augment existing flood records and result in a more accurate
flood frequency analysis.
Deterministic rainfall-runoff models
Deterministic rainfall-runoff models may also be used to simulate and analyse the flood
response of arid and semi-arid catchments. However, most existing approaches depend
heavily on calibration with measured stream flow data (e.g. Hughes 1997; Wheater et al.
1997; Al-Weshah 2002a). As such, they are limited to gauged catchments and include the
uncertainties of hydrometric data collection. El-Hames and Richards (1998) applied a
robust, physically-based rainfall-runoff model to a 170 km
2
arid catchment in Saudi Arabia.
They achieved reasonable simulations, but a minimum of calibration was still required.
Only more recently has a fully non-calibrated approach been developed for high
magnitude floods in arid rocky desert catchments (Lange et al. 1999). Since only field-
based parameters were included, applications become possible in ungauged catchments
using other recent techniques (e.g. rainfall radar, remote sensing), thus overcoming the
need for model calibration. These latter two models are described in later case studies.
Runoff regression models
Regression and regionalization may facilitate the estimation of flood magnitudes. A world
wide comparison of flood frequency curves resulted in apparent similarities in arid and
semi-arid catchments and it was proposed by Farquharson et al. (1992) to treat them as a
homogeneous region. First the mean annual flood (MAF) was calculated:
MAF ¼ 1=n
X
Q
i
ð1Þ
where Q
i
denotes the annual maximum flood series with n values. Then the flood series
at each gauging station was reduced to dimensionless form by dividing by the MAF
before fitting to a General Extreme Value (GEV) distribution. For all arid regions the
50-year flood was 4.51 times higher than the MAF, while for the 100- and 500-year flood
this factor was 6.15 and 12.28 respectively. As a second step all MAFs (m
3
s
À1
) in arid
catchments were related to catchment area A (km
2
Þ by regression analysis:
MAF ¼ 1:87A
0:578
ð2Þ
As r
2
(the coefficient of determination) did not exceed 0.55, this equation should only be
used as an initial estimate. To obtain entire design hydrographs a study by Walters
(1989b) can be consulted. In this, Walters related the factors of design hydrographs
1=2PKW (‘width’ of the hydrograph at 1=2 peak stage, min), 1=4PWK (‘width’ of the hydro-
graph at 1=4 peak stage, min) and the recession constant k to catchment area A (km
2
) by
the following equations:
1=2PKW ¼ 2:578A
0:501
ð3Þ
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 123
1=4PKW ¼ 2:508A
0:617
ð4Þ
k ¼ 0:025A
0:441
ð5Þ
Equations (3)–(5) should again only serve as initial estimates, as r
2
-values were in the
same order of magnitude as for eqn. (2).
Graphical relationships between catchment area and maximum discharge have also
been determined for different regions in Israel (Shentsis et al. 1997); arid regions showed
by far the highest values and at a certain catchment size the discharge-area relationships
exhibited a negative trend due to the pronounced effect of channel transmission losses.
Assessment of channel transmission losses
Channel transmission losses can be regarded as important contributors to groundwater
recharge in arid and semi-arid areas. Studies by Hughes and Sami (1992) of infiltration
processes within the channel alluvium indicated large differences within small distances.
Point measurements of infiltration rates have also been made by Parissopoulos and Wheater
(1992). Kuells et al. (1995) combined these physical measurements with artificial tracers
(rhodamine) making preferential flow paths apparent. Mean infiltration rates for channel
alluvium may cover wide ranges starting from 44 mmhr
À1
in loess-covered channels
(Shanan 1975) to more than 400 mmhr
À1
in silty-gravel channels (Kuells et al. 1995).
In indirect studies by Wallace and Renard (1967), a measured rise in the groundwater
table near ephemeral streams was related to flow events. Using this relationship a
groundwater model could be constructed and calibrated for an alluvial aquifer recharged
by channel transmission losses. Limited information on flow and channel characteristics
was then combined with groundwater level measurements to estimate recharge. As a
further example, Alderwish and Dottridge (1995) reliably estimated groundwater recharge
for two wadis in Yemen using the finite-difference groundwater model MODFLOW
(McDonald & Harbaugh 1988) and piezometric measurements over one dry and one wet
season. Details of this work are given in Section 4.3.4.
If hydrometric data are available upstream and downstream in a channel reach, inflow
and outflow volumes may be compared and transmission losses quantified. Then, by
means of regression analysis, volumes of transmission loss may be related to flow and
channel characteristics. Including estimates of lateral inflows from tributary catchments,
Sorman and Abdulrazzak (1997) used this approach for a channel reach in the Tabalah
catchment, Saudi Arabia (see Section 4.3.3).
Lane (1985) analysed different magnitude flows in 14 channel reaches throughout
Arizona, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas, USA, and developed a simple estimation tool for
transmission losses in semi-arid channels. The outflow volume Q
o
(acre-feet) of a channel
reach is given by the expression:
Q
o
¼
0 P
o
! P
i
a þ bP
i
P
o
< P
i
&
: ð6Þ
where P
i
is the volume of inflow (acre-feet), P
o
the threshold volume (acre-feet) and a, b
are parameters. P
i
is obtained by hydrological analysis with the remaining unknowns
calculated according to:
b ¼ e
Àkxw
ð7Þ
124 Understanding water in a dry environment
a ¼ ½A=ð1 À Bފð1 À bÞ ð8Þ
P
o
¼ Àa=b ð9Þ
where x (mi) and w (ft) are length and width of the channel reach. A, B and k are obtained
from:
A ¼ À0:00465KD
i
ð10Þ
k ¼ À1:09 ln½1 À 0:0545KD
i
P
À1
i
Š ð11Þ
B ¼ e
Àk
ð12Þ
where D
i
is the duration of inflow (hr) and K is the effective hydraulic conductivity
estimated according to Table 4.4.
Regression models for sediment dynamics
The Universal Soil Loss Equation, USLE (Wischmeier & Smith 1978) is the most widely
and sometimes inappropriately used estimator of slope erosion and slope sediment
production because it is well defined, has published guidelines and offers apparent com-
patibility with numerous studies in many parts of the world. For principally agricultural
areas the soil loss A (kg m
À2
s
À1
Þ is given by:
A ¼ 0:224RKLSCP ð13Þ
However, Graf (1988) has stated that use of the USLE in non-agricultural dry land
settings should only serve as an initial estimate. This becomes apparent from the large
range for the single parameter values he estimated. The rainfall erositivity factor R ranges
from 20 to 50 and the soil erodibility factor K from about 0.05 for sandy soils to about 0.6
for silty ones. The slope length factor L and the slope gradient factor S may be combined
as a topographic factor LS. For a slope 100 m long, LS varies from about 0.18 for a 1%
gradient to about 15 for a 30% slope. The cropping management factor C lies between 45
for areas with no vegetation and about 4 for areas which are 80% covered with shrubs.
Finally, the erosion control practice factor P lies in the 0.1–0.3 range for natural slopes.
Table 4.4. Relationship between bed material characteristics and hydraulic conductivity K
(Lane 1985).
Bed material group Bed material characteristics Effective hydraulic
conductivity K (in h
À1
Þ
1 Very high loss rate Very clean gravel and large sand >5
2 High loss rate Clean sand and gravel, field conditions 2–5
3 Moderately high loss rate Sand and gravel mixture with low
silt-clay content
1–3
4 Moderate loss rate Sand and gravel mixture with high
silt-clay content
0.25–1
5 Insignificant to low Consolidated bed material; high
loss rate silt-clay content 0.001–0.1
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 125
For large semi-arid and arid catchments in India, Miraki (1983) used measurements of
sedimentation in 32 reservoirs to define the following regression equation:
V ¼ 1:182 Â 10
6
A
1:026
P
1:289
Q
0:287
S
0:075
D
0:398
d
F
2:422
C
ð14Þ
where V is the volume of sediment yield (m
3
yr
À1
Þ, A the drainage area (km
2
Þ, P the
annual rainfall (cm), Q the mean annual runoff (10
6
m
3
Þ, S the catchment slope, D
d
the
drainage density (km
À1
Þ and F
C
an spatially weighted erodibility factor as defined in
Table 4.5.
Tracer techniques
Tracer techniques facilitate various studies of hydrological surface processes. Hydrograph
separation by natural tracers may be used to analyse runoff generation and in most
investigations two runoff components are separated: Event water and pre-event water
(Sklash & Farvolden 1979):
Q
ev
=Q
ges
¼ ðC
ges
À C
prev
Þ=ðC
ev
À C
prev
Þ ð15Þ
where Q
ges
is total runoff (m
3
s
À1
Þ, Q
ev
the amount of the component event water
(m
3
s
À1
), Q
prev
the amount of the component pre-event water (m
3
s
À1
Þ and C
ges
, C
ev
and
C
prev
are the respective concentrations (mg L
À1
Þ.
As prerequisite for a successful application of this method the following conditions
must be met:
The concentrations of the event (e.g. rainfall) and pre-event (e.g. groundwater) com-
ponents are measurable and differ significantly.
There are no additional runoff components.
The spatial and temporal variations in the event/pre-event tracer concentrations must
be determinable.
In general, conservative environmental tracers (ions such as Cl
À
, SiO

4
and the
isotopes
18
O and
2
H) can be used if the prerequisites are met. In contrast to most humid
catchments, storm flow in semi-arid east Africa was clearly dominated by event water
(Sandstro¨m 1996).
The movement of sediment may be quantified more accurately by the environmental
tracer
137
Cs (e.g. Wise 1980) than by regression models. The 30-year half-life of this
isotope facilitates accurate dating in recent time spans (since 1954), which is intermediate
between short-term (10
0
–10
1
years) process studies and long-term (10
3
–10
8
Þ dating
techniques. In areas unaffected by fall-out deposition from the Chernobyl accident,
137
Cs
was derived from historic atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons with marked peaks in
Table 4.5. Vegetation community values for F
C
(Miraki 1983).
Vegetation community F
C
Protected forest 0.2
Unclassed forest 0.4
Arable areas 0.6
Shrub and grass 0.8
Waste area 1.0
126 Understanding water in a dry environment
1957–59, 1962–64 and 1971 (Ritchie et al. 1974). If deposited on mineral soils it is rapidly
and strongly adsorbed by clay and organic colloids. This results in an exponential decrease
in concentration with increasing depth below soil surface. Redistribution only takes
place in association with sediment particles. In dry land environments
137
Cs is mainly
deposited in two systems: On hillslopes and within channel sediments. Ritchie et al.
(1974) derived the following regression:
Y ¼ 1:6X
0:68
ð16Þ
where Y is radionuclide loss as a percentage of input and X is the soil erosion (tonnes
ha
À1
yr
À1
Þ. Comparisons of the
137
Cs content for adjacent undisturbed and eroded sites
may provide quantitative estimates of soil erosion rates (Walling & Quine 1991). If mea-
surements in fluvial sediment are combined with those within catchments, studies of
sediment source areas and sediment routing in channel systems are possible.
Artificial tracers (such as the fluorescence dyes uranine or rhodamine) may provide
direct insight to processes during real flood events. Lange et al. (1998) chose this technique
to study infiltration losses in a dry wadi bed. In order to not be fully dependent on rarely
occurring natural flood events, an artificial flash flood was studied in a small arid stream
channel, Nahal Shahmon, Israel. A reservoir was built, filled with water (550 m
3
Þ and
breached artificially. Three different artificial tracers were injected at different times of the
flood and surface water samples were taken at two locations downstream. Water moving
within the alluvium was also sampled with the help of fluocapteurs (small steel-mesh bags
containing adsorptive charcoal) distributed at different locations within the alluvial body.
The fluocapteurs enabled identification of the different pathways of the two dye tracers
downstream, and the maximum depth of infiltration could be approximated. This sampling
technique is promising for future studies in arid rivers, since fluocapteurs can remain in
place for a long time without maintenance. Towards the end of flow, exfiltrating water
from the channel alluvium was observed with a high tracer concentration.
4.3 CASE STUDIES
4.3.1 Introduction
Dry land research has been performed in many parts of the globe. However, since real
progress depends on the existence of long, detailed and reliable hydrological data sets, this
concentrates major research findings to a rather small number of experimental sites and
catchments. Prominent examples are outlined in this chapter; others are detailed by (e.g.)
Al-Weshah (2002b) and Alhamid and Reid (2002).
Hydrological processes investigated and methods applied are predefined by the study
scale. Most hillslope-scale studies address processes of runoff generation and sediment
mobilization, while in catchment-scale studies transmission losses, water balances and,
finally, hydrological modelling are more relevant. Apart from scale, research findings
should also be classified according to the prevailing climatic regime. Compared to the
almost barren extreme deserts, semi-arid landscapes are at least periodically vegetated.
Hillslope-scale processes, in particular, are then entirely different from those in deserts,
and require different approaches to understand and quantify surface runoff and sediment
dynamics.
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 127
To a certain degree all research findings are site specific. However, if the scale and
climatic regime are similar, principal results may be translated to other locations. They are
then especially valuable in the search for adequate research tools or for first approxi-
mations. The following case studies are thus grouped according to scale and in each the
climatic regime is explicitly stated. The final two examples provide regional overviews
and include a variety of climatic conditions.
4.3.2 The hillslope scale—runoff generation and sediment dynamics
Classification of runoff generation in semi-arid west Africa
Casenave and Valentin (1992) summarized the results of sprinkling experiments carried
out on 87 plots in arid and semi-arid areas in five states of West Africa. Analysing the
factors governing infiltration and runoff generation, they arrived at a hierarchical classi-
fication system for runoff generation based on eleven unit surfaces; homogeneous bodies
of land surface defined by sprinkling experiments (Table 4.6).
For each unit surface the depth of generated surface runoff L
f
(mm) was determined by
the regression equation:
L
f
¼ AP
U
þ BIK þ CP
U
IK À D ð17Þ
where P
U
is depth of rainfall (mm), A–D are regression coefficients typical for each unit
surface (Table 4.6) and IK is a dimensionless index quantifying initial moisture:
IK
n
¼ ðIK
nÀ1
þ P
nÀ1
Þe
À0:5t
ð18Þ
Table 4.6. Unit surfaces, identification criteria and regression coefficients (Casenave & Valentin
1992).
Unit
surface
Identification criteria A B C D
C1 Cultivated, vesicular porosity in the crust <5% 0.2 0.03 0.004 3
C2 Cultivated, vesicular porosity in the crust 5–30% 0.35 0.04 0.004 3
C3 Cultivated, vesicular porosity in the crust >30% 0.9 0.05 0.002 10
TW Non-cultivated, >20% earthworm casts and >30%
termite harvesting constructions
0.05 0.01 0.001 1
W Non-cultivated, >20% earthworm casts and <30%
termite harvesting constructions
0.1 0.05 0.002 3
DRY Non-cultivated, <20% earthworm casts and <40%
of coarse fragments without crust or with a drying crust
0.3 0.01 0.003 8
ST2 Non-cultivated, <20% earthworm casts and <40% of coarse
fragments covered with a structural crust of two micro-layers
0.5 0.02 0.004 10
ST3 Non-cultivated, <20% earthworm casts and <40%
of coarse fragments covered with a structural crust of
three micro-layers
0.85 0.01 0.003 8
SED Non-cultivated, <20% earthworm casts and <40%
of coarse fragments covered with a sedimentation crust
0.8 0.08 0.001 12
ERO Non-cultivated, <20% earthworm casts and <40%
of coarse fragments sealed with a erosion crust
0.95 0.09 0.001 9
G Non-cultivated, <20% earthworm casts and >40%
of coarse fragments with the major part embedded
into a structural crust
0.99 0.05 0.001 6
128 Understanding water in a dry environment
where IK
n
is the value before rain n, IK
nÀ1
the value before rain n À 1, P
nÀ1
the depth of
rain n À 1, and t the time (d) separating rain n and n À 1. IK approaches 0 for dry soils, is
20 in wet soils and exceeds 80 at soil saturation.
The spatial distribution of these unit surfaces was mapped in 15 small watersheds and
runoff L
f
was calculated using spatially weighted coefficients in eqn. (17). Due to the
different scales the observed runoff L
o
(mm) deviated from that calculated and a second
step was required:
L
o
¼ 1:069L
f
À 1:51 ð19Þ
The findings of this study clearly illustrate the dominant role of surface conditions (type
of crust and biological activity) for runoff generation in semi-arid West africa. However,
the need for a second regression before application to small catchments precludes accurate
runoff prediction from ungauged areas.
The semi-arid loess region, north China
The loess region in north China is characterized by a semi-arid continental climate. Mean
annual precipitation is about 500 mm with most of the rain falling during heavy storms in
the monsoon season (June to September). Hilly areas are covered by Pleistocene loess with
a thickness reaching 200 m. Two main characteristics have attracted researchers during the
last decades: enhanced runoff production due to pronounced soil surface crusting, and the
high sediment yields from the area, these being amongst the highest in the world.
Applying two alternative techniques, Zhang et al. (1998) attempted to verify existing
estimates of erosion rates on cultivated loess areas. These very high rates (in the range
10,000–16,000 t km
À2
yr
À1
Þ were based on empirical relationships (relating erosion rates
to slope angle and length) derived from erosion plot studies. Erosion was independently
quantified using rill volume data and
137
Cs as a tracer (Figure 4.3). The results showed
good agreement for the downslope variation with visible signs of rilling occurring 30 m
Figure 4.3. Erosion rates along a slope determined by different methods. Upper parts of the slope
are gently sloping, while lower parts are steep (Zhang et al. 1998).
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 129
downslope from the hilltop reaching a maximum about 50 m downslope. Further down
rilling intensity was limited, as the larger rills incised harder loess underlying the plough
layer. A similar downslope pattern was determined using
137
Cs. The absolute quantities
were different, however, because the
137
Cs-values represented long-term means while the
rills developed during only one major event. Nevertheless, both techniques provided a
more accurate spatial pattern of erosion rates. They indicated that existing empirical
relationships overestimate erosion rates on steep slopes (lower parts in Figure 4.3), while
on gently sloping fields the opposite is true (upper parts of Figure 4.3).
Li et al. (1995) conducted simulated rainfall experiments using sprinkling devices on
runoff plots in different topographic zones. Moderate slopes (5

gradient) on a hilltop
were planted with typical field crops, and were the areas where the highest infiltration
rates and longest ponding times were recorded. On steeper cultivated hill slopes (25

gradient) moderate values occurred. The lowest infiltration and the shortest ponding
time were registered for a steep gully wall (35

gradient) with a natural shrub vegetation.
Due to the limited sample size the results could only be treated as general tendencies
and were related to a range of enviromental conditions including gradient, soil type and
land use.
Using the same methodology, Luk et al. (1993) studied more thoroughly the effects
of antecedent crusting and sealing on soil and water losses. They found that on crusted
surfaces the initial runoff rate was enhanced, while the initial sediment concentration was
reduced. The net effect on soil loss, however, was quite limited. The surprisingly small
differences in soil loss were attributed to two main reasons. First, higher runoff rates and
transport capabilities were balanced by an enhanced shear strength of the topsoil.
Secondly, it was assumed that new surface seals developed during the experiments. The
studied crust effect was therefore limited to storms of short duration, diminishing in longer
storms due to the formation and possibly more uniform distribution of surface seals.
Runoff plots in semi-arid northern Iraq
Hussein (1996) studied runoff generation and soil loss in six adjacent runoff plots in the
semi-arid zone of northern Iraq. Mean annual rainfall based on 23 years of measurement
was 333 mm, and soils were classified as Xerollic Calciorthids with a balanced grain size
distribution. The soil was tilled at the beginning of the rainy season, and then left bare
to account for the effect of surface sealing and crusting. Runoff volumes and sediment
concentrations were measured in collecting tanks at the plot outlets.
For single events a complex model applying principles of stream power and
conservation of mass and energy could be reasonably fitted to measured values of runoff
and soil loss. The validity of two widely used simple approaches to estimate runoff and
soil loss was also tested. The Curve Number Method (SCS 1985) adequately accounted
for the storm volume but not for the intensity distribution of rainfall. It therefore over-
predicted runoff during storms of low intensity, but under-predicted runoff during high
intensity storms (Figure 4.4). Alternatively, the Universal Soil Loss Equation, USLE
(Wischmeier & Smith 1978), was designed to predict long-term annual soil loss caused by
sheet and rill erosion in the USA. Unlike predicted soil losses, measured values obtained
for single storms in the Iraq study also included non-erosive events of very low intensities.
As a result, predicted and measured values of seasonal soil loss differed greatly. It was
thus proposed that simple estimation methods of runoff and soil loss should be modified to
account for typical rainfall and soil loss characteristics in semi-arid regions.
130 Understanding water in a dry environment
The semi-arid Dinosaur badlands, Canada
The Dinosaur badlands in Alberta, Canada are located in a semi-arid area with a mean
annual precipitation of 330 mm. During summer they form the major source of sediment
to the Red Deer river, when sediment delivery to the river invariably coincides with flow
in the ephemeral tributaries following sporadic rain storms. Erosion rates are high with an
average of 3 mm yr
À1
and peak values of 13 mm yr
À1
(Campbell 1981). The badlands are
formed in Upper Cretaceous strata comprising intercalated lagoonal shales and sandstones
of variable character. Tunnel erosion is a widespread phenomenon, with tunnel diameter
varying from a few millimetres to several metres.
Hodges and Bryan (1982) carried out simulated rain storm experiments on ten experi-
mental microcatchments covering 33 lithological units and examples of most small-scale
topographic forms. Average rainfall intensity was 29 mmhr
À1
with a usual duration of
30 min, conditions which recurred in the area every two to five years. Results indicated
that runoff generation in this environment was complex and depended ultimately on
lithologic variations. Sandstones and silts generated Hortonian overland flow almost
immediately after rain started, regardless of antecedent moisture. Runoff from shale units
was more variable and could be delayed by 9–23 min on a dry and 3–15 min on a wet
surface, indicating the importance of antecedent moisture. Thus, during most natural rain
storms runoff almost entirely came from sandstones and silts. Only during extreme events,
which occurred once or twice a year and appeared to be of greater geomorphic signi-
ficance, did the shale units also respond.
De Boer (1992) studied the influence of scale on runoff generation. Measurements were
carried out in nested catchments representing three scale levels: the microscale (<1 m
2
of
experimental plots), the sub-basin scale (sub-basins of 1882 and 2104 m
2
, respectively)
Figure 4.4. Comparison of predicted (SCS method) and observed runoff on small plots in northern
Iraq (Hussein 1996).
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 131
and the mesoscale (catchments of 7.9 and 20.2 ha, respectively). In accordance with the
sprinkling experiments listed above, lithology dominated runoff response at the micro-
scale causing completely different runoff coefficients. In the sub-basins, runoff generated
on sandstone units started quickly after the onset of rain; the threshold of flow was not
sensitive to antecedent moisture as represented by the antecedent precipitation index API
(Linsley et al. 1982). At the mesoscale, however, the threshold of flow clearly depended
on API (Figure 4.5).
This latter relationship was caused by alluvial deposits that were only present in
mesoscale channels, causing water losses by infiltration. Under dry conditions trans-
mission losses therefore increased the threshold of flow at the mesoscale; this value could
not be translated from studies at a smaller scale. Studies on sediment dynamics yielded
similar results (De Boer & Campbell 1989). Deep tunnel systems existed only in meso-
scale catchments and dominated their behaviour by an increase in sediment concentration.
The time of flow initiation in the tunnels could be determined even more accurately by
a change in the relationship between sulphate and electrical conductivity (De Boer &
Campbell 1990).
A limestone slope in the arid Negev desert, Israel
Long-term monitoring of runoff generation processes has been carried out at the Sede
Boqer experimental site (Yair et al. 1978; Yair 1992). The experimental watershed drains
2.15 ha of a typical limestone desert slope. The upper headwater area is dominated by
extensive rocky outcrops, almost devoid of any soil cover and the base of the slopes is
covered by a colluvial mantle which thickens rapidly down slope. Alluvial terraces and
reaches are located near the channels. The experimental network was designed for auto-
matic and simultaneous measurement of rainfall, and both hillslope and channel runoff.
Channel runoff is recorded at two stations. While the upper channel drains only the rocky
headwater area, the lower one is located near the outlet of the experimental catchment and
Figure 4.5. Flow generation in mesoscale catchments of the Dinosaur badlands: dashed line
indicates threshold of flow (De Boer 1992).
132 Understanding water in a dry environment
collects runoff contributions from all different units. To facilitate more detailed analysis
of runoff generation, runoff plots equipped with sprinkling devices were nested within the
catchment.
During infiltration tests on 1.5 m
2
plots, the infiltration rates for rocky slopes approached
0 mmhr
À1
after only 8 min. The same tests on lower colluvial mantle resulted in infiltr-
ation rates of 15 mmhr
À1
reached after 30 min, showing that colluvial slopes were char-
acterized by a considerably higher infiltration rate and porosity. This was confirmed by
different runs of sprinkling experiments when flow lines were mapped inside a runoff plot
(Figure 4.6). The responses of rocky and colluvial units were markedly different. Runoff
was generated in the rocky area even at low rain intensities. The threshold rain intensity
was as low as 5 mmhr
À1
for a short duration of 3 min only; on the colluvial area all low
intensity rainfall was lost by infiltration. Moreover, most of the flow lines were discon-
tinuous, disappearing at the interface between the rocky upslope area and colluvial base.
Hydrological, pedological and botanical studies (Yair & Lavee 1985) indicated that this
flow discontinuity increased the amount of available water by a factor of two or three in
the transition zone between rocky and colluvial areas.
During an extended low intensity rain storm in December 1988, the combined effect of
flow discontinuity and transmission losses into the channel alluvium became apparent
(Figure 4.7). Total rain amounting to 35.1 mm, with intermittent rainfall during three
consecutive days, resulted in several separate flows. The upper channel draining the rocky
headwater area recorded runoff following each spell of rain, whereas the lower channel at
the outlet of the catchment was active only after the third rain spell.
510 m
505 m
500 m
0 10 m
First run
15 mm hr
Ϫ1
30 min
Third run
60 mm hr
Ϫ1
30 min
Second run
30 mm hr
Ϫ1
30 min
Figure 4.6. Flowlines on a limestone slope; upper part rocky, lower part colluvial (Yair 1992).
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 133
4.3.3 The catchment scale—transmission losses, water balance and modelling
The semi-arid Walnut Gulch, Arizona, USA
The 150 km
2
Walnut Gulch catchment was established as an experimental basin in 1953.
Located in southeastern Arizona, the climate is semi-arid and most of the rainfall derives
from multi-cellular convective thunderstorms of high intensity, short duration and limited
areal extent. Typical flash floods result, which decrease significantly downstream due to
transmission losses (Figure 4.8). Most of the catchment consists of gently rolling
rangeland underlain by Quaternary sediments. Vegetation is dominated by native shrubs
on the slopes and grasses in the upland areas. Runoff is measured at the catchment outlet,
and from 25 sub-catchments, by a combination of permanent structures and water level
recorders. Additionally, 95 rainfall recorders are scattered throughout the catchment
(Osborn & Renard 1970). This unique gauging network has facilitated numerous basic
studies, thus improving the understanding of semi-arid hydrology.
Michaud and Sorooshian (1994a) used data on the spatial rainfall distribution to study
the error in runoff simulations that might be caused by interpolation of coarse rain gauge
Figure 4.7. Rainstorm of December 1988 (Yair 1992).
134 Understanding water in a dry environment
networks. They recommended a minimum density of one gauge per 4 km
2
for semi-arid
catchments with localized convective rain cells. Different kinds of rainfall-runoff models
were also tested (Michaud & Sorooshian 1994b). A comparison for the complete catch-
ment showed that a complex distributed model, especially developed for this environ-
ment, could be reasonably applied without calibration. After calibration the model
precision improved only marginally, but the complex model was then no more superior
than a simpler, distributed alternative. Calibrated rainfall-runoff models of different
complexity have also been applied to several tributaries within Walnut Gulch (e.g.
Grayson et al. 1992; Karnieli et al. 1994; Wheater et al. 1997).
Gauged hydrographs at the limits of different channel reaches facilitated systematic
reach-scale studies on channel transmission losses. Lane et al. (1971) used multi-linear
regression of outflow on inflow volumes with additional channel parameters. Differential
equations relating inflow volumes to transmission losses were subsequently developed
and became a standard method for semi-arid channels in the USA (see Section 4.2.2). In
a more recent study, the linearity of basin response as a function of scale was also
investigated (Goodrich et al. 1997). Results indicated that runoff volumes and peak
discharges increased proportionally with catchment area only up to the critical transition
Figure 4.8. A typical storm event in Walnut Gulch (Goodrich et al. 1997).
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 135
threshold area of about 37–60 ha. For larger catchments the effects of channel trans-
mission losses and fractional storm area coverage changed this relationship.
The semi-arid Luni basin, India
The 34,866 km
2
Luni catchment is located in the northwestern dry part of India (Figure
4.9). Average annual values of rainfall and potential evapotranspiration vary from 300 to
600 mm and 170 to 2060 mm, respectively. Rainfall, which mostly occurs during the rainy
season from June to September, is characterized by a high spatial and temporal variability
typical for desert regions. The eastern part of the catchment is characterized by hilly and
rocky piedmont comprisingigneous andmetamorphic rocks of Precambrian and Palaeozoic
age, whereas the western part is covered by Pleistocene alluvium and Holocene sands.
Sharma (1997) reported environmental problems due to rising water demand and
uncoordinated water resources development efforts. Flash floods and severe droughts have
afflicted the catchment for a long time. Furthermore, many medium to minor reservoirs
were sited for short-term benefits without due consideration being given to climatic,
geomorphologic, lithological and hydrological conditions. As a result, suspended sediment
loads from floods reduce the storage capacity of reservoirs by 1.9–7.8% annually, stored
water often becomes saline and downstream reaches suffer from water shortage.
Since 1979 the Luni and its tributaries have been gauged at more than 30 stations,
facilitating a number of different hydrological studies. Sharma and Murthy (1996) used 79
observed hydrographs to relate time-to-peak and peak discharge to catchment area and
effective rainfall. The recession limb was simulated using a single leaky reservoir. This
simple model could be reasonably fitted to gauged events in the headwaters.
A simple, lumped routing procedure was used to facilitate stream flow routing, account-
ing for transmission losses within the ephemeral channels (Sharma et al. 1994). With the
Figure 4.9. The Luni basin, India (Sharma & Murthy 1996).
136 Understanding water in a dry environment
help of a differential equation transmission losses were described as a function of inflow,
distance, channel width, time parameters of flow and effective hydraulic conductivity.
Model parameters for single channel reaches were determined using linear regression on
observed inflow–outflow data. Outflow hydrographs could then be reasonably approxi-
mated by a triangular shape.
Water quality and sediment concentration were also determined in addition to
measurements of water quantity (Choudhari & Sharma 1984). An initial water sample was
taken at the onset of flow, with subsequent samples collected at irregular intervals and
with significant changes in the discharge until the flow ceased. Highest values of total
dissolved salts (TDS) were recorded at the onset of the first runoff event of the year
followed by a rapid decrease during the rising and recession flow stages. Due to different
solubilities, single ions showed different behaviours. While concentrations of Na
þ
and
Cl
À
were diluted at higher discharge rates, Ca

showed the opposite trend and K
þ
and
Mg

remained relatively uniform. A comparison of the chemistry for the different tribu-
taries showed that the mineralogical signature and weatherability adequately explained
the stream water ionic composition.
In another study sediment yields of the Luni basin were compared with other catch-
ments in the Indian arid zone (Sharma 1996). Sandstone outcrops generated highest
sediment yields, followed by limestone, quartzite and shale. Moreover, sediment loads
increased with rainfall and drainage basin slope. Promotion of vegetation on the slopes
and the construction of check dams reduced sediment yields by 65–94%.
The arid Nahal Zin, Israel
Nahal (Wadi) Zin is one of the major arteries draining the northern Negev Desert in Israel
to the Dead Sea. The upper part of this 1400 km
2
arid catchment drains the plateaus of the
northern Negev Highlands. Shallow rocky soils dominate the terrain and the valleys are
filled with loessial silty sediments. In the lower catchment loose sediments and reaches
covered by thick channel alluvium can also be found. Within the catchment average
annual rainfall is 60–90 mm; localized storms occurring as convective cells are mainly
responsible for the high magnitude floods (Schick 1988).
Greenbaum et al. (1998) analysed one high magnitude rain storm flood which occurred
in October 1991. The rainfall pattern was determined using temporal intensity patterns at a
point, intensity factor maps (Kelway & Herbert 1969), and a spatial evaluation of the time
at which maximum rainfall intensity occurred at a given point. The results were
subsequently verified by rainfall radar data. This thorough analysis yielded a completely
different picture of rainfall intensities than might have been portrayed if based on
available rain gauge data only (Figure 4.10).
The flood hydrograph was reconstructed using techniques of paleoflood hydrology.
These were based on sedimentological evidence of fine-grained flood deposits in back
flooded tributaries as well as on other stage indicators. The HEC-2 procedure (Hydro-
logical Engineering Center 1982) was used to determine water surface profiles and
paleodischarge estimates. A triple peak hydrograph was reconstructed, which reached a
maximum discharge of 550 m
3
s
À1
with an estimated recurrence interval of 40–50 years.
Lange et al. (1999) used this detailed information on the high magnitude flood to
develop a non-calibrated rainfall-runoff model. Model parameters were determined using
only previous experimental results, measured field data and information from maps and
aerial photographs. Appropriate tools to derive and to process the spatially distributed
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 137
model input (weather radar, air photos and GIS) were used. The two major processes
governing the development of large desert floods, generation of Hortonian runoff on the
surfaces and flow losses along the channel network, were integrated in a spatially
distributed way. Model uncertainty was assessed independently for each of the 13 input
parameters. All model simulations fell within the uncertainty ranges of the reconstructed
peak discharges (Figure 4.11). From the fully distributed structure of the model it could be
shown that during this flood only one large upper tributary reacted simultaneously with
the main channel. Lower tributaries produced preceding peaks which wet the channel
alluvium before the main flood arrived; transmission losses therefore lost their signifi-
cance downstream.
The arid Tabalah catchment, Saudi Arabia
The 1,270 km
2
Tabalah catchment drains eastwards towards the inner part of Saudi Arabia
and provides an extensive data base comprising at least 14 rainfall recorders, three runoff
Figure 4.10. Total storm rainfall in Nahal Zin. Calculated pattern based only on available station
data (left) and reconstructed pattern (right) (Greenbaum et al. 1998).
Figure 4.11. Simulated hydrographs and reconstructed peaks at three gauging stations (1–3)
(Lange et al. 1999).
138 Understanding water in a dry environment
stations, one climate station and five observation wells. In this arid catchment, with an
exceptionally well established data base, Abdulrazzak et al. (1989) attempted to quantify
individual water balance components. Crystalline rocks and basalts did not offer
significant groundwater storage and the main aquifer was located in alluvial deposits
beneath the channel. As a consequence, single runoff events (three to eight per year) had
to be regarded as an important water resource. Over a period of two years water balance
components were determined independently for 13 runoff producing and 13 non-runoff
producing events. Mean values for these events indicated that only 3% of annual
precipitation became surface runoff, of which 70–75% contributed to recharge of the
shallow alluvial aquifers. As a whole, 63% of the annual rain was lost by evaporation
and 30–32% was stored as soil moisture in the unsaturated zone. The accuracy of the
calculated water balance, however, strongly depended on correct estimation of the mean
spatial precipitation and potential evaporation.
In a second study Sorman and Abdulrazzak (1993, 1997) more closely examined
recharge to an alluvial aquifer within the Tabalah catchment; the volume of transmission
losses was determined for 27 events for a study reach of about 60.5 km. Gauged volumes
of upstream inflow were combined with tributary runoff contributions and subsequently
related to the downstream outflow volumes. Tributary input was estimated using
measured precipitation and the simple SCS-formula (SCS 1985) for runoff generation.
Relationships between the magnitude of transmission losses and flow parameters were
obtained by regression analysis.
It was noted that transmission losses were highly correlated to inflow volume
(r
2
¼ 0:902Þ:
T
L
¼ 0:19 þ 0:47V
UP
ð20Þ
where T
L
and V
UP
are the volumes (MCM) of transmission loss and upstream inflow into
the reach, respectively. The measured rise in groundwater table for the underlying
alluvial aquifer (GWR, m) was related to the volume of transmission losses by:
GWR ¼ 0:005 þ 0:594T
L
ð21Þ
with an r
2
of 0.78. Reliable estimates of transmission loss and associated groundwater
table rise could hence be achieved knowing only the inflow volume. However, these
equations remain site-specific, and may require further verification and modification
using additional data from other arid channels.
To shed more light on evaporation processes from bare soils in wadi channels, Sorman
and Abdulrazzak (1995) used different approaches on an experimental reach within the
Tabalah catchment. They first determined potential evaporation using various methods.
Concurrent soil moisture data were obtained by neutron probe measurements directly in
the channel alluvium. From these measurements groundwater recharge due to direct
infiltration of rain water could thus be excluded. When ponded water as a result of wadi
flow was recorded, the wetting front reached the shallow groundwater table and recharged
the shallow subsurface reservoir. Daily rates of actual evaporation were estimated by
comparing soil moisture contents at different times. The values reached 3.0 mmday
À1
immediately after floods or rain, but quickly decreased to 1.5 mmday
À1
in dry periods.
After a long dry season actual evaporation could decrease to as low as 0.1–0.2 mmday
À1
.
These values were confirmed by measured data from an artificial rainfall/infiltration
experiment.
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 139
El-Hames and Richards (1998) used the knowledge and data described above to
develop and apply a physically-based rainfall-runoff model to the upper part (170 km
2
Þ of
the Tabalah catchment. Kinematic wave theory and a full solution of the St. Venent
equations were used to account for flood routing along slopes and in wadi channels,
respectively. A numerical scheme solving the Richards equation was coupled with these
flood routing techniques to account for infiltration losses. In the absence of reliable
spatially distributed rainfall data, full calibration of the model was rather difficult.
However, the model could still reproduce three storm runoff events with a fairly high
degree of precision (Figure 4.12).
The arid Wadi Ghat, Saudi Arabia
The 597 km
2
Wadi Ghat catchment drains the Asir Mountain range, in southwest Saudi
Arabia, to the Red Sea. Annual precipitation is 322 mm and approximately 90% of the
catchment consists of rocky outcrops and shallow soils. Intense convectional rain storms
produce typical flash floods with steep rising limbs and rapid recession to zero base flow.
Walters (1989a) reported on a unique flood event which occurred on 23 April 1985.
Three rain gauges located within the catchment and seven in its surrounding area
facilitated reconstruction of the spatial rainfall distribution. During four hours a rain cell
crossed the catchment from west to east. Maximum recorded rainfall (177.4 mm) occurred
within three hours, reaching an intensity of 115.4 mmhr
À1
in the southeastern part of the
catchment. This intense rainfall caused a large flash flood at the Wadi Ghat gauging
station (Figure 4.13).
After a modest increase there was a tremendous rise to the peak of 3200 m
À3
s
À1
.
Comparing flood volume with spatially weighted rainfall as determined by the Theissen
polygon method, resulted in a runoff coefficient of 27.2%. Frequency analysis indicated
that the hourly rainfall had a return period which exceeded 200 years, while the recorded
peak discharge could be expected on average once every 143 years.
The arid Barrier range, Australia
Most ephemeral channels draining western flanks of the Barrier Range in western New
South Wales, Australia, are ungauged. The greatest volume of storm runoff results from
synoptic scale depressions rather than from local convective storms. Mean annual rainfall
and potential evaporation total 190 and more than 2000 mm, respectively. The Barrier
Range is composed of crystalline basement and sedimentary sequences, while the flanking
plains are covered by accumulated piedmont sediments. In the absence of gauged stream
Figure 4.12. Observed and simulated hydrographs for three events in the upper Tabalah catchment
(El-Hames & Richards 1998).
140 Understanding water in a dry environment
flow data, Dunkerley (1992) surveyed channel form and bed material at sequential sites
along two lowland stream reaches.
Cross-sections were mapped at intervals of about 1 km and channel gradients, highest
water surface elevations and the maximum grain size transported during flow events were
determined. From these parameters critical flow velocities (required to transport the
largest boulders), mean flow velocities and discharges were estimated. All parameters
significantly declined downstream. The estimates of flood discharge could not substitute
actual flowdata, since they were based on calculated velocities without fully understanding
the flow mechanics. However, their striking downstream decline provided valuable
indications of channel processes and emphasized the importance of transmission losses
in these environments (Figure 4.14). Mean rates of discharge loss (19.8 m
3
s
À1
km
À1
and
17.0 m
3
s
À1
km
À1
Þ were in surprisingly close agreement for the two wadis.
4.3.4 Regional comparisons
Floods and transmission losses in Yemen
Farquharson et al. (1996) studied surface water resources in Yemen. The mountainous
nature of the country, rising from sea level to over 3700 m within about 100 km, strongly
affects the hydrology. The orographic influence on rainfall is strong and mean annual
values vary from 50 to 800 mm. In most dry upland areas a unique practice of bunding and
terracing impedes immediate runoff and erosion, permitting reliance on rain-fed agri-
culture. Short data records, typical for arid and semi-arid regions, made assessment of the
available water resources even more difficult. Long-term runoff records were available for
only a few main wadis with only two sites providing data for more than 20 years.
Figure 4.13. Flash flood at Wadi Ghat (Walters 1989a).
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 141
Since rainfall records covered a longer time period and were thought to be more
reliable, they were used to prolong runoff records for the northern part of the country with
the help of a rainfall-runoff model. Characteristic zones for surface runoff were classified
to account for the effect of terracing and water absorption into deep alluvium layers; the
model used the SCS Curve Number method (SCS 1985) and was calibrated for six
different wadis. By incorporating existing sparse and sporadic flow records in the southern
and eastern parts of the country, a countrywide relationship between mean annual rainfall
and runoff was established (Figure 4.15). Large variations in the runoff coefficients were
related to differences in topography and land use. However, even in the most arid areas
runoff coefficients did not fall below 5%.
Alderwish and Dottridge (1995) selected catchments in the intermontane Sana’a basin
to quantify the yearly recharge from two ephemeral streams. They first collected all the
available geological, hydrogeological and hydrochemical information. With this
extensive set of subsurface data they calibrated the finite-difference groundwater model
MODFLOW (McDonald & Harbaugh 1988) in a steady-state, reproducing the general
pattern of groundwater flow.
Using the steady-state model as a starting point, a transient calibration was performed
including four floods in the first rainy season of 1993. Detailed, regular water level
measurements in the alluvial aquifer had already been initiated. The boundary conditions
from the steady-state calibration (aquifer thickness and hydraulic conductivity) were left
Figure 4.14. Discharge estimates for two ephemeral channels in Australia (Dunkerley 1992).
142 Understanding water in a dry environment
unchanged. By a trial and error procedure, stream bed hydraulic conductance (represent-
ing the degree of hydraulic connectivity between wadi and alluvial aquifer) and specific
yield of the alluvium were adjusted (calibrated) until the observed groundwater hydro-
graphs could be reproduced by MODFLOW. As a result, recharge from the two wadis
during a rainy season could be quantified; these compared well with independent esti-
mates of recharge derived from computations of the surface water balance (Table 4.7).
High magnitude floods in the entire United States
Costa (1987) analysed the largest historic rainfall-runoff floods from small catchments
(0.39–370 km
2
Þ in the entire USA; twelve were identified to be the largest ever measured.
For all of them, post-flood surveys and subsequent calculations by the slope-area method
provided indirect measurements of peak discharge. All events plotted on a smooth curve
of drainage area versus discharge, and occurred in the semi-arid and arid parts of the
western and southwestern United States (Figure 4.16). Mean annual precipitation in these
catchments ranged from 114 to 676 mm. However, the greatest measured rainfall inten-
sities for short durations were measured in humid parts of the United States and did not
coincide with the maximum flood peaks.
Estimated composite Manning’s n values ranged from 0.028 to 0.048 with a mean of
0.038. Mean peak flow velocities and maximum Froude numbers for the entire channel
cross sections were 3.47–9.97 m s
À1
and 0.81–2.49 respectively. This indicated critical
or even supercritical conditions during peak flow. Shear stresses and unit stream powers
Figure 4.15. Mean annual rainfall and runoff in Yemen (Farquharson et al. 1996).
Table 4.7. Calculated recharge volumes for two wadis in Yemen (Alderwish & Dottridge 1995).
Location Catchment area Recharge (m
3
Þ from Recharge (m
3
Þ from
(km
2
Þ groundwater model channel water balance
Wadi Dhar 13.4 35,718 37,635
Wadi Alsir 182.7 594,720 548,575
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 143
were several hundred times greater than for floods in large rivers (e.g. Mississippi,
Amazon). Morphometric catchment characteristics did not differ markedly from other
flash-flood prone areas. Exceptions could only be found in relatively high elongation ratios,
indicating short compact basins and relatively low drainage densities. It was concluded
that the location of the largest historic flash-flood peak discharges from small basins
appeared to be controlled by an optimum combination of high rainfall intensity, and basin
physiographic and morphologic characteristics. Key environmental conditions were: (a)
the rapid surface runoff response typical for arid and semi-arid climate, due to an
abundance of exposed bedrock and restricted soil and vegetation cover; and (b) prevailing
short, steep and rugged catchments.
4.4 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Surface flow plays a decisive role in the hydrological balance of dry areas, as it is
responsible for the redistribution of its rare renewable water resources. Unlike in most
humid areas, floods mobilise huge amounts of sediment leaving fluvial forms indelibly
imprinted on the landscape. Two main hydrological processes dominate their occurrence:
The generation of Hortonian overland flow on dry land terrain, and transmission losses
into the dry alluvial beds of ephemeral channels. Similar to dry land rainfall, these
processes are characterized by an accentuated spatial heterogeneity making them difficult
to assess for catchment-scale problems.
The present chapter has presented an overview of processes and techniques for their
assessment. Case studies show that dry land research has been performed in many parts of
the globe. Using empirical regression equations, general results may be translated to similar
catchments in order to obtain initial estimates. However, caution must be exercised when
Figure 4.16. Envelope curves (based on data that existed in 1890, 1939 and 1985) of the largest
rainfall-runoff floods measured in the United States (Costa 1987).
144 Understanding water in a dry environment
equations lack relations to characteristics of the area, such as eqns. (2)–(5) and (19)–(21),
especially when based on only a few independent data sets. Others, where surface char-
acteristics are included (eqns. 6–14 and 18), have a more general character and should be
given priority where possible. For sound hydrological analyses all equations should be
corroborated by local field data, which does not necessarily require establishing an extens-
ive hydrometric network. In particular, the paleoflood techniques described in Section
4.2.2 and applied in case studies (Sections 4.3.3 and 4.3.4), offer lower cost alternatives.
With ongoing progress in computer technology, hydrological models will be increas-
ingly used also in arid and semi-arid areas. For these, similar aspects apply as for regres-
sion relations. Simple, lumped approaches depend on calibration with local runoff data.
As such, their parameters comprise uncertainties of hydrometric measurements and depend
on local catchment characteristics. Their use should thus be restricted to catchments with
long data records and parameter values should not be directly transferred. If calibration is
minimized, the general applicability of a model increases (see Section 4.3.3). However,
the approach should then be kept as simple as possible, since the number of input param-
eters required may limit general applicability. Recent techniques (e.g. remote sensing,
GIS) have already facilitated parameter determination for a rather simple but completely
non-calibrated rainfall-runoff model (see Section 4.3.3), making it applicable for ungauged
catchments.
Finally, episodic dry land floods offer an often unused potential for the development of
meagre arid and semi-arid water resources. Their wise use, e.g. for a controlled recharge
of local and regional aquifers, may help bridge times of drought and safeguard the often
non-renewable water resources in deep aquifers for future generations.
4.5 LIST OF SYMBOLS
1/4PWK ‘Width’ of the hydrograph at 1/4 peak stage min
1/2PKW ‘Width’ of the hydrograph at 1/2 peak stage min
A Soil loss kg m
À2
s
À1
A Drainage area km
2
C Cropping management factor –
C
ev
Tracer concentration in the event water mg L
À1
C
ges
Tracer concentration in the runoff mg L
À1
C
prev
Tracer concentration in the pre-event water mg L
À1
D
d
Drainage density km
À1
D
i
Flow duration hr
F
C
Spatially weighted erodibility factor –
GWR Measured rise in groundwater table m
IK Index quantifying initial moisture –
k Recession constant –
K Effective hydraulic conductivity in hr
À1
K Soil erodibility factor –
L Slope length factor –
L
f
Generated plot surface runoff mm
L
o
Observed catchment runoff mm
LS Topographic factor –
Surface runoff and sediment dynamics in arid and semi-arid regions 145
MAF Mean annual flood m
3
s
À1
Q Mean annual runoff 10
6
m
3
P Erosion control practice factor –
P Annual rainfall cm
P
o
Threshold runoff volume acre-feet
P
i
Inflow volume to a channel reach acre-feet
P
U
Rainfall depth mm
R Rainfall erositivity factor –
S Slope gradient factor –
S Catchment slope –
T
L
Volume of transmission loss MCM
Q
ev
Amount of event water m
3
s
À1
Q
ges
Total runoff m
3
s
À1
Q
i
Annual maximum flood m
3
s
À1
Q
o
Outflow volume of a channel reach acre-feet
Q
prev
Amount of pre-event water m
3
s
À1
V Volume of sediment yield m
3
yr
À1
V
UP
Volume of inflow into a channel reach MCM
w Width of a channel reach feet
x Length of a channel reach feet
X Soil erosion t ha
À1
yr
À1
Y Radionuclide loss (
137
Cs) %
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conditions—a case study of Tabalah Basin, Saudi Arabia. Hydrological Processes 3: 107–122.
Agnew, C. & Anderson, E. 1992. Water Resources in the Arid Realm. Routledge, London.
Al-Weshah, R.A. 2002a. Rainfall-runoff analysis and modelling in wadi systems. In: H.S. Wheater
& R.A. Al-Weshah (eds), Hydrology of Wadi Systems. UNESCO IHP-V Technical Documents
in Hydrology 55: 87–111.
Al-Weshah, R.A. (ed.) 2002b. Water Resources of Wadi Systems in the Arab World: Case Studies
(Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia). IHP Arab Wadi Hydrology Network, UNESCO
Cairo Office, 12.
Alderwish, A. & Dottridge, J. 1995. Modelling infiltration from ephemeral wadi flows in the
Sana’a basin, Yemen. In: P.L. Younger (ed.), Modelling River–Aquifer Interactions. British
Hydrological Society Occasional Paper 6, pp. 4–16.
Alhamid, A.A. & Reid, I. 2002. Sediment and the vulnerability of water resources. In: H.S. Wheater
& R.A. Al-Weshah (eds), Hydrology of Wadi Systems. UNESCO IHP-V Technical Documents
in Hydrology 55: 37–55.
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150 Understanding water in a dry environment
CHAPTER 5
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones
Jan M.H. Hendrickx, Fred M. Phillips and J. Bruce J. Harrison
Department of Earth & Environmental Science, New Mexico Tech, Socorro, New Mexico, USA
ABSTRACT: Water flow in arid and semi-arid vadose zones is not yet well understood. For
example, the knowledge or tools to completely evaluate the role of vapour flow in arid vadose
zones with either shallow or deep groundwater tables is still not available. The objective of this
chapter is to describe conceptual and physical models of water flow in the vadose zone, to discuss
controls on water movement, and to present case studies of flow mechanisms. It is shown how the
spatial scale is related to different conceptual and physical water flow models, and numerous field
examples are cited to demonstrate the controls on water movement under different environmental
conditions. The chapter closes with five case studies by the authors and their graduate students at
New Mexico Tech.
5.1 INTRODUCTION
Arid and semi-arid vadose zones are on the frontier of hydrological understanding. This
challenge has generally been ignored by soil physicists, who have concentrated on
agricultural applications, as well as by hydrologists, who have generally emphasized more
humid environments. The increasing pressures on water supplies in desert regions due to
burgeoning populations, together with the ever-increasing use of arid vadose zones for
hazardous and radioactive waste disposal, have now directed an enhanced research effort
towards a better understanding of hydrological processes in this environment.
The present chapter focuses on water flow processes that are of interest for evaluating
groundwater recharge, since its accurate assessment has become a critical issue in many
arid and semi-arid regions that are afflicted by water resource scarcity. Not only does the
rate of groundwater recharge affect the sustainable volume of water that can be pumped
from an aquifer, but it also places a limit on the movement of contaminants oozing from
landfills and radioactive waste disposal sites.
The determination of groundwater recharge in arid and semi-arid regions is inherently
difficult for two reasons. First, the recharge estimate depends on a water balance in which
actual evapotranspiration is almost equal to effective precipitation; i.e. precipitation that
has infiltrated into the vadose zone. The recharge is thus determined by subtracting two
relatively large numbers (precipitation and actual evapotranspiration) to find a small
number (recharge). A small error in one of the large numbers will result in a large error in
the small number. For example, in New Mexico and west Texas precipitation rates vary
from 190 to 444 mmyr
À1
and annual potential evapotranspiration rates from 1156 to
1960 mm, while recharge rates fluctuate between 0.05 and 37 mmyr
À1
(Stephens 1995).
An error as small as one percent in precipitation measurements, i.e about 2–5 mmyr
À1
,
may cause an error of two orders of magnitude in the recharge rate.
Another factor which complicates recharge evaluation through desert vadose zones
is the large spatial and temporal variability of water fluxes (Johnston 1987; Scanlon 1992;
Kearns & Hendrickx 1998). These spatially variable water fluxes cause solutes and conta-
minants to migrate rapidly into some areas of the vadose zone, hence bypassing a large
part of its buffering capacity. Since our understanding of water flow mechanisms in the
vadose zone is still limited, we cannot yet predict with confidence under what precipit-
ation regimes, soil conditions and vegetation types bypass flow will occur in these desert
vadose zones (Scanlon et al. 1997; Hendrickx & Flury 2001).
The objective of this chapter, therefore, is to describe conceptual and physical models
of water flow in the vadose zone, to discuss controls on water movement and to present
case studies of flow mechanisms. For methods to determine groundwater recharge under
arid and semi-arid conditions reference should be made to the comprehensive texts by
(e.g.) Lerner et al. (1990) and Simmers (1997).
5.2 CONCEPTUAL AND PHYSICAL MODELS FOR WATER FLOW
IN THE VADOSE ZONE
The physical principles that govern water flow through the vadose zone are well
understood and many excellent text books are available that deal with this topic at an
introductory (Marshall & Holmes 1979; Koorevaar et al. 1983; Campbell 1985; Hanks &
Ashcroft 1986; Jury et al. 1991; Hillel 1998; Selker et al. 1999) and an advanced level
(Childs 1969; Bear 1972; Kirkham & Powers 1972; Corey 1990; Dullien 1992). However,
the formulation of comprehensive conceptual models that capture the entire complexity of
water flow processes at different scales remains a challenge for many vadose zones. In this
chapter the authors follow Hendrickx and Flury (2001), who grouped water flowprocesses
into different classes using three conceptual models as a classification criterion: (1) a fluid
continuum filling the pores; (2) a representative volume over which physical variables are
averaged; and (3) a water mass-balance approach. The authors recognized that these three
conceptual models often—but not always—coincide with a distinctive spatial scale: pore
scale, Darcian scale and areal scale.
5.2.1 Pore scale
Flows of incompressible Newtonian fluids such as water are mathematically described by
the Navier–Stokes equations, which are non-linear, second order, partial differential equa-
tions. These equations are related to a conceptual model for the pore scale that is based on
the concept of a fluid continuum filling the void space. Unfortunately, the intricacy of the
Navier–Stokes equations allows only a few exact mathematical solutions (Currie 1993).
One of these is the Hagen–Poiseuille equation that describes laminar flow through circular
tubes (i.e. flow through a pore), between two parallel plates (i.e. flow through a fracture)
and over a plate (i.e. film flow).
For example, the water flux q
fr
(ms
À1
) through a saturated parallel, smooth-walled
fracture with aperture opening b (m) under laminar flow conditions is (Snow 1969; Corey
152 Understanding water in a dry environment
1990; Bear 1993; Streeter et al. 1998):
q
fr
¼ ÀK
fr
dH
dz
ð1Þ
where H is total hydraulic head (m), z is vertical distance (m) and K
fr
is the hydraulic
conductivity in the fracture (ms
À1
), defined as:
K
fr
¼
,g
j
b
2
12
ð2Þ
where , is fluid density (kg m
À3
), g the acceleration due to gravity (ms
À2
) and j is the
dynamic viscosity (kg s
À1
m
À1
).
5.2.2 Darcian scale
The geometrical complexity of pore size distributions in porous materials makes it very
cumbersome to treat water flow by referring to only the fluid continuum filling the pore
space. A solution for this problem is found by moving to a larger scale. Instead of trying to
exactly describe pore geometries and corresponding boundary conditions, the actual
multi-phase porous medium is replaced by a fictitious representative volume consisting of
many pores and solids over which an average is performed. Thus, changing the conceptual
model from one based on a fluid continuum at the pore scale to one based on a repre-
sentative volume at the Darcian scale, makes it possible to replace the real porous medium,
for which mathematical treatment is almost hopeless, by a fictitious porous medium for
which mathematical treatment is manageable (Bear 1972).
At the Darcian scale water movement through a one-dimensional, unsaturated, vertical
soil column is mathematically expressed by the Darcy–Buckingham equation:
q ¼ ÀKðhÞ
dH
dz
ð3Þ
where q is the water flux (ms
À1
), K(h) the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity (ms
À1
)
and H the total hydraulic head:
H ¼ h þ z ð4Þ
in which h is the (negative) water pressure (m) and z the elevation head or height above a
reference level (m).
Equations (1) and (3) have the same functional form; i.e. the flux is proportional to the
total hydraulic gradient. However, the proportionality factors in the two flux laws are
fundamentally different. The hydraulic conductivity K
fr
applies to one single aperture,
whereas the hydraulic conductivity K(h) is defined over a representative volume of the
porous medium. As a result the latter is much more complex than the hydraulic con-
ductivity of a smooth fracture which is, for a given fluid, completely defined by one param-
eter, the aperture width (eqn. 2).
Only empirical formulations of the hydraulic conductivity K(h) exist, though several
mathematical functions have been proposed to represent measured data. The complex-
ity of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity is apparent in the function proposed by
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 153
Van Genuchten (1980):
Kð0Þ ¼ K
s
0 À 0
r
0
s
À 0
r
!
l
1 À 1 À
0 À 0
r
0
s
À 0
r

1,m
" #
m
" #
2
ð5Þ
where K
s
is the saturated hydraulic conductivity (ms
À1
), 0 the volumetric soil water
content (m
3
m
À3
), 0
s
the saturated water content (m
3
m
À3
) often taken equal to the soil
porosity, 0
r
is residual water content (m
3
m
À3
), and the parameters n, m and l are empirical
constants. The relationship between 0 and h, the water retention characteristic, is:
0 À 0
r
0
s
À 0
r
¼
1
1 þ ðchÞ
n
½ Š
m
ð6Þ
where c (m
À1
), n and m are parameters which determine the water retention curve shape.
As it is often assumed that m¼ 1 À 1/n, six parameters are needed to define hydraulic
conductivity as a function of soil water pressure h, viz: K
s
, 0
s
, 0
r
, n, l and c. The parameter
values can be determined from measured 0–h and K–h data pairs using non-linear curve
fitting programs available in statistical software packages, spreadsheets, or by optimization
software such as the package RETC developed by Van Genuchten et al. (1991).
In arid vadose zones, vapour flow may play an important role when small water fluxes
in the order of a few mm per year need to be evaluated. Since vapour and liquid fluxes
often occur simultaneously, Equation (3) is replaced by an equation for total mass water
flux (liquid and vapour), q
m
, driven by pressure and temperature gradients (e.g. Milly
1984a,b; Scanlon & Milly 1994):
q
m
¼ À K
l
ðhÞ À K
v
ðhÞ ½ Š
0h
0z
þ D
Tv
þ D
Tl
½ Š
0T
0z
À K
l
ðhÞ ð7Þ
where K
l
ðhÞ is the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity for liquid flow, K
v
ðhÞ is isothermal
vapour diffusivity, D
Tv
the thermal vapour diffusivity, D
Tl
is the transport coefficient for
liquid flow due to thermal gradients and T is soil temperature. The last term on the right
side of eqn. (7) represents the water flux due to gravity; the mass of vapour compared to
that for water is so small that vapour gravity flow can be neglected.
Assuming that 0r(h)/0T ¼ 0 (Philip &de Vries 1957), the isothermal vapour diffusivity
K
v
ðhÞ is expressed as (Milly 1984b; Fayer & Gee 1992):
K
v
ðhÞ ¼ D
a
c½n À 0ðhފ
,
vs
,
l
Mg
RT
rðhÞ ð8Þ
where D
a
is the molecular diffusivity of water vapour in bulk air (cm
2
s
À1
), c the
tortuosity of the air-filled pore space, n is porosity of the dry soil, 0(h) is the volumetric
soil water content (cm
3
cm
À3
) at a given soil water pressure h (cm), ,
vs
is the saturated
vapour density (g cm
À3
), ,
l
the density of soil water (g cm
À3
), M is the molecular weight
of water (18.015 g), g is the acceleration of gravity (980.7 cms
À2
), R the universal gas
constant (8.3143 Â10
7
erg K
À1
mol
À1
), T is the temperature in K and r(h) the relative
humidity.
The thermal vapour diffusivity is expressed as (Fayer & Gee 1992):
D
Tv
¼ D
a
c ½n À 0ðhފ rðhÞ
d,
vs
dT
ð9Þ
154 Understanding water in a dry environment
Figure 5.1 demonstrates the relative importance of K
l
ðhÞ and K
v
ðhÞ in a sandy soil. An
important aspect of K
v
ðhÞ is its relatively constant value of approximately 2 Â10
À9
cm
day
À1
over a wide range of soil water contents, while K
l
ðhÞ varies ten orders of magnitude.
This is caused by the fact that isothermal vapour conductivity depends on relative humidity
in the soil which remains relatively constant from À10 to À10
5
cm soil water pressure. In
addition, inspection of Equation (8) shows that K
v
ðhÞ is not only rather constant within a
given soil, but will also not change more than approximately one order of magnitude
between soil types since it is directly related to the air-filled pore spaces in the soil.
The K
v
ðhÞ value is very small and it is of some interest to examine its importance. If the
maximum allowable error in our recharge estimate should not exceed 1 mmyr
À1
or
0.003 mmday
À1
and K
v
ðhÞ is estimated as 2 Â10
À9
cmday
À1
, the isothermal vapour flux
only becomes important at hydraulic gradients that continuously exceed 1.5 Â
10
6
cmcm
À1
. It therefore appears that only small errors will be made if isothermal
vapour transport is neglected when calculating recharge rates to deep aquifers in semi-arid
regions. The errors will probably be smaller than inherent uncertainties in the values for
unsaturated hydraulic conductivity. Nevertheless, Fayer & Gee (1992) found that taking
isothermal vapour flow into account considerably improved predicted recharge rates at the
Hanford site (Washington State, USA).
The isothermal vapour and liquid fluxes are driven by the soil water pressure gradient
and are unaffected by the temperature gradient, though temperature plays an indirect role
through temperature dependence of the soil water pressure, hydraulic conductivity and
vapour diffusivity. The thermal liquid flux, q
Tl
can often be ignored since its effects will
be negligible compared with q
Tv
under arid and semi-arid conditions (Milly 1984b;
Campbell 1985). The thermal vapour flux is driven by the temperature gradient and is
unaffected by the soil water pressure gradient. This flux results from variations in
Figure 5.1. Hydraulic conductivity and iso-thermal vapour conductivity for a sandy soil as
functions of water pressure (after Fayer & Gee 1992).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 155
saturated vapour pressures with temperature and is generally considered much more
important than isothermal vapour flux, since vapour gradients resulting from soil water
pressure gradients are small compared to those from temperature gradients (Hanks &
Ashcroft 1986). As a result, thermal vapour diffusivities are typically 10
3
to 10
5
times
larger than isothermal vapour diffusivities in field soils (e.g. Milly 1984b; Scanlon &
Milly 1994; Scanlon et al. 1997).
Seasonal variations of soil temperature with depth in the 2–12 m zone result in a
downward temperature gradient during summer and an upward gradient during winter
(Jury et al. 1991; Scanlon 1994). Because vapour moves from higher to lower tempera-
tures, vapour fluxes are downward during summer and upward during winter. Since
thermal vapour diffusivity increases with temperature, the downward vapour fluxes during
summer are larger than the upward fluxes during winter, which results in a net downward
thermal vapour flux (Fischer 1992; Scanlon 1994).
Theoretical and experimental work by Milly (1984b), Scanlon (1994) and Scanlon and
Milly (1994) presents evidence that this periodicity may result in net downward fluxes of
less than 1.5 mmyr
À1
. However, Milly (1996) conducted another analysis of thermal
vapour diffusion induced by the annual cycle of land heating and arrived at the conclusion
that small thermal vapour fluxes of less than 1.0 mmyr
À1
must be balanced by a matric
potential-induced upward flux of water. This theoretical prediction seems to be supported
by long-term field measurements in the Chihuahuan Desert. It therefore appears that
thermal effects and vapour flow can often be ignored for the assessment of diffuse ground-
water recharge rates in deep vadose zones where capillary rise from a shallow aquifer can
be neglected.
5.2.3 Areal scale
At the areal scale, application of the Darcy–Buckingham equation is not longer practical
since it would require long and expensive field campaigns to characterize and quantify the
spatial variability of the vadose zone at the Darcian scale. One approach for the evaluation
of water movement at a larger scale is to employ water mass balance or soil moisture
budgeting models (e.g. Hendrickx & Walker 1997). For example, groundwater recharge
over a large area can be assessed by an areal water balance equation:
q
r
¼ P þ R À ET À ÁW ð10Þ
where q
r
is the groundwater recharge (mmmth
À1
), P is precipitation, R is the net runoff/
runon, ET is actual evapotranspiration and ÁW is the change in soil moisture storage in
the vadose zone.
Table 5.1 reflects previous work by Wagenet et al. (1994) and Wheatcraft and Cushman
(1991). Wagenet (1998), summarizes principal characteristics of the conceptual and
physical models discussed above. One immediate observation of practical significance is
the fact that conceptual models at different scales result in different physical models and
mathematical equations. Moreover, each of these equations requires a completely
different set of input parameters. The necessary effort and expense to obtain input
parameters for physical models increases with the spatial scale. Flow in a fracture requires
a measurement of its width, whereas unsaturated flow through a soil profile requires
measurements or indirect determination of the six soil parameters K
s
, 0
s
, 0
r
, n, l and c.
156 Understanding water in a dry environment
Evaluation of a regional water balance requires long-term monitoring of soil water
contents, meteorological variables and groundwater levels.
This leads to another practical observation that the time frame of a study will increase if
the scale of its conceptual model becomes larger. While—in principle—it takes little time
to determine fracture widths, it takes several months to measure soil hydraulic properties
and several years of monitoring key environmental parameters to assess the water balance
of a watershed. Moreover, measurements of fracture widths and soil hydraulic properties
yield estimates of their true values within relatively small confidence limits and, thus, can
be used in a deterministic manner. However, the nature of environmental parameters gives
studies at larger scales a stochastic character. The results for such studies frequently have
to rely more on statistical interpolations of field measurements than on well-determined
causal and physical relationships. For given weather conditions in a specific soil profile,
soil water content changes with depth and time, as well as water flow, can be predicted
quite well once the soil hydraulic properties have been determined. However, for the same
weather conditions, determination of regional groundwater recharge using eqn. (10) will
become a stochastic exercise using statistical techniques for the interpolation and averaging
of field soil water content and meteorological measurements.
5.3 CONTROLS ON WATER MOVEMENT
In the previous section it was demonstrated that different conceptual models of water flow
through an unsaturated vadose zone lead to quite different physical models. For a proper
formulation of the correct conceptual model for a specific hydrogeological site one first
needs to consider the controls on water movement. Once the conceptual model has been
formulated, the most appropriate physical model and computer simulation model can be
selected.
Table 5.1. Scales, conceptual models, critical parameters and measurements relevant to flow
mechanisms in the vadose zone (after Hendrickx & Flury 2001).
Spatial
scale
Domain Conceptual
model
Physical
model
Critical
parameters
Measurements Smallest
temporal
scale
Pore Micropores
fractures
Fluid
continuum
Poisseuille
eqn. (1)
Fracture
width
Thin
sections,
NMR
Minutes,
days
Darcian Laboratory
soil
profiles
Representative
volume
Darcy
eqn. (3)
Hydraulic
properties
TDR,
neutron
attenuation,
tensiometers
Hours,
months
Areal Field,
local
depression,
landscape
element
Mass
balance
Mass balance
eqn. (10)
Weather,
soil
moisture
Meteorological
station, TDR,
neutron
attenuation,
remote
sensing,
groundwater
level
Days,
years
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 157
In humid regions a positive correlation exists between groundwater recharge and the
difference between precipitation and actual evapotranspiration. Water fluxes through the
vadose zone are downward for most of the time and can be quantified reasonably well
using existing water balance techniques. However, during the last decade it has become
increasingly clear that the hydrological concepts developed for humid conditions cannot
be transferred to arid regions with impunity (e.g. Scanlon et al. 1997; Tyler et al. 1999; De
Vries & Simmers 2002; Walvoord et al. 2002a). For deep arid vadose zones there is
currently not even agreement among hydrologists about the direction of water flow; i.e. is
net water movement upward or downward (Walvoord 2002)? This is due to the special
characteristics of arid vadose zones. Water contents range from very dry after long periods
of drying to saturation after rain storms, and accompanying soil water pressures vary from
À200,000 cm and lower to 0 cm (Gee et al. 1992). Water fluxes can also vary from very
large (100 to 1000 mmyr
À1
) to immeasurably small (<0.01 mmyr
À1
)—(Tyler et al. 1999).
In the shallow subsurface (0–10 m) where thermal gradients are steep, thermally driven
vapour fluxes may dominate the total water flux (Scanlon & Milly 1994). In deep vadose
zones (25 m) a (small) vapour flux under the influence of the geothermal gradient can
also dominate total water movement (Detty et al. 1993; Sully et al. 1994; Walvoord 2002).
The main controls on water movement through arid and semi-arid vadose zones are
climate, vegetation, topography, the vertical and horizontal distribution of geological
materials, and the depth to the groundwater table. Since these controls have been
discussed extensively by Hendrickx & Walker (1997) and Scanlon et al. (1997), as well as
others, focus in this chapter will be on field and computer studies that present quantitative
information.
5.3.1 Climate
Section 5.1 has already stated that deep vadose zone fluxes can in principle be determined
by subtracting two relatively large numbers (precipitation and actual evapotranspiration)
to find a small number (downward water flux). However, a small error in one of the large
numbers will result in a large error in the small number. In addition, the large temporal
variability of arid precipitation regimes causes a large temporal variability of vadose zone
water fluxes. Agnew and Anderson (1992) reviewed precipitation analyses from arid and
semi-arid regions around the world and observed an increased temporal variability with
decreasing daily, ten-day and annual precipitation totals. For example, in Niamey (Niger)
the coefficient of variability for ten-day precipitation totals varies from 55% for a pre-
cipitation total of 67 mm to 144% for 13 mm. Such large temporal variability in precipita-
tion amounts will often lead to an even larger variability of groundwater recharge rates.
Hendrickx and Walker (1997) calculated a coefficient of variability of 164% for the
potential groundwater recharge during the second ten-day period of August at Niono
(Mali), while the coefficients of variability of precipitation and potential evapotranspiration
were 55% and 9%, respectively.
Kearns and Hendrickx (1998) used one hundred years of daily precipitation data from
Las Cruces (New Mexico, USA) to analyze the temporal variability of water fluxes at 2 m
depth in different vadose zones using the SWAP (Soil–Water–Air–Plant) model developed
by Feddes et al. (1978, 1988) and Van Dam et al. (1997). Mean annual rainfall was
203 mm with a minimum and maximum of 87 and 498 mm; the two largest daily rainfall
events during this 100-year period were 165 mm on August 30, 1935 and 104 mm on
158 Understanding water in a dry environment
September 21, 1941. The mean annual potential evapotranspiration was approximately
2000 mm.
Barren, loamy fine sand showed a continuous downward water flux of between 2 and
42 mmyr
À1
throughout the evaluated time period. However, when vegetation was simu-
lated, groundwater recharge varied from zero during the 1950s drought to about
30 mmyr
À1
in 1942 (Figure 5.2). These variations in the recharge flux under vegetated
conditions clearly define five distinct recharge periods during the 100-year period.
Climate conditions supporting the initiation of downward fluxes include both single, very
large rainfall events and gradual soil moisture content increases. Downward water fluxes
at 2 m depth ended if two consecutive years had below average rainfall. This study not
only demonstrates the large temporal variability of downward water fluxes, but also the
presence of long periods without measurable downward fluxes. For example, during the
period 1949–1974, downward water fluxes were quite small compared to the five major
recharge periods occurring in the 100-year simulation. Therefore, one should be careful
when attempting to extrapolate into the future measurements of downward water fluxes in
Figure 5.2. Annual groundwater recharge rates in bare and vegetated loamy fine sand during the
period 1890–1990 in Southern New Mexico (after Kearns & Hendrickx 1998).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 159
the field and lysimeters taken during only a few years. Such measurements are best used
for model validation and process understanding.
5.3.2 Vegetation
Vegetation exerts an important control on water fluxes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones.
For example, Phillips (1994) observed marked uniformity among chloride profiles
throughout the arid regions of the southwestern United States, which he attributed to the
ability of desert vegetation to control water fluxes regionally. The chloride profiles were
remarkably similar even where annual precipitation and soils varied widely. Desert vege-
tation thus has a strong positive feedback with water availability. An increase in water
availability such as found in ephemeral streams, fissured sediments and shallow depres-
sions leads to relatively lush vegetation, while a limited water availability causes a decrease
in vegetation cover. Since the amount of biomass production is directly correlated to the
amount of water transpired by the vegetation, the amount of vegetation is also a good
indicator of transpiration losses under arid conditions.
Figure 5.3 shows changes in water storage at a lysimeter site near Hanford (Washington,
USA) during a period without vegetation (1988–29 March 1991), and after natural
re-vegetation with deep-rooted russian thistle (after 29 March 1991). Water storage in two
adjacent vegetated sites near the lysimeter clearly show the effect of vegetation, as
150 mm more water was stored in the bare lysimeter than in the surrounding vegetated
soils. This increase was mainly caused by winter precipitation during the period
November 1988 to March 1989. While vegetated sites lost all stored winter precipitation in
the following spring and summer, the bare lysimeter lost very little. However, after natural
re-vegetation the lysimeter lost most of its stored water (125 mm) in less than four months.
These results not only demonstrate the large impact vegetation can have on recharge, but
also how rapidly recharge rates may change in response to changes in soil cover.
Increased water storage under bare soils frequently causes an increase in recharge rates.
Near Las Cruces (New Mexico, USA), during 1989 to 1994 Wierenga and Jones (1995,
pers. comm.) measured an average annual recharge rate of ca. 50 mmyr
À1
, or about 20%
of the annual precipitation (250 mm), in a 6 m deep and 2.4 m diameter lysimeter filled
with loamy fine sand and kept vegetation free. In Hanford, however, bare lysimeters filled
with silt loam produced only limited recharge under conditions of normal and elevated
precipitation. This is due to the hydraulic properties of the silt loam, which enhance
capillary upward water flow from deep in the profile for sufficiently long periods to dry
out the soil profile annually (Gee et al. 1994).
The amount of stored water that can be removed by vegetation depends mainly on the
rooting depth; shallow rooted grasses will remove less water than deeper rooted shrubs
and trees. Eastham et al. (1993) found that soil water depletions were greater for trees than
for pasture on a deep loamy sand (Figure 5.4). Soil water content measurements to 5 m
depth showed that no water was extracted below 3.5 m under pasture, while under trees
water content changes occurred from 0 to 5 m. A sudden decrease in soil water content is
seen after September 1987. Whereas the amount of stored water under pasture returns to
its original level in June 1988, it remains permanently lower under the trees.
In Australia, Allison et al. (1990) compiled literature data to compare recharge rates
under mallee communities comprising several species of Eucaluptus before and after
clearing. Recharge rates under the original native mallee vegetation were in the order of
160 Understanding water in a dry environment
0.1 mmyr
À1
. After clearing, the land was revegetated with agricultural crops and pasture
which have a shallower rooting depth than the Eucaluptus trees. As a result, recharge rates
after clearing increased by almost two orders of magnitude to between 5 and 30 mmyr
À1
.
Cook et al. (1994) have since determined recharge rates of 0.1–0.9 mmyr
À1
for native
mallee regions and 4–28 mmyr
À1
for pasture areas.
The critical importance of vegetation is illustrated in a study performed by Walvoord
(2002) in west Texas, USA. She cored soils beneath various vegetation types within a
relatively limited area. Cores beneath land covered by creosote scrub (Larrea tredentata)
and desert grass (Bouteloua gracilis and Muhlenbergia spp.) showed very negative soil-
water potentials (À1500 to À1000 m) close to the surface, with the negative potentials
extending to at least 10 m depth. The chloride ion inventories measured in soil water were
large, equivalent to 12,000–30,000 years worth of atmospheric chloride deposition.
450
400
350
300
250
200
150
25
20
(Jan.–July)
79-Yr.-Aug.162
15
10
5
0
1988 Jul 1989 Jul 1990 Jul 1991 Jul
Lysimeter
Adjacent site (Grass)
Adjacent site (Shrub)
29 March
23 July
S
t
o
r
a
g
e

(
m
m
)
P
r
e
c
i
p
i
t
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
m
)
Lysimeter
vegetation
removed
Lysimeter
vegetation
present
Precipitation (mm)
Yr.
1988
1989
1990
1991
Total
106
175
128
109
Figure 5.3. Precipitation and water storage (0–5 m depth) changes with time at the Hanford deep
lysimeter site. The lysimeter was bare until March 1991 (Gee et al. 1994).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 161
However, cores recovered from beneath a nearby stand of juniper trees (Juniperus
coahuilensis and Juniperus pinchotii) were markedly different. Water potentials were
much less negative (À500 m) and the chloride inventory was <200 years worth of
accumulation. This evidence indicates that at the desert scrub and grassland localities
recharge had never moved below the root zone since the end of the last glacial period,
when the climate was much wetter. In contrast, the vadose zone at the juniper site appears
to be regularly flushed and recharge rates of 5–15 mmyr
À1
can be calculated using the
chloride mass balance method (Allison & Hughes 1978; Murphy et al. 1996). These
results, in combination with previous vadose zone core data gathered in the southwestern
United States (Phillips 1994) and with recent modelling of vadose zone hydrodynamics
(Walvoord et al. 2002a), indicate that desert vegetation can establish essentially permanent
upward hydraulic gradients, effectively precluding actual diffuse recharge. However, at
locations with less xeric vegetation (such as the pygmy pin˜on and juniper forest)
significant recharge may move downward. These results suggest that understanding the
relations between vegetation communities and vadose zone hydrological processes may be
the most profitable avenue toward quantifying diffuse groundwater recharge.
The interaction between vegetation and soil type is so complex that numerical computer
models are needed to evaluate their effects on recharge. Rockhold et al. (1995) calculated
recharges for three soil types and four soil covers using the model UNSAT-H (Fayer &
Jones 1990). Average annual precipitation for the 30 year (1963–1993) simulation period
was 160 mm, ranging from a low of 76 mm in 1976 to a high of 281 mm in 1983. The
average, minimum and maximum recharge rates for the 30-year simulation period are
given in Table 5.2. Although a bare soil always results in more recharge, the absolute
differences in recharge between a bare and vegetated soil become less when the soil
texture becomes finer. The annual recharge rate for Sagebrush on silt loam is twice that on
sand. This unexpected difference is a result of the different hydraulic properties for the
Figure 5.4. Change in available soil water relative to the available water at tree planting (July 1986)
measured beneath Eucalyptus camaldulensis, Chamaecytisus proliferus and pasture from
September 1986 to September 1989 (Eastham et al. 1993).
162 Understanding water in a dry environment
two soils; silt loam has a higher hydraulic conductivity at low water contents than sand, so
that more water can percolate deeper into the profile. The study also showed the time lag
between recharge and precipitation events, and made a strong case for long-term
monitoring of parameters which determine recharge rates. For example, if a five-year
lysimeter study had been conducted with Bunchgrass on uniform sand during 1976–1981
the recharge rate would have approximated 7 mmyr
À1
, whereas the same study during
1969–1974 would have given approximately 2 mmyr
À1
.
5.3.3 Topography
In comparison to direct recharge, localized recharge is often considered to be at least as
significant, if not the most important source of natural recharge in arid and semi-arid lands
(Gee & Hillel 1988; Lerner et al. 1990; Stephens 1994; Wood & Sanford 1995). Localized
recharge implies horizontal movement of surface and/or near-surface water and occurs in
weathered, bare hard rock or limestone terrain, topographical depressions, minor wadis or
arroyos and in mountain front systems. To account for localized recharge it is necessary to
measure or estimate local runoff and runon volumes so that these can be included in the
water balance. Such estimates and measurements are often complicated by subsurface
components of runoff and runon flow (Anderson & Burt 1990), and by the fact that they
frequently occur on a scale too detailed to map for engineering studies (Lerner et al. 1990).
A classical example of localized recharge occurs in the numerous depressions dotting
the Great Plains of North America. These features can measure tens to thousands of
metres across, are often occupied by wetlands or lakes, and are referred to as potholes,
sloughs or playas. Meyboom (1966) was one of the first investigators to quantify localized
recharge during a one-year study of a till plain pothole with a watershed contributing area
of 0.8 ha in south-central Saskatchewan (Canada). His pothole had a bottom diameter of
40 m and the height of its surrounding rim varied from 3 to 8 m. It was determined that the
pothole or local depression, with 15% of the total surface area, contributed 70% of the
recharge. Other investigators have also reported studies that confirm the large contribution
of localized recharge described by Meyboom (1966); examples are offered by Freeze and
Banner (1970), Miller et al. (1985) and Winter (1986). Further, using chemical techniques
Wood and Sanford (1995) estimated that approximately half (4–5 mmyr
À1
) of the annual
recharge (9–10 mmyr
À1
) to the Ogallala Aquifer on the southern High Plains in the USA
occurs through playa floors that cover only 6% of the area. Fissured sediments in the
Table 5.2. Predicted recharge rates for different soil and plant types for the period 1963–1993
(Rockhold et al. 1995).
Soil type Recharge rate (mmyr
À1
)
No vegetation Cheatgrass Bunchgrass Sagebrush
av min max av min max av min max av min max
Sand 22 11 68 16 7 46 5 1.5 15 1 0.2 1.5
Silt loam 7.6 4.9 11 5.8 3.7 8.2 3 1.7 6.4 1 0.4 4.4
Silt loam/sand 1.5 1 2 1.2 0.8 1.9 1 0.3 1.6 0 0.1 0.8
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 163
Chihuahuan Desert of Texas concentrate surface runoff, which results in much higher
water fluxes beneath these fissures than in surrounding areas (Scanlon 1992).
The effects of topographic, soil and climatic conditions on the magnitude of depression
focused recharge for specific sites can be assessed using the mathematical models
presented by Nieber et al. (1993) and Boers (1994). Tosomeen (1991) has also used
Nieber’s original model to study the effects of these factors on localized recharge in a
general sense. Significant differences between localized recharge rates were found to be
due to differences in the area ratio between size of catchment and depression areas, as well
as the saturated hydraulic conductivities of these areas. Climate also was found to have a
large impact. For the same catchment and depression characteristics, the model predicted
twenty times more localized recharge for the climatic conditions in Texas, with an annual
precipitation of 950 mm, than for North Carolina with an annual precipitation of 1170 mm
(Figure 5.5). This shows that precipitation distribution during the year plays an important
role in localized recharge processes.
Boers (1994) developed a procedure for the design of rain water harvesting catchments
in arid and semi-arid zones that can also be used for the assessment of localized recharge.
His method is based on actual evapotranspiration prediction using the numerical soil water
balance model SWAP (Feddes et al. 1978, 1988; Van Dam et al. 1997), while the surface
flow component is predicted by a runoff model (Boers et al. 1986). The micro-catchment
in Figure 5.6 illustrates how the four components of rain water harvesting interact. A
micro-catchment consists of a runoff area with a maximum flow distance of 100 m and an
Location
Texas
Florida
California
North Carolina
Annual
rainfall (mm)
950
1510
460
1170
Annual
pot. evap. (mm)
1850
1850
1610
1490
Annual
# storms
75
123
47
104
90 Percentile
rainfall (mm)
34.7
34.6
24.6
26.6
Annual
# runoff storms
4
10
1
5
Figure 5.5. Relationship between area ratio (catchment size over basin/depression size) and
recharge enhancement as a function of four different climates in a catchment and depression with
clay soil (Tosomeen 1991). The number of runoff storms is the mean number of storms that
produced runoff from a clay soil.
164 Understanding water in a dry environment
adjacent basin area (the depression) with a tree, bush or row crop. The objective of rain
water harvesting is to induce runoff, collect and store the water in the basin area, and
conserve it in the root zone for consumptive use by the vegetation. The objective of a
scheme for recharge enhancement would be quite similar except for the latter component;
instead of conserving water in the root zone, one would aim to increase deep percolation
or recharge below the root zone.
The components shown in Figure 5.6 yield the following water balance on an annual
basis:
D ¼ P þ R À E
i
À E
w
À E
act
À T
act
À ÁW ð11Þ
where D is deep percolation or recharge, P is precipitation, R is runoff calculated over the
basin area from which collected, E
i
is evaporation of water intercepted by the vegetation,
E
w
is open-water evaporation, E
act
is the evaporation from bare soil, T
act
is actual
transpiration by the vegetation and ÁW is the increase in soil water storage in the root
zone. Table 5.3 presents these annual water balance components for Sadore´ (Niger) for
one Neem tree in a basin of 8 m
2
with a soil profile comprising 3 m of fine sand overlying
2 m of laterite gravel. If the area ratio is equal to zero, i.e. no catchment area present, the
basin receives no runon water and no recharge takes place during a dry, average, or even
a wet year. In a dry year an increase in area ratio to 2.5 and even to 5.0 does not generate
any recharge although it increases actual transpiration and, thus, the growth rate of the
tree. In an average year a modest increase in area ratio from 2.5 to 5 produces a twenty-
two fold increase in recharge from 5 to 113 mm, whereas in a wet year a similar increase
in area ratio produces a four-fold increase in recharge from 38 to 185 mm.
Figure 5.6. Micro-catchment consisting of runoff area and basin area with tree. Rainfall induces
runoff which collects in the basin area where the water infiltrates, is stored and is available for root
water uptake and transpiration. In the basin area losses occur by interception, soil evaporation and
recharge below the root zone (Boers 1994).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 165
Overall, the presented model studies demonstrate the great sensitivity of localized
recharge to rather small changes in topography, soil type and climate. The apparent
potential to increase recharge to shallow aquifers under favourable conditions indicates
that localized recharge manipulation holds promise for water resources management on
arid and semi-arid lands.
5.3.4 Vertical and horizontal distribution of geological materials
The vertical and horizontal distributions of geological materials have a major impact on
water flow and often determine the potential for groundwater recharge. In fine textured
soils infiltrated precipitation water will remain close to the soil surface, where it is
available for evapotranspiration. On the other hand, since macropore flow is common in
highly structured fine textured soils (Flury et al. 1994; Bronswijk et al. 1995) some water
can penetrate deeper into the profile. For an account of modelling macropore flow in soils
the reader is referred to the review by Jarvis and Larsson (2001).
In coarse textured soils precipitation water infiltrates deeper into the soil and becomes
less available for evapotranspiration. For example, using tritium data Dincer et al. (1974)
estimated the water flux in a sand dune area in Saudi Arabia to be 23 mmyr
À1
, which is
about 30% of the long-term mean annual precipitation of 80 mm. Based on measurements
during 1989 to 1994 in southern New Mexico (USA) using a lysimeter (6 m deep, 2.4 m
diameter) filled with loamy, fine sand without vegetation, Wierenga and Jones (1995,
pers. comm.) derived an average annual deep percolation rate of about 50 mm, or 20% of
the mean annual precipitation of 250 mm. For the same climatic conditions, Rodrı ´guez-
Marı ´n (2001) simulated percolation rates at 3 m depth in a profile comprising a 2 m thick
Table 5.3. Annual precipitation (P), predicted runoff (R), actual transpiration (T
act
) and recharge
(D) in mm for one Neem tree in a 8 m
2
basin at Sadore´, Niger, for precipitation only and for
precipitation and runoff from 20 m
2
and 40 m
2
runoff areas in three different precipitation years
(Boers 1994).
Rainfall only Rainfall and runoff
Runoff area 20 m
2
Runoff area 40 m
2
Average year
P 545 545 545
R 0 232 465
T
act
409 633 755
D 0 5 113
Dry year
P 258 258 258
R 0 78 155
T
act
138 205 277
D 0 0 0
Wet year
P 673 673 673
R 0 285 571
T
act
481 720 849
D 0 38 185
166 Understanding water in a dry environment
indurated calcic horizon, overlain by an eolian sand (saturated hydraulic conductivity
200 m day
À1
) and a fluvial sand (saturated hydraulic conductivity 50 m day
À1
). In the
fluvial profile the fluxes were estimated to be 0.03 mmyr
À1
as opposed to 3 mmyr
À1
in
the eolian profiles.
Cook et al. (1992) found a negative correlation between clay content and recharge rate
in the upper 2 m of their soil profile, and Rockhold et al. (1995) found the same pattern in
their simulation study (see Table 5.2), with one exception; the annual recharge rate for
Sagebrush on silt loam is twice that on sand. This somewhat unexpected difference is a
result of the different hydraulic properties for the two soils; silt loam has a higher
hydraulic conductivity at low water content than sand, so that more water can percolate
deeper into the profile. An increased thickness of surficial sediments overlying fractured
rock will, however, generally decrease downward water fluxes (Fabryka-Martin et al.
1993; Nativ et al. 1995).
Layering in the soil profile can result in capillary barriers where fine textured soil
horizons overlie coarse textured horizons. Water will not flow into the coarse textured
layer until the water content at the bottom of the fine textured layer is close to saturation.
Coarse textured soil layers thus impede downward water movement and promote lateral
movement though fine textured layers. Palmquist and Jonson (1962) and Stephens and
Heermann (1988) illustrated preferential lateral water movement through fine textured
layers using laboratory tank experiments, where water infiltrated from a point source into
alternating layers of coarse and fine textured material. Lateral unsaturated flow occurred
in the fine rather than the coarse layers. These experiments also imply that for unsaturated
conditions fractures filled with fine textured gouge are more conductive than those with
open apertures.
Evidence for a similar mechanism has been found by Sigda (1997, 2003) and Herrin
(2001) in the faults that are relatively common features in tectonically active extensional
sands in the Rio Grande rift. Because fault zone deformation typically decreases the pore
size, it decreases the saturated hydraulic conductivity. However, for unsaturated condi-
tions the actual unsaturated hydraulic conductivity is likely to be greater than that for the
adjoining undisturbed sand layers in regions with low soil water contents. Figure 5.7
shows preferential wetting of conjugate faults after a period of precipitation in a sand near
Socorro, New Mexico.
Where alternating layers of coarse and fine material have been deposited with an inclina-
tion, unsaturated lateral water movement may be considerably enhanced. The dramatic
effect on water movement under unsaturated conditions of a relatively thin inclined coarse
sand layer in a fine sand profile has been demonstrated in photos by W.H. Gardner in
Hendrickx and Flury (2001) and by Kung (1990). During a field experiment, the latter
author observed uniform downward unsaturated water flow in the top 1.2 m of a sandy
profile until it started to flow laterally along the boundaries of inclined coarse sand lenses.
Laboratory experiments (Kung 1993) and computer simulations (Ju & Kung 1993)
revealed that such funnel flowis most distinctive under dry conditions, with a flowrate into
the profile which is less than 2% of the saturated hydraulic conductivity for the fine layer.
Higher flow rates would cause water to leak into the coarse layer and diminish the funnel
effect. Vadose zones in semi-arid regions apparently have a greater propensity for funnel
flow than in more humid environments.
Anisotropy of the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity in horizontal and vertical direc-
tions is another factor causing lateral flow under unsaturated conditions in homogeneous
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 167
soils. While saturated hydraulic conductivity anisotropy is well known and commonly
used for analysis of aquifer flow (Domenico & Schwartz 1998), unsaturated anisotropy
has only been studied in more recent years. The anisotropy ratio, A, is defined as:
A ¼
KðhÞ
H
KðhÞ
V
ð12Þ
where KðhÞ
H
and KðhÞ
V
are the unsaturated hydraulic conductivities in, respectively, the
horizontal and vertical direction. At saturation the anisotropy ratio commonly varies
from 2 to 20, but values of 100 may occur. Laboratory experiments under unsaturated
conditions by Stephens and Heermann (1988) demonstrated the dependence of A on soil
water content and pressure head. They found an increase in A from 1 at pressure À5 cm
to 18 at À20 cm. This increase in anisotropy with decreasing pressure head and water
content appears typical, and confirms an earlier theoretical analysis of anisotropic media
by Yeh et al. (1985a,b) using stochastic methods. The latter concluded that the degree of
Figure 5.7. Displacement faults in sand near Socorro, New Mexico. The wet spots coincide with
the faults (after Herrin 2001).
168 Understanding water in a dry environment
anisotropy may depend strongly on the mean capillary pressure head. McCord et al.
(1991) used field data and numerical analysis to determine the anisotropy ratio for a
uniform dune sand. They found a ratio of approximately 1 at saturation and 20 at a
pressure head around À40 cm. A tracer experiment was also conducted to demonstrate
the lateral flow components that occurred after only 26 mm of precipitation (Figure 5.8).
The importance of such lateral flows for recharge is that the soil water remains relatively
close to the surface resulting in higher evaporation and/or transpiration losses.
5.3.5 Depth to groundwater
The depth to groundwater is a critical factor for water movement in the vadose zone.
Whereas deep groundwater tables generally lead to a downward water flux under gravity
forces, a shallow groundwater table may result in an upward flow due to capillary action.
When the unsaturated hydraulic conductivity of the soil is known, steady-state
infiltration rates and capillary upward fluxes from the groundwater table can be evaluated
by rearranging eqns. (3) and (4) as:
dz ¼ À
dh
1 þ
q
KðhÞ
ð13Þ
and integrating eqn. (13) between the groundwater table, where both z and h are zero, to a
height z where the soil water pressure head is h:
z ¼ À
Z
h
0
dh
1 þ
q
KðhÞ
ð14Þ
Tracer source, 9-3-86
Sample location, 9-25-86
Bromide concentration (x10
Ϫ5
moles kg soil)
Total head (cm water)
Tensiometer location
Total head datum
G
ro
u
n
d
s
u
rfa
c
e
0
Ϫ100
Ϫ200
0.0 0.5 1.0 2.0 Meters
20
5
10
Ϫ?
Ϫ?
Figure 5.8. Contours of equal bromide concentration (Â10
À5
mol kg
À1
soil) from a hill slope tracer
experiment on a sand dune. Approximately 26 mm of rain fell between tracer emplacement and
sampling (McCord et al. 1991).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 169
For a layered soil profile eqn. (14) becomes:
z ¼ À
Z
h
1
0
dh
1 þ
q
K
1
ðhÞ
À
Z
h
2
h
1
dh
1 þ
q
K
2
ðhÞ
À Á Á Á À
Z
h
n
h
nÀ1
dh
1 þ
q
K
n
ðhÞ
ð15Þ
where the soil profile comprises n layers of unsaturated conductivities K
1
ðhÞ, K
2
ðhÞ, . . .
and K
n
ðhÞ. These equations can be used to evaluate the relationships between ground-
water table depth, soil water pressure and water fluxes under steady-state continuous
infiltration or evaporation rates. Since a steady-state evaporation rate is not an
unreasonable assumption for many unconfined aquifers in arid regions, the equations can
be applied to highlight different aspects of shallow aquifer discharge. Equations (14) and
(15) were previously evaluated using a graphical or numerical method (e.g. Bybordi
1968; Childs 1969), but these days implementation with a spreadsheet is straightforward.
The senior author has obtained good results by performing the integration with a step size
of 1 cm for soil water pressure. For most soils integrating until the soil water pressure
equals À1000 cm suffices, but some soils may require the integration to continue until
soil water pressures reach À5000 cm.
Application of eqns. (14) and (15) for a given soil profile yield the maximum
evaporation rate at which groundwater discharge can occur for a given groundwater table
depth. For example, Figure 5.9 shows the height of capillary rise in a sand and clay loam
for evaporation rates of 1 and 2 mmday
À1
, respectively. In both soils the height of
capillary rise decreases with increasing evaporation rate, while it increases with decreas-
ing (more negative) soil water pressure at the soil surface or base of the root zone. How-
ever, once the soil water pressure reaches about À1000 cm, a further decrease will not lead
to a substantial increase in the maximum height of the capillary rise.
Hendrickx et al. (1990) investigated the manner in which the calculation of capillary
rise depends on soil physical characteristics presented in the literature. The authors used
Figure 5.9. The height of capillary rise in homogeneous sand and clay loam profiles as a function
of soil water pressure for evaporation fluxes of 1 and 2 mm day
À1
.
170 Understanding water in a dry environment
the Van Genuchten model parameters (see eqns. 5 and 6) as derived by Carsel and Parrish
(1988), Van Genuchten (1978) and Wo¨sten (1987) (Table 5.4). Capillary rise was
calculated for ten fluxes in homogeneous soil profiles comprising different soil textures;
i.e. different sets of Van Genuchten parameters. The results in Table 5.5 demonstrate that
capillary rise strongly depends on the set of parameters used for the calculations. For
example, in loamy sand the Van Genuchten parameters from Carsel and Parrish (1988)
yield a capillary rise of 0.32 m for a capillary flux of 1 mmday
À1
, while the Van
Genuchten (1978) parameters yield a capillary rise of 3.34 m. In sandy loam the para-
meters from Carsel and Parrish (1988) also result in much lower capillary rises than those
presented by Wo¨sten (1987). Since it is recommended that in arid regions groundwater
tables be kept at least 1.5 to 2 m below the soil surface (e.g. Marshall & Holmes 1979;
Table 5.4. Van Genuchten parameters obtained from three different sources for seven soil textures.
Soil K
sat
0
s
0
r
c n l
(cmday
À1
) (cm
3
cm
À3
) (cm
3
cm
À3
) (cm
À1
) (–) (–)
Sand
1
712.8 0.43 0.06 0.145 2.68 0.5
Sand
2
223 0.33 0 0.0524 1.912 0.837
Loamy sand
1
350.2 0.43 0.057 0.124 2.28 0.5
Loamy sand
3
75 0.47 0.17 0.01 2 0.5
Sandy loam
1
106.1 0.41 0.065 0.075 1.89 0.5
Sandy loam
2
44.6 0.34 0 0.0265 1.543 À0.333
Loam
1
25 0.43 0.078 0.036 1.56 0.5
Loam
2
57.42 0.43 0 0.0207 1.224 À2.077
Clay loam
1
6.2 0.41 0.095 0.019 1.31 0.5
Clay loam
3
25 0.54 0.2 0.008 1.8 0.5
1
Van Genuchten parameters from Carsel and Parrish (1988).
2
Van Genuchten parameters from Wo¨sten (1987).
3
Van Genuchten parameters from Van Genuchten (1978).
Table 5.5. Maximum capillary rise (cm) for ten fluxes in homogeneous soil profiles calculated
with eqn. (14) using the Van Genuchten parameters presented in Table 5.4.
Texture Capillary flux (cmday
À1
)
3 2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.05 0.01
Sand
1
14 15 17 18 19 20 23 26 29 37
Sand
2
35 40 48 51 55 61 73 87 103 152
Loamy sand
1
16 17 20 21 22 24 28 32 37 51
Loamy sand
3
133 151 185 197 213 237 282 334 394 572
Sandy loam
1
20 23 28 30 32 36 43 51 61 91
Sandy loam
2
37 44 59 64 72 84 107 135 169 277
Loam
1
21 26 35 38 43 50 65 82 103 171
Loam
2
32 41 60 66 78 95 130 176 234 425
Clay loam
1
10 14 23 27 32 40 58 82 112 219
Clay loam
3
106 126 165 179 197 226 279 342 415 639
1
Van Genuchten parameters from Carsel and Parrish (1988).
2
Van Genuchten parameters from Wo¨sten (1987).
3
Van Genuchten parameters from Van Genuchten (1978).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 171
Hoffman & Durnford 1999) in order to reduce upward capillary flow, capillary rises
calculated using the parameters from Carsel and Parrish (1988) appear to be too low.
Capillary rise may vary considerably even within a given soil texture. For example,
Table 5.6 presents Van Genuchten parameters obtained by the ‘neural network‘ option
(Schaap & Bouten 1996) in HYDRUS-1D (S
ˇ
imu¨nek et al. 1998) for five different soil
textures that are all classified as ‘loamy sand’. Table 5.7 shows calculated capillary fluxes
using these parameters. They show a wide range of values; a flux of 10 mmday
À1
will rise
to a height of 0.90 m in one loamy sand (90% sand, 10% clay) but to only 0.47 m in
another (70% sand, 0% clay, 30% silt). At fluxes of 1 and 0.1 mmday
À1
, two other loamy
sands represent the maximum and minimum values (see Table 5.7). The maximum capil-
lary rises were, respectively, 1.6 and 3.0 m (for 85% sand, 15% clay, 0% silt) versus
minima of, respectively, 0.8 and 1.3 m (for 85% sand, 0% clay, 15% silt). The latter loamy
sand could provide a flux of only about 0.001 mmday
À1
from a depth of 3 m, which is
two orders of magnitude less than the 0.1 mmday
À1
from the former loamy sand. Small
differences in soil texture can therefore lead to great differences in groundwater discharge
from shallow aquifers.
Not only small differences in soil texture, but also the layering of the soil profile
impacts on the capillary fluxes. Poulovassilis and Psychoyou (1985) have shown that a
sandy sub-layer beneath a fine textured top layer may increase rather than decrease the
capillary flux. Using eqn. (15), Hendrickx et al. (1990) evaluated the maximum capillary
rise of a 0.5 mmday
À1
flux in a homogeneous sandy loam, homogeneous sand and a profile
of sandy loam underlain by sand. The maximum capillary rises for the homogenous sandy
loam and sand were, respectively, 2.3 and 1.2 m. However, for a profile of 1.4 m sand
Table 5.6. Van Genuchten parameters obtained from different soil textures within soil class
‘Loamy sand’ using the neural network routine in HYDRUS-1D.
Loamy sand soil texture (%)
K
sat
0
s
0
r
c n l
Sand Silt Clay
(cmday
À1
) (cm
3
cm
À3
) (cm
3
cm
À3
) (cm
À1
) (–) (–)
90 0 10 200.2 0.366 0.063 0.025 2.24 0.5
85 0 15 61.4 0.365 0.064 0.023 1.707 0.5
85 15 0 198.4 0.395 0.035 0.048 2.151 0.5
70 30 0 97.9 0.41 0.025 0.046 1.472 0.5
80 15 5 98.4 0.386 0.039 0.042 1.697 0.5
Table 5.7. Maximum capillary rise (cm) for ten fluxes in homogeneous soil profiles calculated
with eqn. (14) using the Van Genuchten parameters presented in Table 5.6.
Loamy sand soil texture (%) Capillary flux (cmday
À1
)
Sand Silt Clay 3 2 1 0.8 0.6 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.05 0.01
90 0 10 69 77 90 95 101 110 128 147 170 234
85 0 15 53 61 78 84 93 105 130 159 194 300
85 15 0 37 41 48 51 54 60 69 81 93 131
70 30 0 30 36 47 51 57 66 84 106 133 223
80 15 5 35 40 51 55 60 68 83 102 124 192
172 Understanding water in a dry environment
overlain by 1.6 m sandy loam with the groundwater table at a depth of 3.0 m, the capillary
flux of 0.5 mmday
À1
reached a height of 2.4 m.
To evaluate groundwater discharge in vegetated areas one should consider capillary
flux from the groundwater table to the bottom of the root zone rather than to the soil
surface. Since most permanent vegetation types such as bushes and trees have rooting
depths to 3 m or more, the discharge from shallow groundwater tables can be consider-
able. For a capillary flux of 1 mmday
À1
in a silty loam and using the Van Genuchten
parameters provided by Wo¨sten (1987), the capillary rise is 3.21 m. Adding this to a
rooting depth of 3 m, one can conclude that under these conditions groundwater discharge
could total 1 mmday
À1
or 365 mmyr
À1
from a 6 m deep aquifer. This example, and the
numbers presented in Tables 5.5 and 5.7, indicate that in arid and semi-arid climates
discharge from groundwater tables less than about 10 m deep can be an important
component of the water balance.
There are discharge conditions that cannot be evaluated without taking into account
vapour fluxes through the soil. This will often occur under arid conditions because the
hydraulic conductivity for liquid flow in a dry soil is much smaller than that for vapour
flow (see Figure 5.1). For example, Feddes and Bastiaanssen (1992) found that thermal
vapour fluxes need to be considered when calculating water balance terms in a bare soil
under conditions of shallow groundwater tables where considerable capillary rise occurs.
For the simulation of vapour flow through the soil, as well as through the boundary layer,
readers are referred to the SWAPS model (Ashby et al. 1996); this is based on models for
two-layer evaporation and energy balance, interception evaporation and unsaturated soil
water transport. This model or one similar should also be used when aquifer discharge is
not limited by soil moisture conditions, but by conditions in the boundary layer. For more
information on this reference should be made to work by Choudry and Monteith (1988),
Wallace (1995) and Ashby (1999).
For vadose zones that are very thick, vapour transport may become the dominant
mechanism of water movement. Evidence from the southwestern USA indicates that total
hydraulic head gradients are generally upward, towards the plant root zone (Phillips 1994;
Walvoord et al. 2002a). Under this condition, no potential recharge can penetrate below
the root zone and the geothermal gradient becomes the main driving force for water
movement. Water moves upward in the vapour phase from the water table toward cooler
regions high in the vadose zone. The water-carrying capacity of the vapour phase
decreases with decreasing temperature, and the water that is condensed returns to the
water table in the liquid phase under gravity drainage (Walvoord et al. 2002a). This result
is important for evaluating groundwater recharge because, although a liquid flux across
the water table may be observed it is not necessarily recharge, but may simply be partial
return of vapour flux moving upward from the water table. However, simulations by
Walvoord et al. (2002a) indicate that downward liquid return flux becomes established
only for vadose zone thicknesses greater than $150 m.
5.4 CASE STUDIES
This section presents five case studies that have been conducted in New Mexico and the
southwestern USA with graduate students from the New Mexico Tech Department of
Earth and Environmental Science in the Hydrology and Geology Programs. Case studies
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 173
1, 2 and 3 deal with the spatial and temporal variability of water fluxes in arid vadose
zones and focus on localized recharge. Case studies 3 and 4 demonstrate use of the models
HYDRUS-1D and -2D for simulating water fluxes through the vadose zone. Case study 5
deals with the process of water movement in deep, arid vadose zones on a geological time
scale. These case studies illustrate the manner in which one can use physical principles,
field observations, laboratory measurements and computer models to analyze water
movement through arid and semi-arid vadose zones under a wide range of environmental
conditions.
5.4.1 Water flow through a basalt flow in southern New Mexico—Missy C. Eppes
and J. Bruce J. Harrison
Soil development in arid and semi-arid environments is characterized by the accumulation
of dust and soluble salts within a soil profile. The depth, distribution, amount and type of
Figure 5.10. General relation between the depth of the top of the carbonate horizon and
precipitation in southern Israel (after Dan & Yaalon 1982).
174 Understanding water in a dry environment
salts that accumulate are determined by the dust and soil water fluxes (Machette 1978; Amit
& Gerson 1986; Birkeland 1994). In soils of the same age, the depth to maximum salt
accumulation varies according to downward soil water fluxes. For example, empirical
studies by Arkley (1963), Dan and Yaalon (1982) and Jenny (1958) have shown a strong
relationship between depth to maximum calcium carbonate accumulation and regional
precipitation (Figure 5.10). The chloride anion is conservative in the soil environment and
has frequently been used to identify the magnitude of soil water fluxes in arid and semi-
arid vadose zones (Phillips et al. 1988; Scanlon 1991). Peaks of chloride concentration are
also indicative of the maximum depth of water infiltration into the soil. Arid and semi-arid
soil profiles therefore contain much information about water fluxes moving from the soil
surface to the aquifer.
In this case study, soil profile information is used to investigate the process of localized
recharge on a basalt flow in southern New Mexico. Basalt flows are ideal for evaluating
the influence of soil water fluxes on soil development, as all soils have been forming for
the same period of time and the duration of soil formation can be determined by dating the
basalt. The surface topography of basalt flows in arid environments changes with time.
That for fresh flows shows significant relief, in the order of 3–10 metres, developed from
the pushing of slabs of partially solidified basalt and from the collapse of lava tubes. These
processes produce depressions of different shapes and sizes. Over time these fill with
basalt rubble from the topographic highs and with the accumulation of eolian dust. The
rate of depression filling depends on the dust and water fluxes as well as their size and
shape. The depressions can in most cases be considered small closed basins, the larger the
depression the greater the catchment area and the greater the water and dust fluxes to the
floor of the depression where soils are forming.
In a study of soils developed on basalt flows in the Potrillos volcanic field in southern
New Mexico, Eppes and Harrison (1998) showed how soil properties varied according to
the type and size of depression the soil was forming in. This could be seen by comparing
the depth of dust accumulation in depressions of different shapes and sizes that have the
same age and experience the same dust flux (Figure 5.11). It is clear that the depth of dust
accumulation varies, with the thickest amounts occurring in cone shaped depressions of
small size. Soil depth on the floor of depressions will influence the movement of water
through the soil profile. As the depression fills, water and dust fluxes affecting the soil at
the bottom of the depression decrease as the catchment area decreases. The theoretical
maximum moisture flux through the base of the depression, assuming no losses through
cracks in the basalt or by evaporation, has been calculated for the same sized but different
shaped depressions on the Potrillos volcanic field for the average annual precipitation of
300 mm (Figure 5.12). The influence of the cone shape on water flux, i.e. the localized
potential recharge rate, is clearly seen with water fluxes almost one order of magnitude
higher than the regional precipitation on young flows (10–20 ka), but decreasing with time
as the depression fills. Once the depression has filled the soil experiences only the regional
precipitation, a phenomenon termed depositionally induced aridity. There is no change in
the regional precipitation, but the soil receives decreasing amounts of water over time.
On the same aged surface small depressions will fill more quickly than larger ones of the
same shape, and thus adjacent soils can experience markedly different groundwater
recharge rates.
The chloride profiles of two soils forming on similar shaped but different sized
depressions of, respectively, 3000 and 13,000 m
2
, show how the thickness of dust
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 175
Figure 5.11. Differences in the depth of eolian mantle accumulated in depressions with different
surface areas and shapes. The rate of dust accumulation is assumed constant at 0.05 m
3
yr
À1
over a
period of 50,000 years (after Eppes & Harrison 1998).
Figure 5.12. A graph of the maximum amount of precipitation affecting the bottom of depressions
with similar surface areas but different shapes. The graph assumes 100% runoff with a constant
dust accumulation rate of 0.05 m
3
yr
À1
. As the area at the bottom of the depression approaches the
surface area of the depression itself, effective precipitation approaches the average precipitation for
the region (after Eppes & Harrison 1998).
176 Understanding water in a dry environment
accumulation influences downward water flows through the soils (Figure 5.13). There is a
pronounced bulge in the chloride profile for the 3.5 m deep soil profile in the smaller
depression. This depression has filled and the soil is receiving no run on, and is thus
developing under the regional precipitation. On the other hand, the 2 m deep soil profile
in the larger depression is receiving run on from the sides of the depression, and is
experiencing a higher downward water flux which is sufficient to remove all the chloride
from the profile.
This case study shows that localized recharge is not only sensitive to the temporal
distribution of precipitation, the spatial distribution of soils and the catchment size, as
discussed in Section 5.3.3, but is also strongly affected by the shape of the depression.
Figure 5.13. Soil water chloride profiles for a 13,000 m
2
depression with 2.7 m soil profile with
run-on and for a 3000 m
2
depression with 3.5 m soil profile without run-on (after Eppes & Harrison
1998).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 177
5.4.2 Soil water fluxes in a first-order arid drainage basin—Dennis R. McMahon
and J. Bruce J. Harrison
Topography has been identified as a significant factor influencing water fluxes throughout
a landscape (Birkeland 1994). Topographic influences are not only determined by the size
and shape of catchments and depressions (Sections 5.3.3 and 5.4.1), but also by the
geometry and orientation of a hill slope. The geometry of a hill slope influences water
fluxes through the creation of convergent and divergent zones of runoff and throughflow
within drainage basins. The orientation of a hill slope influences local climate with, in the
northern hemisphere, north facing hill slopes receiving a lower solar flux than south facing
slopes. Changes in downward water fluxes produce systematic changes in soil properties
and often in vegetation patterns as well. In this case study, soil profile information is used
to investigate the spatial variability of downward water fluxes within an arid drainage
basin 30 km north of Socorro, New Mexico.
The small 0.034 km
2
first-order drainage basin has developed in Pleistocene fan
deposits on the piedmont of the Ladrone Mountains in New Mexico. It is part of the
Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, which is also a Long-Term Ecological Research site
sponsored by the National Science Foundation. The average annual precipitation in this
area is approximately 300 mm. The drainage basin soils have developed in the same
parent material and for the same period of time, so differences in soil properties are due to
variations in dust and water fluxes. The drainage flows from west to east so that the side
slopes are facing north and south. The distribution of vegetation is characteristic for many
other first order basins in the area (Figure 5.14); the south facing slope is characterized by
Creosote grassland, the north facing slope by Juniper grassland and the head slope, where
water is converging, by grassland. Three soil catenas have been described within the
basin, one down each side slope and another down the head slope axis, the aim being to
determine the influence of slope orientation and geometry on water fluxes and soil
development (McMahon 1998).
Four soils profiles were described down each side slope and distinct differences in soil
properties were found. The major differences were found to be between soils on the
opposing hill slopes rather than as related to hill slope position. Soils on the same hill
slope were found to be very similar, indicating that the position of the soil on the hill slope
had little influence on soil properties; i.e. catenary relations were not strongly developed.
Soils on the drier south facing hill slope had lower organic matter, silt and clay and
calcium carbonate than those on the moister north facing slope (Figures 5.15 and 5.16).
How can these differences be explained?
The orientation of the north and south facing slopes results in a significant difference in
solar flux and hence potential evapotranspiration (Figure 5.17). Since rainfall monitoring
during 1996 did not reveal notable differences between the two slopes, it is hypothesized
that differences in potential evapotranspiration lead to the differences in vegetation found
on each hill slope. The drier south facing slope supports a mixture of Black Gramma
grassland and Creosote bushes, whereas the moister north facing slope has a Black
Gramma grassland with Juniper trees, resulting in a higher biomass on the moister hill
slope. Transects of micro-topographic features that obstruct surface runoff, such as grass
tussocks and shrub mounds, were conducted on each slope. Flow spaces between
obstructions averaged about 30 cm on the north facing slope versus 70 cm on the south
facing slope. The larger flow spaces on the south facing slope permit more direct runoff
178 Understanding water in a dry environment
Figure 5.14. Drainage basin vegetation map and location of soil pits (after McMahon 1998).
Figure 5.15. Profile mass of organic matter across drainage basin side slopes. Organic matter
contents determined by loss on ignition (after McMahon 1998).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 179
Figure 5.16. Variation in profile mass of calcium carbonate across drainage basin side slopes.
North facing slopes have higher calcium carbonate contents than south facing slopes. The value for
SL-4 may represent a welded soil (after McMahon 1998).
Figure 5.17. Differences in monthly Potential Evapotranspiration (PET) values for representative
points on the north and south aspects. (a) Graph showing PET values for each slope during the
year; (b) graph showing difference in PET values for north and south aspects, demonstrating that
the greatest differences occur in spring and fall (after McMahon 1998).
180 Understanding water in a dry environment
and consequently more erosion than on the north facing slope, resulting in enhanced
removal of air deposited silt, clay and calcium carbonates. The higher silt and clay
content, organic matter and calcium carbonate on the moist hill slope also results in
changes of soil hydrological characteristics; soil water retention curves for the B-horizons
of a soil from each hill slope show significant differences (Figure 5.18). These soils have
been forming for the same period of time and in the same parent material, but the
vegetation differences result in changes of the soil hydrological characteristics which
reinforce the variation in solar flux between the two hill slopes. This is a positive
feedback, where the original differences in solar flux have been augmented by higher
moisture retention properties in the north facing soils. As a result of the different water
regimes, the top of the calcic horizon was 5 cm deep in soils on the south facing hill slope
compared to 30 cm for soils on the north facing slope.
The soils forming in the head slope do not show a gradual change in properties between
those on the south and those on the north facing hill slopes. Instead, the head slope
geometry results in clear changes in soil properties over very small distances. A catena of
soils described down the axis of the head slope shows that the profile mass of calcium
carbonate decreases with increasing distance downslope (Figure 5.19). Due to converging
runoff water that causes increasing water infiltration down the head slope, there is also an
Figure 5.18. Water retention curves derived from soil textures on north and south facing slopes.
The north facing slope has a higher soil water retention due to higher silt and clay contents as well
as a lower gravel content (after McMahon 1998).
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 181
increase in the depth of the calcic horizon to the point where the soil lowest on the hill
slope has no modern calcium carbonate. In this part of the drainage basin strong catenary
relations are evident. Taking Figure 5.10 as a guideline, it appears that the north facing
slope has received about double the infiltration water than the south facing slope, and the
lowest part of the head slope catena has received more than five times the amount of
infiltration water on the north slope.
The large spatial variability of soil properties in this small, first-order drainage basin
demonstrates how topographic influences can result in large differences in amounts of
infiltrating water over relatively short distances in arid and semi-arid environments. In
sloping topography it seems unlikely that any part of the land surface receives the average
regional infiltration or recharge; large areas receive less and a few areas receive signif-
icantly more.
5.4.3 Simulation of water flow through indurated calcic horizons—
Graciela Rodrı ´guez-Marı ´n, J. Bruce J. Harrison, Jirka S
ˇ
imu¨nek and
Jan M.H. Hendrickx
An important soil characteristic of arid regions in the southwestern United States is the
formation of calcic horizons due to carbonate accumulation. Lattman (1977), Hennessy
et al. (1983) and Phillips et al. (1988) reported that calcic horizons generally have a low
hydraulic conductivity and are an impediment for groundwater recharge. To the contrary,
Baumhardt and Lascano (1993) measured a saturated hydraulic conductivity of
75 cmday
À1
in a calcic horizon, and concluded that such horizons would not greatly
impede vertical water movement.
These contradictory findings are explained by recognizing that a calcic horizon develops
through different morphological stages which are characterized by differences in their
physical properties of bulk density, thickness, cementation and carbonate content (Gile
et al. 1966; Machette 1985). An increase in carbonate content causes a decrease in porosity
Figure 5.19. Bar graph of profile mass of carbonate for soils in the head slope axis catena.
Carbonate mass decreases strongly downslope (after McMahon 1998).
182 Understanding water in a dry environment
and reductions in permeability (Machette 1985) and infiltration rates (Gile et al. 1966). In
fact, infiltration rates in calcic horizons appear inversely related to the carbonate content
of these horizons (Gile 1961). However, the implicit assumption that water flow and
groundwater recharge through indurated calcic horizons are essentially one-dimensional
vertical processes without lateral components, might have been the most critical oversight
in many hydrological studies addressing flow in calcic desert vadose zones.
For example, there is ample evidence for dissolution cavities and pipes in indurated
calcic horizons in New Mexico, West Texas and Arizona (e.g. Bretz & Horbert 1949; Gile
et al. 1966; Gile & Hawley 1966; Reeves 1976). Pipes are defined as dissolution cavities
that penetrate the calcic horizon completely and form conduits between the soil layers
over- and underlying it (Figures 5.20 and 5.21), though no studies have been conducted
to evaluate their hydrological implications. Gile et al. (1981) hypothesize that indurated
calcic horizons surrounding pipes deflect water into the pipes because of their low
hydraulic conductivity compared to the soil inside the pipe. Such lateral deflection may
cause a considerable concentration of water towards the pipe, resulting in preferential
flow and increased depth of water penetration (e.g. Hendrickx & Flury 2001). Another
issue is whether the pipes will increase overall deep percolation rates, or merely cause an
Figure 5.20. Typical small diameter pipes observed on the La Mesa surface, southern New
Mexico.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 183
uneven horizontal distribution of those rates. Finding an answer to these questions by
actual field measurements of deep percolation rates under the arid conditions of New
Mexico could take many years (Hendrickx & Walker 1997). The authors therefore
conducted computer simulations for a small representative pipe found in the bare, sandy
eolian soils of the La Mesa surface (see Figure 5.20).
Methods and materials
Soil water flow through the indurated calcic horizons with pipes was modelled using the
HYDRUS-2D simulation package (S
ˇ
imu¨nek et al. 1999) from the US Salinity Laboratory
at Riverside, California. HYDRUS-2D is a Microsoft Windows-based modelling
environment for simulating two-dimensional water, heat and solute movement, and root
water uptake in variably saturated soil. The flow equations are solved numerically using a
Galerkin-type linear finite-element scheme; the software includes a mesh generator and
graphical user interface.
Figure 5.21. Typical large diameter pipes observed on the La Mesa surface, southern New Mexico.
184 Understanding water in a dry environment
To simulate water flow through pipes in indurated calcic horizons, a quasi three-
dimensional region exhibiting radial symmetry about the vertical axis was used. The
Richards equation was solved to simulate unsaturated water flow in a soil cylinder with a
radius of 2 m and depth of 3 m. The configuration of soil materials for simulating pipe
flow is presented in Figure 5.22. To simulate water flow outside the pipes, the configura-
ion was changed to a 0.65 m layer of soil overlying a 2.35 m thick calcic horizon. A finite-
element mesh was created by the mesh generator provided with the HYDRUS-2D
program. Different mesh sizes and densities were examined to obtain a water mass
balance error of less than 0.5% during simulations. The optimal mesh for simulating water
flow through pipes was constructed in such a way that small triangular elements were
placed in those areas where the highest water fluxes occur; i.e. near the soil surface, at the
interface between pipe filling and topsoil, and at the interface between the filling and the
calcic horizon (Figure 5.23). This mesh had a total of 3766 mesh points, 11,046 mesh
edges, and 7281 mesh triangles.
The top boundary condition for the soil cylinder was determined by atmospheric
conditions. Daily precipitation and potential evapotranspiration data from Las Cruces
during the period 1960–1990 were used for the simulations. Also available were daily
precipitation data from the Jornada research facility on the New Mexico State University
College ranch, 50 km northeast of Las Cruces in Dona An˜a County, New Mexico (Malm
1994). Daily potential evapotranspiration rates for the period 1983–1994 were calculated
from meteorological measurements at the Leyendecker Weather Station of New Mexico
State University; this station is about 68 km south of the Jornada weather station. The
Figure 5.22. Quasi three-dimensional domain for simulating water flow through pipes.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 185
daily potential evapotranspiration rates for 1983–1994 were averaged on a day-of-year
basis and these daily averages were used as input to the model. A free drainage condition
representing unit gradient was assigned to the bottom boundary of the simulation domain,
and a no-flux boundary condition was imposed on two sides of the flow domain.
The initial condition was set at a uniform soil water pressure of À10 m throughout the
profile. Simulations for periods of 60 to 90 years were conducted using two or three
repetitions of the 1960–1990 weather data. Results from the first 30 or 60 years of
simulation were not included in the final analysis, because during this initial period the
model adjusted its starting condition to the prescribed boundary characteristics. The
hydraulic properties of the eolian sand and the calcic horizon are presented in Table 5.8 in
the form of Van Genuchten parameters.
Results and discussion
Mean annual precipitation for the period 1960–1990 was 230 mm. Comparing this with
the annual totals shows that the years 1960–1967 were generally drier than average, while
the 1970s and 1980s were wetter. Rainfall variability is quite large, both within and
between years.
Figure 5.23. Finite element mesh used for simulating water flow through a pipe.
Table 5.8. Van Genuchten parameters used in the simulations.
Soil K
sat
0
s
0
r
c n
(cm day
À1
) (cm
3
cm
À3
) (cm
3
cm
À3
) (cm
À1
) ( À)
Eolian 200 0.37 0.015 0.035 1.8
Calcic horizon 1 0.4 0.045 0.013 1.95
186 Understanding water in a dry environment
Daily potential evapotranspiration (PET) rates were available for only the period 1983–
1995. To generate daily PET rates for the entire 1960–1990 period the authors followed
Kearns and Hendrickx (1998), and used the mean daily average PETs calculated for the
period 1983–1995. The same mean daily PET value was thus used for a given day for
thirty years of the simulation. This procedure causes overestimation of true PET on days
with precipitation, since averaging cannot reflect the cooler temperatures and cloudy
conditions which occur during precipitation and thunderstorm events. Consequently, the
PET averaging procedure to generate daily PET values for the period 1960–1990 will
result in an underestimation of downward water fluxes. Use of the averaged data is
considered justified, however, since the actual and daily mean PETs are strongly
correlated (Kearns & Hendrickx 1998).
Four different downward water fluxes at 3 m depth were defined in soil profiles with
and without pipes. The first occurs in a soil profile with an indurated calcic horizon
without pipes (q
without pipe
), while the three other downward fluxes occur in a soil profile
with an indurated calcic horizon with pipes. These latter three fluxes are: An areally-
averaged downward water flux for the entire soil (q
with pipe
), a downward water flux
through the bottom of the pipe only (q
inside pipe
), and a downward water flux through the
indurated calcic horizon outside the pipe (q
outside pipe
). Since the last flux was always equal
to or somewhat smaller than q
without pipe
in the simulations, it is not considered further in
this study. Figure 5.24 presents the simulated values for q
without pipe
and q
with pipe
for the
eolian soil during the period 1960–1990; the downward fluxes in profiles without pipes
(q
without pipe
) vary from about 2.2 to 3.7 mmyr
À1
.
A large increase in downward water flux occurs if a pipe is present. These downward
fluxes (q
with pipe
) now vary from about 4 to 9 mmyr
À1
. The increase in q
with pipe
is caused
by a large increase in q
inside pipe
which amounts to 24–95 mmyr
À1
(Figure 5.25). The
q
inside pipe
simulated in the pipe with eolian filling is quite similar to the flux measured in a
bare lysimeter (depth 6 m, diameter 2 m) filled with a loamy fine sand in the Chihuahuan
Desert near Las Cruces. Wierenga and Jones (1995, pers. comm.) measured an average
downward water flux in this lysimeter of about 50 mmyr
À1
during 1989–1994, or 20% of
the annual precipitation. These downward fluxes are in the same order of magnitude as
those simulated through the eolian filled pipe. The lysimeter measurements therefore
Figure 5.24. Simulated downward water fluxes in eolian soil with and without a pipe during the
period 1960–1990.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 187
appear to validate the simulation results. Chloride measurements inside and outside the
pipe yielded an average chloride content outside the pipe of about 44 ppm versus 8 ppm
inside. These chloride measurements also appear to validate the simulation results.
In summary, simulations of water fluxes through a representative dissolution pipe in an
indurated calcic horizon clearly demonstrate that pipes have a pronounced effect on
downward water fluxes on the La Mesa surface of southern New Mexico. Such pipes
increase the areal deep downward flux at a depth of 3 m from approximately 3 mm to
4–9 mmyr
À1
in the eolian soil. Downward fluxes through the pipe itself can be consider-
able and amount to 24–95 mmyr
À1
. The La Mesa surface is therefore characterized by an
arid vadose zone where locations with low recharge are intermixed with sites that produce
considerable recharge.
The results from this investigation have important implications for water resource
management strategies. On the one hand, the occurrence of dissolution pipes and their
enhancement of downward water fluxes make desert sites underlain by indurated calcic
horizons vulnerable to groundwater contamination from hazardous materials stored on the
desert floor. On the other hand, the pipes will likely lead to an overall increase in regional
groundwater recharge.
The present research has only addressed the questions of whether pipes would affect
downward water fluxes, and their spatial variability over short distances. Future efforts are
needed in order to evaluate what the extreme spatial variability of downward water fluxes
means for groundwater recharge as well as for the vulnerability of groundwater to
contamination. Research should focus on the effects of pipe fillings, pipe dimensions, pipe
distances, hydraulic properties of pipe fillings and calcic horizons, the depth of the calcic
horizon and vegetation.
5.4.4 Groundwater depth and arid zone riparian evapotranspiration—
Behnaum Moayyad, Salim A. Bawazir, James P. King, Sung-ho Hong and
Jan M.H. Hendrickx
Evapotranspiration in riparian areas is an important part of the water balance for arid river
basins. Under conditions of scarce water supplies and during droughts, quantitative
Figure 5.25. Simulated downward water fluxes through the bottom of a pipe in eolian soil during
the period 1960–1990.
188 Understanding water in a dry environment
information about the volume of water leaving the basin through riparian evapotranspir-
ation becomes critical for an optimal water resources management plan. In addition, a
better understanding of the process of riparian evapotranspiration may lead to ways of
better managing this water balance component.
Management of water use by riparian areas is difficult since it depends on the complex
relationship between bank storage and river water level. Under conditions of high river
water levels, flooding and shallow groundwater tables will prevail and evapotranspiration
generally will be close to its potential rate. Under conditions of low river water levels,
groundwater tables will fall and evapotranspiration will decrease.
Many researchers have observed that groundwater depth is an important factor
affecting evapotranspiration (White 1932; McDonald & Hughes 1968; Robinson 1970;
Van Hylckama 1974; Weeks et al. 1987). Van Hylckama (1974) studied water use by salt
cedar (Tamarix pentandra) during a seven year period (1960–1967) near Buckeye,
Arizona, using six plastic-lined lysimeters. He found a strong dependence of evapo-
transpiration on groundwater depth: 2150 mm annual evapotranspiration with ground-
water at 1.5 m, 1500 mm with groundwater at 2.1 m, and less than 1000 mm with
groundwater at 2.7 m depth. In another study he found that water use also depends on the
soil moisture salinity. When electrical conductivity of the saturation extract (EC
e
) reaches
30 dS m
À1
, water use is half that measured in lysimeters with an EC
e
of 10 dS m
À1
(Van
Hylckama 1969, cited by Johns 1989). Weeks et al. (1987) also measured a decrease of
evapotranspiration from salt cedar when groundwater levels dropped along the Pecos
River in New Mexico. However, the decrease appeared temporary and disappeared
following vigorous root adaptation. This indicates that the depth of the root zone also
plays a role in the evapotranspiration process from riparian vegetation. Finally, Hoffman
and Durnford (1999) present literature data that show the interaction of groundwater
depth, soil texture and groundwater salinity on evapotranspiration.
The objective of the present case study is to evaluate the effect of groundwater depth on
evapotranspiration from riparian vegetation in the middle Rio Grande basin. The study is
based on data from the Master of Science project by Moayyad (2001).
Methods and materials
Because of the high variability of riparian soil hydrological and vegetation conditions,
it is difficult to investigate relations between groundwater depth and evapotranspiration
using only field experiments. Simulations with the computer model HYDRUS-1D were
therefore used in combination with selected field measurements.
Field measurements were taken during 1999 on two sites at the Bosque del Apache
Wildlife Refuge near Socorro, New Mexico: One in an area with mature salt cedar and the
other with cottonwood-willow-grass vegetation. A weather station monitored meteoro-
logical conditions in each area (air temperature, air humidity, wind speed and net
radiation), and a micro-meteorological tower was installed at each site for measuring
components of the energy balance using the eddy-covariance method. A soil pit was dug
near each tower to observe root distributions and soil profile characteristics. Large samples
(diameter 20 cm, depth 30 cm) were taken in the pits to determine soil hydraulic properties.
In addition, soil water content was monitored at regular time intervals using a neutron
probe, and groundwater table depths were monitored continuously using data loggers.
The HYDRUS-1D model was validated using actual evapotranspiration rates measured
by the eddy-covariance method. Model input comprised measured groundwater table
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 189
depths, the observed soil profile, measured soil hydraulic properties, observed root
distribution, measured precipitation rates and potential evapotranspiration rates calculated
from the measured daily weather data. After model validation, a sensitivity study was
conducted to simulate cumulative actual evapotranspiration (ET), evaporation (E),
transpiration (T) and groundwater discharge (Q) in two virtual homogeneous soil profiles
with, respectively, a clay and sand texture under the weather conditions measured at
Bosque del Apache during the 1999 growing season. Three constant groundwater tables at
1, 2 and 5 m, and two root zones of 0.3 and 3 m were simulated; the roots were uniformly
distributed throughout the soil profile.
Results and discussion
The soil profiles near the two micro-meteorological towers are quite different. At the salt
cedar site the stratigraphy is: silty clay loam 0–25 cm, sandy clay 25–70 cm, sandy clay
loam 70–120 cm, sandy loam 120–215 cm, clay 215–250 cm, fine sand 250–290 cm, silty
clay loam 290–350 cm and sand 350–400 cm. At the cottonwood site the stratigraphy is:
silt 0–5 cm, silty clay loam 5–30 cm, very fine loamy sand 30–60 cm, very fine sand
60–100 cm, fine sand 100–245 cm and loamy medium sand 245–400 cm. However, the
root distributions in the cottonwood and salt cedar are quite similar (Figure 5.26); there is
a relatively high density of roots close to the soil surface that diminishes with depth.
Groundwater table fluctuations in 1999 varied from about 3.1 m to 2.2 m below the soil
surface in the cottonwood site and from 2.6 to 0.6 m on the salt cedar sites (Figure 5.27).
The salt cedar sites have been exposed to flooding during three distinct periods: late May,
mid-June and August. These flood events resulted in two distinct peaks in groundwater
depths, though groundwater levels never coincided with the water level on the flooded
sites; this indicates that there was an unsaturated zone between the ponded water on the
Figure 5.26. Root distributions with depth at the cottonwood and the salt cedar sites. The root
density presented is the mean of three observations at each depth in the soil pits. The root density is
scaled to its maximum value of 1.
190 Understanding water in a dry environment
soil surface and the groundwater table. Groundwater quality at the cottonwood and salt
cedar sites varied between 450 to 1150 ppm, and between 600 and 2400 ppm, respectively.
These values yield apparent electrical conductivity values for the groundwater from about
0.7 to 4 dS m
À1
(Hanson et al. 1993), which are quite low. It is therefore concluded that
groundwater salinity will have little affect on the actual evapotranspiration rate.
Soil water content measurements show seasonal trends as well as differences between
the salt cedar and cottonwood sites (Figure 5.28). Soil water contents were generally
Figure 5.27. Groundwater depths in 1999 at the cottonwood and the salt cedar sites.
Figure 5.28. Average soil water content in the profiles during 1999 at the cottonwood and salt
cedar sites.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 191
higher in the salt cedar site due to a finer soil texture, flooding and shallower groundwater
table depths. Soil water content in the cottonwood site was rather low due to the coarse
soil texture and the absence of flooding.
Actual evapotranspiration rates measured during 1999 in the cottonwood and salt
cedar sites show a relatively simple sinusoidal pattern (Figure 5.29). Winter evaporation
fluctuates between 0.5 and 1.0 mmday
À1
at both sites, but is higher in the salt cedar area
because the surface soil layers contain more water. Both cottonwood and salt cedar put on
leaves in April, which explains the increase in evapotranspiration starting on day 120. The
maximum evapotranspiration rates for cottonwood vary between 4 and 5 mmday
À1
, while
those for salt cedar vary from 7 to 8 mmday
À1
. In the middle of September (around day
260) the leaves start yellowing and the rates fall to 1 mmday
À1
or less by the end of
October.
The HYDRUS-1D model was used to predict actual evapotranspiration rates for
cottonwood and salt cedar using the measured hydraulic soil properties, root distributions
and groundwater levels. No measurements were available for the relation between soil
water pressure and root water uptake for either cottonwood or salt cedar. Since a complete
physical description of water extraction by roots is very complex, the semi-empirical root
water uptake function proposed by Feddes et al. (1978) was used:
SðhÞ ¼ cðhÞS
max
ð16Þ
where cðhÞ is a dimensionless, prescribed plant-specific function of soil water pressure,
h, and S
max
(m
3
m
À3
day
À1
) is the maximum possible water extraction by roots. The
function cðhÞ is presented in Figure 5.30, which shows that maximum water uptake
occurs between soil water pressures h
2
and h
3
. Water uptake below jh
1
j (oxygen
deficiency in very wet soil) and above jh
4
j (very dry soil) is assumed to be negligible.
The variations between h
1
–h
2
and h
3
–h
4
are linear, but other relationships (e.g.
hyperbolic) could be used. The value for h
3
depends on meteorological conditions and
Figure 5.29. Actual evapotranspiration rates (mm per 10 days) measured during 1999 at the
cottonwood and salt cedar sites.
192 Understanding water in a dry environment
varies with the potential transpiration rate. Measured root distributions over the soil
profile (Figure 5.26) determine how much water is extracted at each depth. The present
study started with values for h
1, . . . ,4
provided by the data base within HYDRUS-1D for
trees and, subsequently, adapted these to match the measured actual evapotranspiration
rates. The optimized parameters (Table 5.9) suggest that cottonwood is much more
sensitive to water stress than salt cedar. The relatively low value for h
1
¼ À20 cm for the
salt cedar indicates that flooded conditions lead to reduced evapotranspiration due to
oxygen deficiency in the wet soil. No such adaptation was made for the cottonwood since
no flooding occurred at that site.
The predicted actual evapotranspiration rates for 1999 are shown in Figure 5.31,
averaged over ten-day periods to eliminate the day-to-day evapotranspiration variability.
Predictions for the salt cedar agree very well with the measurements and lie within 3%.
Those for the cottonwood are about 7% lower than the measurements, with the exception
of days 220–230 where the model over-predicts evapotranspiration by about 35%, with
72 mm versus 47 mm measured. The anomaly may have been due to a large amount of
precipitation during this period. In the field much of this precipitation infiltrated rather
deeply through cracks in the dry soil, but the version of the HYDRUS-1D model used
could not take macropore flow into account. As a result, most of the water was simulated
to evaporate from the soil surface or shallow soil depths after the precipitation event at
rates equal to potential evapotranspiration, resulting in the large over-prediction. Another
deviation occurred during winter months when the model consistently under-predicted
Figure 5.30. Dimensionless sink term cðhÞ as a function of the absolute value for soil water
pressure h; h
3
for a high potential transpiration rate T
p
¼ 5 mmday
À1
and a low one (Feddes et al.
1978).
Table 5.9. Parameters for the root water uptake function c(h) used to model actual
evapotranspiration from cottonwood and salt cedar in 1999.
Parameter Cottonwood (cm) Salt cedar (cm)
h
1
À0.1 À20
h
2
À2 À30
h
3
when T
p
¼ 0.75 cmday
À1
À80 À300
h
3
when T
p
¼ 0.30 cmday
À1
À250 À1000
h
4
À1500 À8000
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 193
evapotranspiration. During these months the surface soil was generally very dry and the
HYDRUS-1D model does not account for vapour flow, which during winter is generally
upward due to the fact that soil temperatures are colder at the surface than deeper in the
profile. This has led to the evapotranspiration under-prediction at the cottonwood site.
At the salt cedar site soil moisture conditions near the surface were generally wetter and,
therefore, the evapotranspiration model predictions based on liquid flow match the
measurements much better.
Overall the predictions of cottonwood and salt cedar evapotranspiration accord very
well with the measured trends. During the growing season the predicted evapotranspiration
rates are well within the range of those measured. Cumulative predicted evapotranspiration
during the 1999 growing season was 770 mmversus 740 mmmeasured for the cottonwood,
and 1140 mm versus 1120 mm for the salt cedar. The model HYDRUS-1D can therefore
be used with confidence to investigate the effect of groundwater table depth, soil texture
and rooting depth on cumulative evaporation (E), transpiration (T), evapotranspiration
(ET) and groundwater discharge (Q). This was done by simulating these water balance
components for homogeneous soil profiles of sand and clay with rooting depths of 0.3 and
3 m at constant groundwater table depths of 1, 2 and 5 m. The results of these simulations
are listed in Table 5.10. Figure 5.32 presents results for an analysis of variance on the
effects of soil texture, rooting depth and groundwater table depth.
A negative correlation is shown between the groundwater table depth and all water
balance components E, T, ET and Q. However, there is not a unique quantitative relation-
ship between groundwater table depth and these parameters, since soil texture and rooting
depths also play important roles. For a given soil profile the depth to groundwater table,
and to a lesser extent the rooting depth, are the critical parameters that determine E, T, ET
and Q. Soil evaporation, E, occurs at the surface and depends mainly on the precipitation
amount and upward water flux from the groundwater table by capillary rise; it depends
very little on rooting depth (Figure 5.32).
Since the soil profile cannot be changed, the ET from riparian areas can only be
controlled by management of the groundwater table and the vegetation. For deep
Figure 5.31. Predicted evapotranspiration rates (mm per 10 days) during 1999 at the cottonwood
and salt cedar sites.
194 Understanding water in a dry environment
groundwater tables the vegetation rooting depth has an only small impact on ET, but for
shallow groundwater tables it can make a significant difference. Replacing vegetation
with a large rooting depth by one with a shallow rooting depth will decrease ET and Q.
Lowering the groundwater table by several metres will also result in less ET and Q. The
effects of lowering the groundwater table by only a few decimeters will depend on how the
vegetation reacts in a given soil profile. It has been reported by Weeks et al. (1987) that
salt cedar will deepen its root system to follow lowering groundwater levels. Nevertheless,
field observations clearly show that deep groundwater levels limit the growth of both salt
cedar and cottonwood.
An important conclusion from this case study is that one cannot compare measured
ET rates from different vegetation in riparian areas without taking into account the
groundwater table depth, hydraulic properties of the soil profile, and the rooting depths.
For example, the 1999 ET measurements at the Bosque del Apache do not lead to a general
conclusion that salt cedar ET is higher than that for cottonwood (Figure 5.29). The present
data clearly show that the lower ET from cottonwood compared to that from salt cedar is at
least partly caused by deeper groundwater tables, lower upward capillary water fluxes,
and the absence of flooding.
5.4.5 Water movement through deep arid vadose zones—Michelle A. Walvoord
and Fred M. Phillips
Vast portions of the world’s arid regions are underlain by thick deposits of poorly
consolidated alluvial sediment. The depth to the water table is commonly quite large
(100 m to as much as 1 km) in these areas. Given the very limited water resources char-
acteristic of such regions, quantification of even very small amounts of groundwater
recharge can be important. For example, if an average recharge rate as small as 1 mmyr
À1
was applied over the desert basin floor areas of New Mexico ($400,000 km
2
), it would
result in an annual recharge of 4 Â 10
8
m
3
of water. This amount would be sufficient for
household use by a population twice that of the entire state of New Mexico.
Table 5.10. Cumulative evaporation (E), transpiration (T), evapotranspiration (ET) and
groundwater discharge (Q) simulated in the virtual soil models using daily weather data from
the 1999 growing season in the Bosque del Apache, New Mexico.
Soil texture (–) Groundwater
depth (cm)
Rooting
depth (cm)
E (cm) T (cm) ET (cm) Q (cm)
Clay 100 30 20.1 63 83.1 70
Clay 100 300 21.3 95 116.3 104
Clay 200 30 15.9 28 43.9 30
Clay 200 300 14.2 66 80.2 68
Clay 500 30 14.2 5.4 19.6 5.4
Clay 500 300 13.8 11 28.8 16
Sand 100 30 11 21.7 32.7 18.9
Sand 100 300 12 71 83 69
Sand 200 30 11.3 3.6 14.9 1.1
Sand 200 300 12 28 40 26
Sand 500 30 11.1 3.3 14.3 0
Sand 500 300 12.2 2.8 15 0.4
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 195
Figure 5.32. Analysis of variance of factors affecting evaporation, transpiration, evapotranspiration
and groundwater discharge.
196 Understanding water in a dry environment
The present study combines a historical approach to vadose zone fluxes, and a
modelling approach to explain the results of the first method. By a historical approach
is meant the measuring of environmental tracers and soil water parameters that are
dependent on the history of the system over geological time periods. The primary tracer
used was the chloride ion dissolved in soil water. The principal source of dissolved
chloride in desert soils is atmospheric deposition, usually at rates ranging from a few tens
of milligrams to a few thousand milligrams per metre squared per year, depending mainly
on proximity to the ocean (Junge & Werby 1958). Soil systems in which substantial fluxes
of water move below the base of the root zone will have short chloride residence times,
and hence low chloride concentrations and inventories. Those with little or no water
movement below the vadose zone will gradually accumulate large amounts of chloride.
Another strongly history-dependent parameter is the soil water potential. Investigation
of the fundamentals of desert vadose zone hydrodynamics (Walvoord et al. 2002a) has
shown that the time required for very negative potentials to propagate deep into thick
vadose zones ranges from 10
4
to 10
6
years. The discovery of drying fronts that have
penetrated many metres into desert vadose zones would therefore constitute evidence that
diffuse recharge has not passed through them for thousands of years.
Although even a decade ago such vadose zone measurements were virtually non-
existent, increased emphasis on understanding water resources in arid environments, and
especially on evaluating arid sites as candidates for radioactive and toxic waste disposal
facilities, has resulted in sufficient information to allow broad patterns to now be disc-
erned (Scanlon 1991; Phillips 1994; Prudic 1994; Tyler et al. 1996; Scanlon & Goldsmith
1997; Walvoord et al. 2002a). These show that large inventories of dissolved chloride are
generally (but not always) found (Figure 5.33) accompanied by deep drying fronts (i.e.
very negative soil water potentials at considerable depth) (Figure 5.34). It can be inferred
from these data that downward fluxes are small to zero, and that these thick vadose zones
have been in a drying state for long periods.
Chloride Concentration (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
Yucca Flat,
NV Test Site, NV
West TX
[Scanlon and
Goldsmith, 1997]
West central NM
[Stone, 1984]
Southeastern WA
[Prych, 1998]
Figure 5.33. Vadose zone chloride profiles under desert floor environments in the western USA.
Chloride values are reported as pore water concentrations.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 197
In order to more quantitatively evaluate the recharge histories of these vadose zones,
their hydraulic and solute transport behaviour are modelled using the code FEHM
(Zyvoloski et al. 1997). FEHM simulates non-isothermal, multi-phase, multi-component
flow in porous media. The model incorporates vapour transport driven by changes in
vapour density resulting from temperature (thermal vapour flux component) and ·
gradients (isothermal vapour flux component). The simulations are described in detail
by Walvoord et al. (2002a) and Walvoord (2002). Numerous alternative conceptual
models were simulated, but the one that best matched typical data from the southwestern
United States assumed a period of significant downward flux ($10 mmyr
À1
) prior to
15,000 years BP, followed by establishment of permanent, strongly negative water
potential (approximately À500 m) in the root zone. This sequence simulated events at the
end of the last glacial period, when increases in temperature and decreases in precipitation
caused the pin˜on–juniper forests that covered the lowland southwest during the glacial
maximum to be replaced by more xeric vegetation (principally creosote bush) that was
capable of creating very negative root zone water potentials. The timing of this vegetation
replacement has been well established by means of radiocarbon dating of macrofossils in
ancient packrat middens (Betancourt et al. 1990). This conceptual model is referred to
as the Deep Arid System Hydrodynamic (DASH) model in Walvoord et al. (2002a).
Results of these simulations are shown in Figures 5.35 and 5.36; they strongly resemble
the typical observed depth distributions of matric potential and chloride concentration
shown in Figures 5.33 and 5.34.
The approximate timing for establishing xeric conditions can be independently checked
by dividing the mass of chloride in measured chloride ‘bulges’ by the rate of atmospheric
chloride deposition. A large proportion of chloride profiles in the southwest give accum-
ulation ages of approximately 15,000 years (Phillips 1994); the shape of the water poten-
tial profiles also supports this general age for the transition. FEHM modelling shows that
drying fronts take millennia to propagate deeply into thick vadose zones and that the
observed profiles are still in a state of transient adjustment (illustrated in Figures 5.35 and
5.36). The observed water potential profiles are matched well by those simulated after
$15,000 years of development. All these lines of evidence are consistent with the
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ500 Ϫ400 Ϫ300Ϫ200 Ϫ100 0
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
Yucca Flat
NV Test Site, NV
Hydrostatic
equilibrium line
w.t. @ 464 m
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ800 Ϫ600 Ϫ400 Ϫ200 0
High Plains, TX
[Scanlon et al., 1999]
Hydrostatic
equilibrium line
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ600 Ϫ400 Ϫ200 0
Hydrostatic
equilibrium line
w.t. @ 110 m w.t. @ 150 m
West TX
[Scanlon and
Goldsmith, 1997]
Figure 5.34. Vadose zone profiles of soil water pressure or matric potential under desert floor
environments in Nevada and west Texas.
198 Understanding water in a dry environment
hypothesis that recharge has never moved below the root zone since desert vegetation was
established at the end of the last glacial period. Instead, water movement in the upper part
of the vadose zone has been upward, toward the root zone, for this entire period.
The matric potential profiles shown in Figure 5.34 are characterized by very negative
values near the top of the vadose zone and a curved transition to nearly constant, only
slightly negative, values in the deep vadose zone. If the gravitational potential is added in
order to calculate total potential, hydraulic gradients are typically seen to be upward in the
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
(a)
(b)
(c)
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 1000 2000 3000 4000
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50


Figure 5.35. Numerically simulated chloride profiles for: (a) reduced recharge; (b) zero-recharge;
and (c) DASH conceptual models. The left-hand graphs display the entire 200 m thick vadose zone
and right-hand graphs show only the upper 50 m. Chloride values are pore water concentrations.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 199
upper portion of the vadose zone, but downward below depths of $50 m (Figure 5.37).
The FEHM modelling reveals that this apparently paradoxical distribution of potentials is
explained by vapour transport driven by the geothermal gradient. Figure 5.38 shows that
water vapour moves upward in the vadose zone, moving from warmer conditions near
the water table towards cooler ones at the land surface. As the vapour moves upward,
liquid water condenses due to the lower saturation vapour pressure as the temperature
decreases. This liquid water then moves downward under the influence of gravitational
drainage. However, as the top of the vadose zone is approached, the influence of the very
Matric Potential (m)
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
Matric Potential (m)
Matric Potential (m) Matric Potential (m)
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
Ϫ500 Ϫ400 Ϫ300 Ϫ200 Ϫ100 0
Ϫ500 Ϫ400 Ϫ300 Ϫ200 Ϫ100 0
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ50 Ϫ40 Ϫ30 Ϫ20 Ϫ10 0 Ϫ50 Ϫ40 Ϫ30 Ϫ20 Ϫ10 0
Ϫ50 Ϫ40 Ϫ30 Ϫ20 Ϫ10 0 Ϫ50 Ϫ40 Ϫ30 Ϫ20 Ϫ10 0
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
50
100
150
200
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
Matric Potential (m)
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
(a)
(b)
(c)
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
t = 0
t = 1 kyr
t = 5 kyr
t = 10 kyr
t = 15 kyr
Figure 5.36. Numerically simulated soil water pressures or matric potential profiles for: (a)
reduced recharge; (b) zero-recharge; and (c) DASH conceptual models. The left-hand graphs
display the entire 200 m thick vadose zone and right-hand graphs show only the upper 50 m.
200 Understanding water in a dry environment
negative root zone water potentials begins to be felt and liquid water again moves upward
in response. The net result, once steady-state is reached, is a constant (with depth) upward
total flux that is determined by the magnitude of the geothermal gradient. Thus, although
there may still be residual drainage across the water table of very small amounts of recharge
from the glacial period, desert vadose zones are currently sinks, rather than sources, for
diffuse groundwater recharge.
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ500 Ϫ400 Ϫ300 Ϫ200 Ϫ100 0
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ500 Ϫ400 Ϫ300 Ϫ200 Ϫ100 0
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
10
20
30
40
50
initial condition -
transient state after
15 kyr of drying
after 10 yr infiltration
event of 5 mm yr
Ϫ1
0
10
20
30
40
50
t = 0 (after 10 yr event)
t = 100 yr
t = 1,000 yr
t = 5,000 yr
(a) (b)
Figure 5.37. Transient matric potential profiles using the DASH model and illustrating: (a) the
wetting response from the 15,000 years dry transient state to a 10-year infiltration of 5 mm/year
downward flux; and (b) the drying response subsequent to the infiltration event.
Moisture Flux (mm yr
Ϫ1
)
Ϫ0.005 0.000 0.005 0.010 0.015
0
25
50
75
100
125
150
175
200
Liquid
Isothermal
vapour
Thermal
vapour
Net
Matric Potential (m)
Ϫ500 Ϫ400 Ϫ300 Ϫ200 Ϫ100 0
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
25
50
75
100
125
150
175
200
DASH model steady state
Plane of divergent liquid flux
for the DASH model
Hydrostatic equilbrium line
(b) (a)
Figure 5.38. (a) Comparison of steady-state matric potential profiles predicted from the DASH
model and the linear matric potential profile described by the conventional hydrostatic equilibrium
model. The unit-gradient model (not shown here; see Figure 5.34) predicts a uniform matric
potential profile below the root zone. (b) Steady-state moisture flux profiles predicted from the
DASH model; negative values indicate downward fluxes.
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 201
Although the investigations by Walvoord et al. (2002a) and Walvoord et al. (2002b)
used data from the southwestern United States, and simulations were intended to match
conditions there, the implications are probably applicable to thick desert vadose zones
worldwide. The key is to establish deep-rooted desert vegetation capable of sustaining
very negative water potentials (<À300 m, roughly). The hypothesis that the system is in a
continuous, long-term state of upward hydraulic gradient (as opposed to the downward
one necessary to cause direct recharge) can easily be tested by investigating vadose-zone
profiles. If upper portions of the vadose zone (<50 m depth) are found to contain large
inventories of chloride (relative to the annual chloride deposition rate) and show drying
fronts (negative water potentials) penetrating tens of metres below the surface, then it is
very likely that there is no recharge at present, and nor has there been for millennia. It is
likely that this situation will apply to large portions of arid and semi-arid environments
worldwide.
5.5 RECOMMENDATIONS
The studies presented in this chapter clearly indicate that the process of water movement
in arid and semi-arid vadose zones is not yet fully understood. Although the basic physics
of liquid and vapour movement are well established, their application in vadose zones
with large spatial and temporal variabilities is difficult. Examples of different water
movement scenarios in arid vadose zones have been provided here, with liberal references
to relevant publications. The five case studies offered by the authors and their graduate
students illustrate the manner in which one can combine field observations, laboratory
measurements and model studies to evaluate the processes of water movement in an arid
vadose zone.
As is the case for groundwater modelling, the first step for evaluating water fluxes in an
arid vadose zone is to develop a conceptual model that includes all factors believed to be
relevant. The next step is to analyze each of these factors using the tools presented in this
and other chapters of this book. Soil profiles contain much information about water flow
in the shallow vadose zone (0–3 m), while chloride profiles to depths of 30 m clearly
inform us about deep vadose zone liquid fluxes. More sophisticated measurements of soil
water pressures and/or different isotopes will yield additional information. Much of this
information is already available or can be obtained without long-termmonitoring, and will
help formulate a correct conceptual model that can be tested by selected numerical model
studies. Different models will be needed for different aspects of vadose zone water
movement. For example, the models HYDRUS-1D and -2D are ideal for better under-
standing of soil-water-plant interactions, SWAP focuses on soil-vegetation-atmosphere
transfers and takes conditions in the boundary layer into account, and the FEHM model
deals with processes in very deep vadose zones. Analysis of field observations and model
results will indicate which laboratory measurements are critical in order to understand a
given vadose zone, and which field measurements should be included in a long-term
monitoring program.
The value of a short-term data set (2–10 years) of field measurements is rather limited
in arid vadose zones, since the temporal variability of their water regimes plays on a much
longer scale from decades to thousands of years. However, short-term data sets do have
value for model validation, and to obtain a better understanding of water flow processes.
202 Understanding water in a dry environment
5.6 LIST OF SYMBOLS
Symbol Description Example units
A Anisotropy ratio dimensionless
b Fracture aperture m
D Deep percolation or recharge mmday
À1
D
a
Molecular diffusivity of water vapour in bulk air cm
2
s
À1
D
Tl
Transport coefficient for liquid flow due to
thermal gradients
m
2
s
À1
K
À1
D
Tv
Thermal vapour diffusivity m
2
s
À1
K
À1
E
act
Evaporation from bare soil mmday
À1
E
i
Evaporation of water intercepted by the vegetation mmday
À1
E
w
Open-water evaporation mmday
À1
ET Actual evapotranspiration mmmth
À1
g Acceleration due to gravity 9.8 ms
À2
H Total hydraulic head m
h Soil water pressure m
K
fr
Hydraulic conductivity in the fracture ms
À1
K(h) Unsaturated hydraulic conductivity ms
À1
K
s
Saturated hydraulic conductivity ms
À1
KðhÞ
H
Unsaturated hydraulic conductivities in
horizontal direction
ms
À1
KðhÞ
V
Unsaturated hydraulic conductivities in
vertical direction
ms
À1
K
l
ðhÞ Unsaturated hydraulic conductivity for liquid flow ms
À1
K
v
ðhÞ Isothermal vapour diffusivity ms
À1
M Molecular weight of water 18.015 g
m Shape parameter of water retention curve dimensionless
n Shape parameter of water retention curve dimensionless
n Porosity of the dry soil dimensionless
P Precipitation mm mth
À1
q Water flux ms
À1
q
fr
Water flux through a saturated fracture ms
À1
q
m
Total mass water flux (liquid and vapour) ms
À1
q
r
Groundwater recharge mm mth
À1
R Net runoff / runon mm mth
À1
R Universal gas constant 8.3143Â10
7
erg Kmol
À1
r(h) Relative humidity dimensionless
S
max
Maximum possible water extraction by roots m
3
m
À3
day
À1
S(h) Root water uptake m
3
m
À3
day
À1
T Soil temperature

C or K
T
act
Actual transpiration by the vegetation mmday
À1
z Vertical distance m
ÁW Change in soil moisture storage in the vadose zone mmmth
À1
c Shape parameter of water retention curve m
À1
c Tortuosity of the air-filled pore space dimensionless
Water flow processes in arid and semi-arid vadose zones 203
Symbol Description Example units
cðhÞ Plant specific root water uptake function of
soil water pressure h
dimensionless
0 Volumetric soil water content m
3
m
À3
0
s
Saturated water content m
3
m
À3
0
r
Residual water content m
3
m
À3
l Shape parameter of hydraulic conductivity curve dimensionless
j Dynamic viscosity kg s
À1
m
À1
, Fluid density kg m
À3
,
l
Density of soil water kg m
À3
,
vs
Saturated vapour density kg m
À3
5.7 ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
For the preparation of this chapter Drs. Hendrickx and Phillips received partial support
from the National Science Foundation, Science and Technology Center program
Sustainability of Semi-arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas (SAHRA). Drs. Hendrickx
and Harrison received partial support from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
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210 Understanding water in a dry environment
CHAPTER 6
Aquifer dynamics
Hans Gehrels
Netherlands Institute of Applied Geoscience TNO, Utrecht, The Netherlands
and Delft University of Technology, Dept. of Civil Engineering & Geosciences, Delft,
The Netherlands
Ambro S.M. Gieske
International Institute for Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation ITC,
Water Resources Division, Enschede, The Netherlands
ABSTRACT: Management of groundwater resources requires a clear understanding of the
dynamic aquifer response to environmental change and to human interference. Aquifer dynamics,
or aquifer response, can be thought of as the result of aquifer characteristics on the one hand and
natural and anthropogenic driving forces on the other. The most important sources of information
for analyzing aquifer response are measurements of groundwater level. The present chapter outlines
and gives examples of the most important analytical, stochastic and physically-based methods to
analyze aquifer response.
6.1 INTRODUCTION
6.1.1 General
The dynamic behaviour of aquifers can be thought of as the result of two aspects: aquifer
properties and driving forces. Aquifer properties, including hydrogeological properties,
spatial dimensions and boundary conditions, involve both physical and chemical
characteristics that determine the response of the aquifer system to external influences.
The hydrogeological properties result from sedimentary and tectonic processes and
include hydraulic conductivity, hydraulic resistance and the storage coefficient. The
driving forces can be subdivided into natural and anthropogenic. Naturally occurring
driving forces are climatic processes that induce changes in the water flow and mass
transport in aquifers. Driving forces related to human activity can be of various kinds, but
one that is undoubtedly most common is groundwater abstraction.
The dynamic behaviour of aquifers occurs at all possible temporal scales, ranging from
diurnal variations resulting from evaporative fluxes changing throughout the day, to
structural changes following fluctuations in climate on a geological time scale. An
intuitive distinction can be made between aquifers with renewable resources and those
with fossil resources. Aquifers with renewable resources show dynamic behaviour at a
scale of sometimes days, years (seasons) or up to a few decades. These are aquifers where
changes in piezometric head can be measured, from which the aquifer response can be
determined.
Aquifers with fossil resources show no dynamics at all over the recent period in which
piezometric head measurements are available. Only at time scales of hundreds or thousands
of years can one find a change in state that is usually related to changes in climate. These
extremely slow changes are particularly the case for large-scale groundwater systems with
a large turn-over time. An example of an unconfined water table slowly responding to
climate change during the Holocene is found in the extremely large groundwater basin in
the Kalahari savannah desert (De Vries 1984). Changes in such systems can only be
deduced with chemical or isotopic tracers. This chapter is restricted to methods that
describe the dynamics of aquifers with renewable resources. Isotope and chemical tracer
techniques are dealt with in Chapters 5 and 7.
The main objectives of this chapter are: (1) to outline the most important techniques
currently available for analyzing aquifer dynamics, and (2) to evaluate the capability of
these methods to describe, explain and predict the dynamics of aquifer systems. This
introductory section first describes some basic concepts that also underlie the more
sophisticated methods in subsequent sections. The methodology section describes four
approaches to evaluate aquifer dynamics by analyzing, modelling and predicting ground-
water level fluctuations. A few instructive examples are then given to illustrate the manner
in which the less common of these techniques work. The relative capabilities of the various
methods are compared in the discussion and conclusions.
6.1.2 Groundwater level fluctuations
Groundwater level fluctuations are a direct expression of the dynamic behaviour of
aquifers. Every change in the water balance of a hydrological system brings about ground-
water level fluctuations in one way or another. Such fluctuations are therefore a key to
understanding the processes, whether natural or man-induced, controlling the hydrological
system. Not only do changes in the components of the water balance (such as rainfall,
evaporation, runoff and groundwater abstraction) induce groundwater level fluctuations,
but variations in hydraulic pressure (such as barometric pressure changes, tidal movement
or changes in the overburden load) are also influential.
Table 6.1, taken from Freeze and Cherry (1979), provides a summary of the mech-
anisms leading to groundwater level fluctuations. These are classified according to whether
they are natural or anthropogenic (man-induced), whether they produce fluctuations in
confined or unconfined aquifers, and whether they are short-lived, diurnal, seasonal, or
long-term in their time frame.
Groundwater level is one of the easiest hydrological variables to measure, being
monitored regularly in many countries throughout the world. The data contain relatively
small measurement errors which are practically independent of the determination method.
The widespread availability and the relatively unambiguous means of measurement make
these data extremely valuable for monitoring hydrological processes and identifying hydro-
geological conditions.
Groundwater level fluctuations reflect water resources management practices carried
out in the past, and are also needed to evaluate the sustainability of water management in
the future. An important practical reason for analyzing groundwater level fluctuations
is therefore to separate anthropogenic influences on groundwater level from natural
212 Understanding water in a dry environment
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Aquifer dynamics 213
fluctuations. These man-induced influences on groundwater level have brought about a
structural lowering of the water table in many areas in the world. In addition, a more
detailed control of groundwater levels is desired nowadays, because the various types of
land use or ‘functions’ of an area such as nature, agriculture and groundwater abstraction,
have to be combined.
The present chapter focuses on fluctuations resulting from the imbalance between
groundwater recharge and groundwater discharge. Groundwater recharge is defined here
as the net downward water flux through the water table, and is the result of variable
weather conditions, root water uptake, processes of soil water flow, and vadose zone
properties. In turn, groundwater discharge is determined by the hydrogeological char-
acteristics of the aquifer, the surface water drainage system, and various anthropogenic
influences.
6.1.3 Driving forces, aquifer characteristics and dynamic response
The hydrogeological, morphological and hydraulic characteristics of an aquifer determine
the dynamic behaviour of the hydrological system. Comprehensive text books that
treat these aspects at length are those by (e.g.) Freeze and Cherry (1979), Domenico and
Schwartz (1998) and, more recently, Schwartz and Zhang (2003). Figure 6.1 shows a sche-
matic cross-section of the subsurface with a number of controlling factors. Precipitation,
evaporation, topography, spatial extent, and surface waters all determine the top boundary
conditions, the driving forces or groundwater recharge; in other words, the impulse that
is imposed on the system. The properties of the medium itself such as the geometry,
geology, hydraulic conductivity, hydraulic resistance, and storage properties determine
the response characteristics of the aquifer. The combination of the impulse and the
response together form the dynamics of the system.
Mathematical description of dynamic aquifer behaviour can best be considered from
the law of conservation of mass in a saturated porous medium: The net rate of fluid mass
Figure 6.1. Top boundary conditions and aquifer properties that determine system dynamics.
214 Understanding water in a dry environment
flow into any volume is equal to the time rate of change of fluid mass storage within that
volume:
À
0ð,v
x
Þ
0x
À
0ð,v
y
Þ
0y
À
0ð,v
z
Þ
0z
¼ ,S
s
0h
0t
ð1Þ
where h is hydraulic head, v the specific discharge in x-, y- and z-directions, , the density
of water, and S
s
is specific storage. The specific storage S
s
of a saturated aquifer is
defined as the volume of water that a unit volume of aquifer releases from storage under
a unit decline in hydraulic head (Freeze & Cherry 1979). If one inserts Darcy’s law and
eliminates ,, the equation describing transient flow through a saturated anisotropic porous
medium is obtained:
0
0x
K
x
0h
0x
_ _
þ
0
0y
K
y
0h
0y
_ _
þ
0
0z
K
z
0h
0z
_ _
¼ S
s
0h
0t
ð2Þ
where K
x
, K
y
and K
z
are the hydraulic conductivity in x-, y- and z-directions, respectively.
For a confined aquifer of thickness b, the storativity (or storage coefficient) S is defined
as the volume of water that an aquifer releases from storage per unit surface area of aquifer
per unit decline in the component of hydraulic head normal to that surface (Freeze &
Cherry 1979), i.e:
S ¼ S
s
b ð3Þ
Hence, for the special case of two-dimensional flow in a homogeneous, isotropic,
horizontal, confined aquifer of thickness b, S ¼ S
s
b and transmissivity T ¼ Kb, eqn. (2)
becomes:
0
2
h
0x
2
þ
0
2
h
0y
2
¼
S
T
0h
0t
ð4Þ
The solution h(x, y, t) describes the hydraulic head field at any point on a horizontal plane
through the aquifer at any time. Both eqn. (2) and the simplified eqn. (4) clearly illustrate
that the two most important parameters determining aquifer response are the storage
coefficient S, and aquifer transmissivity T. Obviously, if confining conditions are also
taken into consideration, hydraulic resistance parameters for these confining layers play a
similar dominant role.
According to Freeze and Cherry (1979), storativity ranges in value from 5 Â 10
À3
to
5 Â 10
À5
in confined aquifers. The storage term for unconfined aquifers is known as
the specific yield S
y
. The specific yields for unconfined aquifers are much higher than the
storativities of confined aquifers, ranging from 0.01–0.30.
Whereas the values for storage coefficients are relatively bounded within a limited
range, certainly over short distances within one aquifer, hydraulic conductivity is
notoriously difficult to determine, varies over a much wider range, and may vary over
some 10–14 orders of magnitude (Hoeksema & Kitanidis 1985); it may even range over a
few orders of magnitude within a single aquifer. It is clear that obtaining information on
these aquifer characteristics by means of field investigation, geological survey, pumping
and laboratory tests, is a necessity in order to reliably predict aquifer response. These
specific aspects are, however, not the subject of this chapter.
Aquifer dynamics 215
Rather than describing aquifer dynamics from the perspective of differential equations
of groundwater flow, a different conceptual view is to represent the subsurface as a linear
reservoir, and to analyze changes in hydraulic head from the imbalance between recharge
and discharge. Consider a linear reservoir with a constant water table shape. Following
De Vries (1974), the combination of the flow equation with conservation of mass gives:
S
d
"
h
dt
¼ R À
"
h
¸
ð5Þ
where
"
h is the average head above the drainage base, R is recharge through the plane of
the water table, and ¸ is a specific flow resistance. For average conditions:
"
Q ¼
"
R ¼
"
h
¸
ð6Þ
where
"
Q is the average discharge, expressed as a depth over the catchment. Integrating
eqn. (5) with initial conditions
"
h ¼
"
h
0
for t ¼ 0 gives:
"
hðtÞ ¼
"
h
0
e
Àt,l
þ ð1 À e
Àt,l
ÞR¸ ð7Þ
where l is termed the reaction factor of the water table, equal to l ¼ 1,¸S. Equation (7)
already provides a simple way of examining the relationship between recharge and water
table response. When it is realized that ¸ can be expressed in terms of T, for example for
one-dimensional flow and Dupuit assumptions as (cf. De Vries 1974):
¸ ¼ L
2
,2T ð8Þ
one arrives at the same conclusion as indicated by eqn. (4) that the parameters domi-
nating aquifer response are S and T.
The next section of this chapter illustrates more rigorous methods to describe aquifer
dynamics, but these methods too, basically reduce to analyzing the imbalance between
recharge and discharge. The methods range from purely stochastic impulse–response
type, requiring no physical process knowledge at all (Section 6.2.1), via stochastic
impulse–response type incorporating aquifer properties (Section 6.2.2), to purely
deterministic physically-based 1D unsaturated zone models (Section 6.2.3) and, finally,
spatially distributed 3D groundwater flow models (Section 6.2.4).
6.2 METHODS TO ANALYZE AQUIFER RESPONSE
6.2.1 Time series analysis: Transfer Function-Noise modelling
Time series analysis is a statistical method to investigate a sequence of observations for the
purpose of simulation or forecasting, or both. To make a forecast is to infer the probability
distribution of a future observation from the population, given a sample of past values. An
extremely comprehensive, practical, as well as theoretically sound handbook on time series
analysis is the classic volume by Hipel and McLeod (1994) titled Time Series Modelling of
Water Resources and Environmental Systems. Further, and according to the same authors,
the seminal textbook publication which furnishes a systematic and comprehensive
presentation of many time series models is the book by Box and Jenkins (1970) titled
Time Series Analysis: Forecasting and Control. The application of time series analysis in
216 Understanding water in a dry environment
hydrology and water resources is also extensively treated in such textbooks such as
Yevjevich (1972), Salas et al. (1980), and Bras and Rodriguez-Iturbe (1985).
Time series analysis is a general term, in principle including all possible ways of
investigating a series of measurements. However, the term is usually reserved for
stochastic methods to quantify the trend and correlation structure of a measurement series.
In time series modelling and analysis, one wishes to determine the most appropriate
stochastic or time series model to fit to a given data set at the confirmatory data analysis
stage (Hipel & McLeod 1994). This section describes one class of time series models
known as Transfer Function-Noise (TFN) modelling, according to Box and Jenkins
(1970). The approach has the diagnostic character of a reconnaissance survey, and is easily
applied to large quantities of data in order to obtain an overview of important factors in an
area. It is a logical first step in a study of changes in groundwater level, because it is
particularly suitable for detecting trends and to identify deviations from these trends.
TFN modelling has been originally developed for economic purposes, but has since also
been applied to hydrological processes (e.g. Hipel et al. 1977; McLeod & Hipel 1978;
McLeod 1983). Some important applications are intervention modelling (Hipel &
McLeod 1994), modelling of river flow (Young et al. 1997), and assessment of trends in
groundwater levels (e.g. Van Geer & Defize 1987; Gehrels et al. 1994; Knotters & Van
Walsum 1997). The core of the method is separation of the various sources of ground-
water level fluctuation into distinct components. If other than natural factors play a role,
TFN modelling can be used to separate groundwater level fluctuations into natural com-
ponents and anthropogenic influences.
Transfer modelling is a stochastic, impulse-response method, usually without any direct
physical significance attributed to the model parameters. Linear regression models are a
special, very limited category of a range of possible transfer models. In transfer models,
causes that are assumed to influence groundwater level can be modelled explicitly by
using separate input series. The output signal is split into several input components using
the correlation structure between the output time series and independent input series; see
Figure 6.2. All components are usually modelled as linear input–output models, though
examples do exist of non-linear models (e.g. Tankersley et al. 1993; Berendrecht et al.
2003). A major advantage of TFN models over physical models is that, apart from the
input and output time series, no other hydrological data are needed.
Transfer models contain autoregressive parameters, representing the inertia of the
groundwater system, and moving average parameters that account for the driving forces.
The remaining fluctuations are driven by a noise component, which is assumed to be a
zero-mean white noise series with unknown variance.
x
1,t
x
2,t
. . . c
a
t
TF1
TF2
noise
⌺ h
t
h
1,t
h
2,t
n
t
Figure 6.2. Schematic representation of a transfer model, with several transfer model components
and a noise model.
Aquifer dynamics 217
ARIMA models
Box and Jenkins (1970) describe two major classes of time series models: Autoregressive
(Integrated) Moving Average (ARIMA) models, and Transfer Function-Noise (TFN)
models. ARIMA models provide insight to the stochastic process underlying the data
series by describing the probability structure. The future is forecast by using the time
series itself as the only source of information. It is beyond the scope of ARIMA modelling
to consider the connection with other processes, which is the main difference between
ARIMA and TFN models.
When an observation z
t
measured at time t depends on the values at time t À 1,
t À 2, . . ., t À p, plus a random shock, the process describing this relationship is called an
autoregressive (AR) process of order p, and is denoted as AR(p) (Hipel & McLeod 1994):
z
t
À j ¼ c
1
ðz
tÀ1
À jÞ þ c
2
ðz
tÀ2
À jÞ þ Á Á Á þ c
p
ðz
tÀp
À jÞ þ a
t
ð9Þ
where c
i
is the ith AR parameter, j the mean level of the process and a
t
the white noise
term at time t that is identically independently distributed (IID) with zero mean and
variance o
2
a
.
When a time series value z
t
depends on the white noise terms at time t, t À 1, t À 2 , . . .,
t À q plus a random shock, one can write z
t
as a moving average (MA) process of order q,
denoted as MA(qÞ (Hipel & McLeod 1994):
z
t
À j ¼ a
t
À 0
1
a
tÀ1
À 0
2
a
tÀ2
À Á Á Á À 0
q
a
tÀq
ð10Þ
where 0
j
is the jth MA parameter.
Transfer models
A transfer model can be written similarly to the AR and MA models in eqns. (9) and (10).
Consider the relationship between time series x
t
and y
t
, where x
t
causes y
t
. The way in
which x
t
determines y
t
is described by the transfer model; the time series x
t
is considered
as a dynamic input. The dynamic output y
t
is calculated from x
t
, and a white noise series
a
t
. The noise component represents all influences on y
t
which are not caused by x
t
. The
transfer model can be written as:
y
i.t
¼ c
i.1
y
i.tÀ1
þ c
i.2
y
i.tÀ2
þ Á Á Á þ c
p
y
tÀp
þ .
i.0
x
i.t
À .
i.1
x
i.tÀ1
À Á Á Á À .
i.s
x
i.tÀs
ð11Þ
where y
t
is a discrete time series y
1
, y
2
, . . .,y
t
, . . .,y
mÀ1
, y
m
of m observations with time
index t of the response or output variable y; x
t
represents a time series of independent or
input variable x, measured at time intervals equal to those for y; c
i.k
and .
i.l
are kth and
lth AR and MA parameters, respectively, of the ith transfer model (see Figure 6.2).
If one now writes the backward shift operator B as B
k
y
t
¼ y
tÀk
, the non-seasonal
autoregressive (AR) operator can be defined as:
ÁðBÞ ¼ 1 À c
1
B À c
2
B
2
À Á Á Á À c
r
B
r
ð12Þ
with c
i
, i ¼ 1, 2, . . ., r AR parameters and, analogously:
ðBÞ ¼ 1 À .
1
B À .
2
B
2
À Á Á Á À .
s
B
s
ð13Þ
is the moving average (MA) operator with .
i
, i ¼ 1, 2, . . ., s MA parameters. One can
now write the transfer function in a compact manner as:
ÁðBÞy
t
¼ ðBÞx
t
ð14Þ
218 Understanding water in a dry environment
Differences between model predictions and observations are accounted for by the serially
correlated error or residual series n
t
; see Figure 6.2. The residual series is modelled with
an ARIMA model from the noise series a
t
according to eqns. (9) and (10). The ARIMA
model can now be formulated in similar manner to the transfer function in eqn. (14):
ÈðBÞn
t
¼ ÂðBÞa
t
ð15Þ
with ÈðBÞ and ÂðBÞ defined similarly to ÁðBÞ and ðBÞ, respectively. The general form
of a non-differential linear transfer function-noise model with mean zero thus becomes:
y
t
¼ Æ
k
i¼1

i
ðBÞ
Á
i
ðBÞ
x
i.tÀb
þ
ÂðBÞ
ÈðBÞ
a
t
ð16Þ
where i ¼ 1, 2, . . ., k is the number of the input series x
tÀb
, implying that y
t
may be
determined by more than one dynamic component (see Figure 6.2). Parameter b indicates
the number of delay time steps for output y
t
with regard to input x
i.t
.
The TFN model in eqn. (16) is written in non-differential form. A more general
formulation would be to include a differencing operator (1 ÀB) of order d to produce
stationarity of the dth differences. However, for geophysical time series stationarity of the
residual series is generally a reasonable assumption (McLeod & Hipel 1978). Also, the
assumption of linearity between input and output has proved to be a reasonable
approximation in a number of investigations (e.g. Besbes & De Marsily 1984; Bidwell
et al. 1991).
Time series modelling is still undergoing development. For example, Knotters (2001)
has formulated various alternative model forms that include parameters with a physical
background. In order to deal with missing data values, Bierkens et al. (1999) developed a
TFN model in a so-called state-space form that enabled them to use a Kalman filter. The
Kalman filter is a recursive procedure for computing the optimal estimator of the state
vector at time t, based on the information available at time t (Harvey 1989). A good reason
for using a Kalman filter is that it can be combined with a maximum likelihood criterion to
estimate the parameters. In this way Bierkens et al. (1999) were able to account for time
series with missing values. Berendrecht et al. (in press) also used the state-space form and
the Kalman filter to de-couple the modelling from the measuring interval. The authors
decreased the modelling interval to the daily time step of the input series, while the
measuring interval remained in the order of 14 days. This led to a significantly better model
performance, even though the number of output measurements to condition the model was
the same, because the impulse–response function was described in much more detail (with
daily increments). New developments are in the area of non-linear models. Berendrecht
et al. (in prep.) account for soil water content as a separate state in their state-space
approach, and incorporate a no-linear description of water flow through the root zone.
6.2.2 Stochastic forcing of a linear reservoir
Another way to treat the stochastic process of changing groundwater levels as a result of
irregular recharge, is through the theory of random differential equations (Soong 1973;
Gelhar 1993). The case of a linear reservoir that was introduced in Section 6.1.3 is treated
here as an illustration. In Section 6.1.3 only the average parameter behaviour was discus-
sed, and recharge R was taken as constant. If one attempts to describe the random nature of
Aquifer dynamics 219
recharge more precisely, then the mathematics becomes much more complex. However,
useful expressions can then be derived that link the stochastic recharge processes to the
variance of the groundwater level fluctuations. In other words, recharge can be inferred
from fluctuations of the groundwater level around the mean (under the assumption of
climatic stationarity), which is obviously extremely valuable.
The problem of forcing a linear reservoir with a random recharge distribution can be
described as a differential equation with a random inhomogeneous component. For the
present case, and using the linear reservoir description given in Section 6.1.3, this can be
written as:
dXðtÞ
dt
¼ ÀlXðtÞ þ yðtÞ ð17Þ
where XðtÞ is the water level at time t, l the reaction factor of the water table (l ¼ 1,¸SÞ,
and yðtÞ is a stationary stochastic process with a long-term mean given by (cf. eqn. 5):
E yðtÞ f g ¼
"
R,S ð18Þ
According to Soong (1973) the solution can be written as:
XðtÞ ¼ È t. t
0
ð Þ X
0
þ
_
t
t
0
È t. s ð Þ yðsÞ ds ð19Þ
where È t. t
0
ð Þ is, in this case:
È t. t
0
ð Þ ¼ exp Àl t À t
0
ð Þ ½ Š ð20Þ
Because the first term on the right hand side of eqn. (19) approaches zero for large t, only
the second term on the right hand side is important (this term is called the particular
solution). When taking for convenience t
0
¼ 0, the mean of XðtÞ can be calculated as:
E XðtÞ f g ¼
_
t
0
e
Àl tÀs ð Þ
E yðsÞ f g ds ð21Þ
Because EfyðsÞg is equal to
"
R,S, eqn. (21) can be reduced to:
E XðtÞ f g ¼
"
R
S
_
t
o
e
Àl tÀs ð Þ
ds ð22Þ
After evaluating the integral in eqn. (22), one finds:
E XðtÞ f g ¼
"
R¸ 1 À e
Àlt
_ _
ð23Þ
and, hence, the mean becomes
"
R¸ after some time, in accordance with eqn. (6) in Section
6.1.3. Amore elaborate discussion of this result may be found in the book by Gelhar (1993).
To calculate the variance o
2
X
of the water level fluctuations, a change of variables is first
made as follows (see also Gelhar 1993):
xðtÞ ¼ XðtÞ À
"
R¸ ð24Þ
220 Understanding water in a dry environment
and
zðtÞ ¼ yðtÞ À
"
R
S
ð25Þ
It follows immediately that EfxðtÞg ¼ 0 and EfzðtÞg ¼ 0. Substituting eqns. (24) and
(25) into eqn. (17) leads to:
dxðtÞ
dt
¼ ÀlxðtÞ þ zðtÞ ð26Þ
The second moment Efx
2
ðtÞg is equal to the variance o
2
x
, because EfxðtÞg ¼ 0, and also
equal to o
2
X
. Under the assumption of stationarity, the second moment can be evaluated as
(Soong 1973):
E x
2
ðtÞ
_ _
¼ À
xx
ð0Þ ¼
1
2
_
þ1
À1
S
xx
ð.Þd. ð27Þ
or
E x
2
ðtÞ
_ _
¼
1
2
_
þ1
À1
H
Ã
ði.Þ S
xx
Hði.Þd. ð28Þ
where À
xx
(0) is the autocorrelation function for xðtÞ at lag 0, S
xx
the autospectral density
function, and Hði.Þ given by the Fourier transform of È(t) as follows:
Hði.Þ ¼
_
þ1
À1
ÈðtÞ e
Ài.t
dt ð29Þ
Because ÈðtÞ ¼ expðÀltÞ (t ! 0), this immediately yields:
Hði.Þ ¼
1
l þ i.
ð30Þ
and
H
Ã
ði.Þ ¼
1
l À i.
ð31Þ
where the asterisk denotes the complex conjugate. Therefore:
o
2
X
¼ o
2
x
¼
1
2
_
þ1
À1
S
zz
ð.Þ
l
2
þ .
2
d. ð32Þ
or
o
2
X
¼ o
2
x
¼
_
þ1
0
S
zz
ð.Þ
l
2
þ .
2
d. ð33Þ
Aquifer dynamics 221
In order to evaluate the last integral an estimate of S
zz
(.) is needed. The autospectral
density function S(.) is related to the autocorrelation function À(t) by the Wiener–
Khintchine relations:
Sð.Þ ¼
1
¬
_
þ1
À1
ÀðtÞ e
Ài.t
dt ð34Þ
and
ÀðtÞ ¼
1
2
_
þ1
À1
e
i.t
Sð.Þ d. ð35Þ
An estimate of the autocorrelation function À
zz
(t) can be obtained by evaluating:
À
zz
ðtÞ ¼ E zðtÞzðt þ tÞ f g ð36Þ
or, when a discrete series of observations is available, by the expression (Box & Jenkins
1970):
c
k
¼
1
n

nÀk
t¼1
z
t
z
tþk
ð37Þ
where n is the total number of observed years. This relation can also be written in terms
of the original random variables y
t
as:
c
k
¼
1
n

nÀk
t¼1
y
t
À
"
R,S ð Þ y
tþk
À
"
R,S ð Þ ð38Þ
The values of À(t) or the coefficients c
k
depend on the statistical characteristics of the
recharge distribution. If the series y
t
is not correlated, then all c
k
are zero except c
0
, and
À(t) becomes a constant times the delta function c(t). An example according to Gieske
(1992, 1993) is given in Section 6.3.2.
When an equidistant series of recharge values is generated with one recharge event each
year according to an exponential depth distribution, as appears to be the case for many
situations in semi-arid to arid countries, then the value of c
0
is in fact the variance of the
exponential depth distribution with mean
"
R,S:
c
0
¼
"
R
2
S
2
ð39Þ
When it is assumed that À
zz
(t) is equal to:
À
zz
ðtÞ ¼
"
R
2
S
2
cðtÞ ð40Þ
where c(t) is the delta function, being zero for all t except for t ¼ 0 then, according to
eqn. (34), S
zz
(.) becomes:
S
zz
ð.Þ ¼
"
R
2
¬S
2
ð41Þ
222 Understanding water in a dry environment
Inserting eqn. (41) into eqn. (33) yields:
o
2
X
¼
"
R
2
¬S
2
_
1
0
1
l
2
þ .
2
d. ð42Þ
and, after evaluating eqn. (42) using l ¼ 1,ð¸SÞ, one finds:
o
2
X
¼
¸
"
R
2
2S
ð43Þ
Relation (43) shows that the range of the fluctuations around the mean is proportional to
the long-term average annual recharge, provided of course the assumptions are valid.
The result from eqn. (43) is valid for ÁT ¼ 1, i.e. when the spacing between the
recharge events is exactly one year.
For the common arid situation of having years without recharge, ÁT 1 and the arrival
is then determined by a Poisson process. To arrive at the same mean annual water level
rise
"
R,S, the mean rise during the years when recharge does occur will be higher than
"
R,S,
and equal to
"
RÁT,S. The variance may then be calculated as follows. Suppose that a
sequence of n years is observed, where n is a large number. The number of years with
recharge YR is equal to n/ÁT, and the number of years without recharge YRN is equal to
nðÁTÀ1)/ÁT; c
0
can then be split up as:
c
0
¼
1
n

n
i¼1
z
2
i
ð44Þ
or
c
0
¼
1
n

YR
i¼1
y
i
À
"
R,S ð Þ
2
þ

YRN
i¼1
"
R
2
_
S
2
_ _
ð45Þ
which, after expansion, leads to:
c
0
¼
"
R
2
S
2
2ÁT À 1 ð Þ ð46Þ
and, similarly to eqn. (40), the autocorrelation function À can be written as:
À
zz
ðtÞ ¼
"
R
2
S
2
2ÁT À 1 ð Þ cðtÞ ð47Þ
Substituting eqn. (47) into eqn. (34), and inserting the result into eqn. (33), leads to:
o
2
X
¼
¸
"
R
2
2S
2ÁT À 1 ð Þ ð48Þ
In a situation with infrequent recharge and ÁT ) 1, formula (48) converges to:
o
X
¼
"
R
ffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi
¸ ÁT
S
_
ð49Þ
Aquifer dynamics 223
6.2.3 1D numerical soil water flow modelling
Aquifer response resulting from recharge moving through the unsaturated zone can also
be described 1D numerical soil water models. These describe the transfer of water fluxes
from the atmosphere through the soil profile into the aquifer. They include root water
uptake by the vegetation, the geometric and hydraulic characteristics of the soil profile,
and the water table response. In this section two alternative approaches are described:
A relatively complex, numerical unsaturated flow model (Van Dam et al. 1997) and a
more simple reservoir model (Van der Lee & Gehrels 1997). Such numerical models are
frequently used for (agricultural) water balance studies with shallow water tables, but are
also capable of simulating deep unsaturated profiles without direct contact between the
root zone and capillary fringe. The reservoir model described here, however, is in
principle only suitable for deeper water tables as it does not include capillary rise. Steady-
state flow models such as CAPSEV (Wesseling 1991), and pseudo-stationary flow models
(describing water flow as a succession of steady-state conditions) such as MUST (De Laat
1980), are more focused on shallow water table conditions.
Numerical soil water flow model based on the Richards equation
Many model codes describe soil water flow based on numerical solution of the Richards
equation—such as SWAP (Belmans et al. 1983; Van Dam et al. 1997), SOIL (Johnson &
Jansson 1991), SWIF (Bouten 1992) and HYDRUS-1D (S
ˇ
imu¨nek et al. 1998). These are
all one-dimensional soil physical, finite-difference numerical models that describe water
flow in unsaturated or partly saturated soils based on the Richards equation:
C
0h
0t
¼
0
0z
K
0h
0z
À K
_ _
ð50Þ
where h is the soil water pressure head, t is time, z is soil depth, K the unsaturated
hydraulic conductivity, and C is the soil water capacity. C is approximated by the slope
(d0/dh) of the soil water retention curve 0ðhÞ, in which 0 is the volumetric water content.
Equation (50) may also be expressed in terms of the water content if the soil profile is
homogeneous and unsaturated (h 0Þ:
00
0t
¼
0
0z
D
00
0z
À K
_ _
ð51Þ
where D is the soil water diffusivity, defined as D ¼ K (dh/d0). The unsaturated hydraulic
functions in the above equations are the soil water retention curve 0ðhÞ, the hydraulic
conductivity function KðhÞ or Kð0Þ, and the soil water diffusivity function Dð0Þ. The
most widely used empirical description of the soil water retention curve is, without doubt,
the flexible, smooth equation from Van Genuchten (1980):
S
e
¼
1
½1 þ ðchÞ
n
Š
m
ð52Þ
where c and n are empirical constants affecting the shape of the retention curve, and m is
usually defined as m ¼ 1 À 1,n. S
e
is the effective degree of saturation, or reduced water
content (0 S
e
1Þ, defined as:
S
e
¼
ð0 À 0
r
Þ
ð0
s
À 0
r
Þ
ð53Þ
224 Understanding water in a dry environment
with 0
r
and 0
s
the residual and saturated water contents, respectively. The unsaturated
hydraulic conductivity is described according to Mualem (1976):
KðS
e
Þ ¼ K
s
S

e
1 À 1 À S
1,m
e
_ _
m
_ _
2
ð54Þ
where K
s
is the saturated hydraulic conductivity, and ‘ is a shape parameter that depends
on 0K/0h.
The model boundary conditions at the soil surface are formulated in terms of rainfall,
evapotranspiration and soil evaporation, and interception. A common way to represent
evapotranspiration is to use the Penman open water evaporation, crop factors, and soil
cover fractions to estimate potential plant transpiration and potential soil evaporation.
Reduction of potential plant transpiration and soil evaporation can then be calculated
according to, for example, Feddes et al. (1978) and Black et al. (1969), respectively.
A straightforward method to incorporate interception losses is with the analytical model
according to Gash (1979), who separates the evaporation rate of water intercepted by the
canopy during rainfall E
c
into a portion before and after saturation of the vegetation canopy.
If t is the duration of rainfall and t
0
the time needed to reach saturation of the canopy, then:
I ¼
_
t
0
0
E dt þ
_
t
t
0
E dt þ S
c
ð55Þ
where I is interception loss, and S
c
the canopy capacity (the amount of water on the
canopy when rainfall and throughfall have ceased and the canopy is saturated),
depending on the type and morphology of the vegetation cover. Evaporation from trunks
is neglected. For a saturated canopy, evaporation is treated in terms of a mean
evaporation rate
"
E
c
, as well as a mean rainfall rate
"
P. With P
G
representing gross rainfall,
the amount of rain necessary to saturate the canopy P
0
G
is defined as:
P
0
G
¼ ÀðPS
c
,E
c
Þ ln 1 À ðE
c
,PÞð1 À p À p
t
Þ
À1
_ _
ð56Þ
where, following Rutter (1975), p is the free throughfall coefficient (the proportion of
rain that falls through the canopy without striking a surface), and p
t
the proportion that is
diverted to the trunks as stemflow. If n is a series of rainfall storms, each large enough to
saturate the canopy, and m a series of storms insufficient to saturate the canopy, the total
interception loss I becomes (Gash 1979):

nþm
j¼1
I
j
¼ ð1 À p À p
t
Þ

n
j¼1
P
0
G
j
þ ðE
c
,PÞ

n
j¼1
ðP
G
j
À P
0
G
j
Þ þ ð1 À p À p
t
Þ

m
j¼1
P
G
j
ð57Þ
Hence, gross precipitation P
G
is reduced by the interception loss, and the excess or net
precipitation P
e
reaches the soil surface.
In this schematization of the unsaturated zone the lower boundary conditions can be
defined by a one-dimensional reservoir function described earlier in eqns. (5) through (8).
Conceptual unsaturated zone reservoir model
An example of an unsaturated zone reservoir model is that described by Gehrels (1999),
which is a modified version of the EARTH model developed by Van der Lee and Gehrels
Aquifer dynamics 225
(1997). EARTH is a lumped parametric model for the simulation of soil water content,
actual evapotranspiration, percolation, and groundwater level fluctuations. Similar
models have been developed by Howard and Lloyd (1979), Rushton and Ward (1979),
Das Gupta and Paudyal (1988), and Thiery (1988). In these models the unsaturated zone is
schematically represented by a number of sequential modules or reservoirs, as illustrated
in Figure 6.3.
First, gross precipitation is intercepted by the vegetation canopy. As in the previous
section, gross precipitation P
G
can be reduced by interception loss (ILOSS in Figure 6.3)
according to Gash (1979), and the excess or net precipitation P
e
then reaches the soil
surface. Soil water storage in the root zone (SOMOS in Figure 6.3) is represented by a
reservoir with a depth equal to the root zone depth and a capacity of Â
s
ÀÂ
r
, where Â
s
and Â
r
are defined as the saturated and residual soil water contents, respectively. Infil-
trating water P
e
is subject to four main processes: Actual evapotranspiration, percolation,
ponding and runoff. The remainder is the change in soil water storage, calculated from a
mass balance as:
dÂðtÞ
dt
¼ P
e
ðtÞ À E
a
ðtÞ À R
p
ðtÞ ð58Þ
where Âis the soil water content (0 Â Â
s
Þ, defined by the volumetric soil water con-
tent 0 and an effective root zone thickness D, such that  ¼ D0. E
a
represents the actual
evapotranspiration rate and R
p
is percolation flux below the root zone.
E
a
is expressed as a function of potential evaporation E
p
and the actual, saturated and
residual soil water contents Â, Â
s
and Â
r
, respectively. Actual evaporation is assumed to
ILOS S
ILOSS
SOMOS
SOMOS
TR AFUN
TRAFUN
S ATFLOW
SATFLOW
SUST
SUST
P
e
Q
s
E
o
P
G
E
a
E
o
ponding,
root water uptake,
soil water storage,
percolation
unsaturated flow,
recharge
groundwater
fluctuations,
drainage
Gash (1979)
Van der Lee & Gehrels (1997)
De Vries (1974)
Zwamborn (1995)
Interception,
evaporation
Figure 6.3. Sequential modules representing specific parts of subsoil, unsaturated zone and aquifer
(from Van der Lee & Gehrels 1997).
226 Understanding water in a dry environment
be a linear function of Â, by definition less than or equal to potential evaporation. With S
e
defined as in eqn.(53), E
a
is formulated as:
E
a
ðtÞ ¼ E
p
ðtÞ
ÂðtÞ ÀÂ
r
Â
s
ÀÂ
r
_ _
¼ E
p
ðtÞS
e
ðtÞ ð59Þ
If the amount of water in SOMOS reaches saturation, and the infiltration rate exceeds
percolation rate R
p
, surface ponding and runoff may occur. Surface ponding or surface
storage is accounted for via a separate module (SUST in Figure 6.3). This reservoir has
a maximum capacity C
m
, such that the amount of surface ponding greater than C
m
will
bring about runoff Q
s
, which is considered to be lost for infiltration. If  ¼ Â
s
and
0 C C
m
, the water balance of the surface storage reservoir is:
dCðtÞ
dt
¼ P
e
ðtÞ À E
p
ðtÞ À R
p
ðtÞ À E
o
ðtÞ ð60Þ
where E
o
represents open water evaporation from the pond, being restricted to the
amount of water actually present at the surface. When the actual capacity C equals C
m
,
runoff Q
s
becomes equal to or greater than zero.
The downward flux after passage through the root zone is described by Darcy’s law:
R
p
¼ KðÂÞ
dh
p
dz
þ 1
_ _
ð61Þ
where K denotes the hydraulic conductivity as a function of Â, and dh
p
/dz is the
hydraulic head gradient, taken positive downward. Below the root zone, especially for
deep unsaturated zones, the movement of soil water is governed mainly by gravity.
Capillary gradients usually play a relatively minor role because the water content is near
to the soil’s field capacity, with little variations. It is therefore assumed that the pressure
head remains constant with depth, so that eqn. (61) reduces to R
p
¼ KðÂÞ. Functional
relationships commonly used to evaluate K are:
KðÂÞ ¼ K
s
ÂðtÞ ÀÂ
fc
Â
s
ÀÂ
fc
_ _
r
ð62Þ
for K ! 0, where r is a characteristic soil constant, usually fixed at r ¼ 1 for reasons of
model parsimony, and Â
fc
is soil water content at field capacity.
Van der Lee and Gehrels (1997) solve the water balance eqn. (58) implicitly
(numerically forward), and E
a
and R
p
are calculated as a function of ÂðtÞ. It is assumed
that the water fraction leaving the SOMOS module is beyond the range of roots, and
therefore equals the amount of recharge. However, before reaching the water table this
pulse is subject to dispersion and delay due to transfer through the vadose zone.
The redistribution of downward percolation flux in time is dealt with in the TRAFUN
module (Figure 6.3). Van der Lee and Gehrels (1997) used a two-parameter linear
reservoir (LINRES) identical to the well-known Nash (1959) catchment runoff cascade
model of n reservoirs with reservoir factor f . Similar response functions have also been
applied to the unsaturated zone by Neuman and de Marsily (1976), Besbes and de Marsily
(1984) and Morel-Seytoux (1984). A drawback, however, of a black-box reservoir is the
absence of a physical background for the fitting parameters. Gehrels (1999) therefore used
a more physically-based transfer function developed by Zwamborn (1995) to be able to
Aquifer dynamics 227
derive the parameters from soil characteristics. The method combines the advantages of
simple calculation and physical reality. The transfer function is derived by linearization of
the Richards equation, so that the parameters are directly related to the unsaturated zone
hydraulic properties. The temporal attenuation and delay of the percolating soil water can
then be expressed in terms of available soil data. The concise description given below is
based on Zwamborn (1995), to which the reader is referred for further information.
The percolation zone transfer function is based on the general form of a convolution
integral that describes the output of a dependent variable in time (groundwater recharge
R
g
ðtÞÞ as a result of a variable input (percolation below the root zone R
p
ðtÞÞ, through a
system (the percolation zone) that is represented by a transfer function F:
R
g
ðtÞ ¼
_
1
0
R
p
ðt À tÞFðtÞdðtÞ ð63Þ
where F is defined at time lag t, and R
g
is described in terms of R
p
at time t – t. The
Richards equation is used in order to arrive at an expression for F in terms of water
content 0, pressure head h and hydraulic conductivity Kð0Þ. The non-linear Richards
equation is linearized around an average value of soil water content 0 ¼
"
0. Pressure head
h and conductivity K are rewritten in a Taylor expansion using only the first two terms h
0
and K
0
, and the first derivatives with respect to 0, h
1
and K
1
. The terms h
0
, K
0
, h
1
and K
1
are constants around 0 ¼
"
0, so that the Richards eqn. (51) can be rewritten as:
00
0t
¼ K
0
h
1
0
2
0
0z
2
À K
1
00
0z
ð64Þ
This expression is analogous to the linear convection–dispersion equation and valid only
around the average water content
"
0. Instead of 0, eqn. (64) can also be written in terms of
the downward flux R
g
as a function of depth and time. Maas (1994) used the method
of moments to derive a solution for the transfer function F(t). F(t) is considered as a
probability density function, and the response of the out-flowing recharge then coincides
with the probability density of a stochastic variable.
The first three moments for R
g
are derived from the convection–dispersion equation.
The first moment represents the average response time between the departure of perco-
lation from the root zone and reaction of the flux at the water table. The second moment
(the standard deviation) is a measure for the damping or attenuation, and the third moment
(the skewness) for the temporal distribution of the attenuation.
The three moments are determined from the soil physical parameters h and K, and the
depth of the unsaturated zone z. The soil parameters can be derived from the soil water
retention characteristics and z is known for every location. The average response time, the
first moment M
1
, appears to be proportional to depth z according to a straightforward
relation:
M
1
¼ À
z
K
1
ð65Þ
The transfer function F(t) can now be determined by assuming that the moments of the
convection–dispersion equation are equal to those of a known probability density
function. Maas (1994) proposed a Pearson Type III distribution because it appeared to be
228 Understanding water in a dry environment
almost equal to the exact solution of the convection–dispersion equation. Groundwater
recharge can thus be calculated using the Pearson Type III distribution.
The lower boundary of the model below the percolation zone (SATFLOW in Figure
6.3) can be formulated in the same way as in the previous section. The different modules
together form a lumped, parametric reservoir model in which the parameters have a semi-
physical meaning. If both soil water and groundwater level data are used to calibrate the
model, and surface runoff is negligible, about ten parameters need to be determined by
measurement or optimization.
Van der Lee and Gehrels (1997) illustrate an example of application of the EARTH
model for a situation in Botswana. Gehrels (1999) additionally shows an example of
applying the transfer function according to Zwamborn (1995) to a deep unsaturated zone.
In the discussion section, Figure 6.17 compares the model performance of SWAP and
EARTH to the other methods treated in this chapter.
6.2.4 2D/3D numerical groundwater flow modelling
This section briefly describes dynamic aquifer response from a perspective of the
saturated zone using numerical groundwater flow modelling. The reason for restricting
comment to a very short overview is that numerical modelling of groundwater flow is
perhaps the most widely applied activity for many hydrogeologists, and therefore already
commonly known to much of the hydrological community. This section is included for
completeness, because groundwater flow modelling is a perfectly suitable technique to
analyze and simulate the dynamic behaviour of an aquifer. Useful references for more
rigorous theoretical discussion on numerical modelling are, for example, Wang and
Anderson (1982), Huyakorn and Pinder (1983) and Bear and Verruijt (1987). More
general textbooks such as Schwartz and Zhang (2003) also contain chapters on ground-
water flow modelling. Other useful resources are USGS user manuals on the various
MODFLOW package releases.
The reason for the popularity of numerical groundwater models is that most
groundwater systems are too complex to adequately describe with analytical expressions.
For example, many groundwater problems are non-linear, hydraulic conductivity is a
heterogeneous field, and boundary conditions are variable in space and time. Analytical
solutions to differential flow equations are useful as a first estimate, but lack the pos-
sibility of a spatially and temporally distributed, detailed estimation of groundwater flow
and hydraulic head that can be achieved using a numerical model.
Several numerical techniques have been developed, of which the finite difference and
finite element methods are the most important. The continuous differential equation
describing groundwater head is replaced by a finite number of algebraic equations that
define groundwater head at a specific set of locations in the flow domain. The most easily
understandable of the two techniques is probably the finite difference method. In this, the
partial differential equations describing groundwater flow are solved with a numerical
scheme in which the differentials are replaced by finite differences. For example, the
differential of h with respect to x is discretized by assuming:
dh
dx
¼ lim
x!0
Áh
Áx
%
Áh
Áx
ð66Þ
Aquifer dynamics 229
The change in time of groundwater head can be discretized in the same manner as:
dh
dt
¼ lim
t!0
Áh
Át
%
Áh
Át
ð67Þ
If, for example, the one-dimensional version of eqn. (4) is considered:
0
2
h
0x
2
¼
S
T
0h
0t
ð68Þ
this expression can be discretized by introducing a number of intervals in space (i – 1, i,
i þ 1, . . .) and in time (t, t þÁtÞ. Rewriting gives:
h
n
iþ1
À 2h
n
i
þ h
n
iÀ1
ðÁxÞ
2
¼
S
T
h
tþÁt
i
À h
t
i
_ _
Át
ð69Þ
For n ¼ t, eqn. (69) gives the forward difference or explicit solution, and for n ¼ t þÁt
the backward difference or implicit solution.
Considering the widespread use and availability of the numerical codes, numerical
modelling has proven to be a powerful way of analyzing, simulating, forcing, or modelling
groundwater systems. The seemingly unlimited capabilities of present-day computers has
removed the drawbacks that were felt several decades ago in the initial development
stages. In principle, every imaginable hydrological process can be incorporated into
numerical models, from the interaction of groundwater flow with surface water, complex
recharge processes, heterogeneous aquifers, to complex geological structures. In this way,
a numerical model can become much more realistic, but also more complex than an
analytical solution.
Numerous computer codes for groundwater flow in two or three dimensions have
been developed over the last decades but, as Schwartz and Zhang (2003) formulate it,
MODFLOW has emerged as the de facto standard code for simulating groundwater flow
in saturated zones. The standard for finite element model codes is probably the MicroFEM
code (Hemker & Nijsten 1997).
The Fortran 77 version of MODFLOW was published in 1988 (McDonald & Harbaugh
1988). An updated version of the model was released in 1996 (Harbaugh & McDonald
1996) and in 2000 (Harbaugh et al. 2000). Several pre- and post-processing software
packages are marketed, such as PMWIN, Visual MODFLOW, Groundwater Modelling
System, and Groundwater Vista. Calibration has improved tremendously with the devel-
opment of inverse modelling codes such as MODFLOWP (Hill 1992, 1998), PEST
(Doherty 2000), UCODE (Poeter & Hill 1998), MODFLOW-2000 (Hill et al. 2000), and
recently developed sophisticated techniques such as the representer method (Valstar 2001).
As far as quantitative groundwater flow modelling is concerned, data availability
usually forms the bottleneck rather than process knowledge (this is different from solute
transport, for which not only are data limited, but process knowledge is, to date, also
incomplete). Data are needed for the top boundary system and hydraulic aquifer
parameters (cf. Figure 6.1). New sources of data are becoming available with improved
remote sensing techniques. For example, extremely detailed information on ground
surface height can be obtained from laser altimetry. Land use classification, usually based
on LANDSAT, is also becoming better and more widely available, and there is progress in
determining soil water content from microwave and laser remote sensing techniques.
230 Understanding water in a dry environment
These sources of information, combined with the ever increasing computational power,
make it possible to model the top boundary system with increasing levels of detail. In this
way regional scale models can be constructed that incorporate local-scale top boundary
processes.
Characterization of the subsurface improves as more drillings become available, but
also as a result of improved geophysical interpretation techniques. However, the most
important improvement has probably come from new stochastic techniques, enabling
realistic incorporation of aquifer heterogeneity in the models. Aquifer heterogeneity
strongly determines groundwater flow, but is obviously very difficult to incorporate
in great detail. In a stochastic approach subsurface heterogeneity is described by geo-
statistical concepts that account for the variation and spatial structure of hydraulic para-
meters. In this way groundwater flow is simulated considerably more realistically than by
assuming homogeneity, as was the case in many deterministic models. However, many
drillings are still necessary in order to infer the stochastic parameters required for
describing the spatial structure.
One way of understanding the degree of uncertainty that results in simulated hydraulic
heads is by adopting a Monte Carlo approach. This is in fact the numerical alternative for
the approach of stochastic forcing described in Section 6.2.2. The influence of uncertainty
in one of the input variables is evaluated with regard to the variability in output variables;
for example, the influence of hydraulic conductivity on hydraulic head. Hydraulic
conductivity is considered as a stochastic field with a known probability distribution and
spatial structure (Deutsch & Journel 1998). These characteristics are used to generate
a large number of equally likely conductivity fields. After running the models, the
variability in the calculated hydraulic head field is evaluated as a function of uncertainty
in the input parameter. A good example is the work presented by Van Leeuwen (2000).
This chapter does not contain a separate example of a numerical model study, but
Figure 6.17 in the discussion section again compares the performance of a groundwater
model with other methods treated here.
6.3 EXAMPLES OF APPLICATION
6.3.1 Transfer function-noise modelling of groundwater head
This example is taken from Gehrels et al. (1994) and Gehrels (1999), in which TFN
modelling is applied to an area called the Veluwe; an extensive unconfined infiltration
area located in the middle of The Netherlands. The groundwater regime ranges from high-
frequency fluctuations with small amplitude and shallow water tables, to low-frequency
fluctuations with large amplitude and very deep water tables. The natural groundwater
level fluctuations are relatively undisturbed by surface water control. The area is therefore
a good test for evaluating and comparing models that simulate groundwater level
fluctuations, irrespective of climate regime.
Characterization of groundwater level fluctuations
Groundwater level fluctuations can be very different at different locations in the same
groundwater system, even if the precipitation surplus at these locations is essentially the
same. This is illustrated in Figure 6.4 for two piezometers in the same area. The ground-
water level response to precipitation surplus is rather direct along the edges of the
Aquifer dynamics 231
groundwater system, as illustrated by the shallow groundwater table in Figure 6.4a. The
same high-frequency precipitation surplus results in a slow, delayed response of the deep
groundwater level in the centre of the groundwater system (Figure 6.4b). In the centre,
groundwater levels only slightly reflect the succession of wet and dry seasons, and are
more susceptible to longer-term variations in average rainfall.
An initial controlling factor that determines the groundwater response is the thickness
of the unsaturated zone. In the central Veluwe the short-term rainfall events are buffered
in the thick unsaturated zone and do not show up in the deeper groundwater level records.
A second controlling factor is the drainage resistance, which increases with increasing
distance from the drainage base in the large aquifer system (cf. eqn. 8). As a result,
groundwater levels in the central Veluwe exhibit long-term fluctuations with periods in
the order of 5–10 years and an amplitude of several metres. However, despite the strong
signal modification from precipitation surplus to groundwater level fluctuations, Figure
6.5 demonstrates a remarkable relationship between the two, when comparing a moving
average of precipitation with groundwater level in the central Veluwe.
The typical slow response—or the high temporal correlation—of groundwater level in
the central Veluwe can be quantified with the autocorrelation function (ACF) calculated
according to eqn. (37). The ACFs for both piezometers are shown in Figure 6.6. The
seasonal component of precipitation excess is clearly present in the shallow groundwater
1945 1950 1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995
25
26
27
28
29
30
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
2.0
3.0
4.0
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
(a) 26hp0039
(b) 33ap0065
Figure 6.4. Example of time series for (a) a shallow level (26hp0039) near the NW boundary of the
Veluwe area, and (b) a deep groundwater level (33ap0065) in the central Veluwe.
232 Understanding water in a dry environment
level, but is practically absent at the deep level. The shallow groundwater level is
correlated over only a few years, whereas the deep water level is correlated over a period
of more than a decade. The strong seasonal correlation present in the shallow groundwater
levels is also reflected in the correlation structure of precipitation excess. Figure 6.6 also
shows the ACF for precipitation excess PE, calculated as PE ¼ P À 0.8E
o
, where P is
precipitation and E
o
is Penman open water evaporation. PE has a persistent seasonal
correlation of about 0.6 over the entire period.
1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990
0.85
0.90
0.95
1.00
1.05
1.10
1.15
n
o
r
m
a
l
i
z
e
d

d
e
v
i
a
t
i
o
n

(
-
-
-
)
Figure 6.5. Moving average of precipitation over seven years (dashed) compared with the fluc-
tuations of groundwater level at 33ap0015 (solid); both signals have been normalized, i.e. divided by
the mean; the precipitation record was shifted 3.5 years back in time.
0 5 10 15 20
time lag (y)
Ϫ1.0
Ϫ0.5
0.0
0.5
1.0
a
u
t
o
c
o
r
r
e
l
a
t
i
o
n

(
-
-
)
0 5 10 15 20
time lag (y)
26hp0039
33ap0065

Figure 6.6. ACFs for precipitation excess (left), and for groundwater level recorded for the shallow-
(26hp0039) and deep (33ap0065) piezometers (right).
Aquifer dynamics 233
The different response to precipitation excess in different regions of an aquifer system
is best illustrated by the cross correlation function (CCF) between precipitation excess and
groundwater level. The CCF quantifies the response, delay and dampening in terms of
time to peak, average delay and tailing of the reaction. The CCFs in Figure 6.7 indicate
that the shallow water level reacts immediately on precipitation, whereas it takes some 18
months for the deep water level to rise to a maximum.
Model diagnostics
Box and Jenkins (1970) state that no matter what type of stochastic model is to be fitted to
a given data set, it is recommended to follow the identification, estimation, and diagnostic
check stages of model construction. These steps were also followed in the present study.
Transfer function-noise models were constructed for a range of about 100 piezometers.
Different model forms were adopted, and to identify the most suitable model form
standard techniques were applied using the CCFs between input and output time series,
and the ACFs of the output time series. For a more detailed description of parameter
identification the reader is referred to the paper by Hipel et al. (1977). After identifying a
range of possible model forms, parameters were estimated using the method of maximum
likelihood. The calculations were carried out using software from the GENSTAT
statistical programming library (GENSTAT 1988). After testing several models, the ‘best’
model was chosen by considering a number of diagnostic checks.
First, the autocorrelation of the resulting innovations was examined, as the innovation
series is expected to be white noise. Next, the correlation matrix of the estimated para-
meters was analyzed in order to verify independence of the individual model components:
Correlation between parameters of different model components should be minimal. The
cross-correlation between residuals and precipitation excess was analyzed to verify
independence between input series and residuals. Furthermore, the estimated significance
of parameter estimates was evaluated. Parameters with values not significantly different
fromzero were omitted, thus avoiding model redundancy. Finally, the variance of residuals
0 5 10 15 20
time lag (y)
Ϫ1.0
Ϫ0.5
0.0
0.5
1.0
a
u
t
o
c
o
r
r
e
l
a
t
i
o
n

(
-
-
-
)
0 5 10 15 20
time lag (y)
CCF 26hp0039 CCF 33ap0065
Figure 6.7. CCFs between precipitation excess and recorded groundwater level for the shallow
(26hp0039) (left) and deep piezometers (33ap0065)(right).
234 Understanding water in a dry environment
and innovations was considered, as this is an expression of the extent to which a model is
capable of explaining the total variance of the measured time series.
Figure 6.8 is an example of a model for the piezometer shown in Figure 6.4b. This is
a model with only precipitation excess as input. Figure 6.8a shows the component of
precipitation excess and 6.8b the residual series. The fluctuations and trends in the
residuals are thus assumed to be caused by other sources than precipitation excess. Figure
6.9 shows an example of a double-input model in which groundwater abstraction is also
taken into account.
Table 6.2 summarizes the identified model forms for the piezometers shown in Figures
6.8 and 6.9. Model orders and parameter estimates are given for both the single- and
double-input transfer models, and noise models. Some of the diagnostic criteria are given
in the lower part of Table 6.2, viz: coefficient of determination r
2
, total variance of the
actual time series, residual and innovation variance, and the one-step-ahead forecast error
(given by the standard deviation of the residual series). Comparison of r
2
for the single-
and double-input models shows the improvement that is obtained by applying a second
model component. The same holds for the single- and double-input residual variances
and forecast errors. Comparison of the total variance, residual variance and innovation
variance shows the degree to which the model is capable of explaining the total variance
of actual measurements.
26
27
28
29
30
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990
Ϫ1.0
0.0
1.0
r
e
s
i
d
u
a
l

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
Figure 6.8. Single-input transfer model for piezometer 33ap0065 in the central Veluwe area;
(a) outcome of the precipitation excess model; (b) the residuals.
Aquifer dynamics 235
Ϫ0.5
0.0
0.5
1.0
r
e
s
i
d
u
a
l

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
(b) residual of single-input model
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
4.5
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
(c) measurements (dots) and simulated effect of groundwater abstraction (solid)
Ϫ0.5
0. 0
0.5
r
e
s
i
d
u
a
l

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
(d) residual of double-input model
1955 1960 1965 1970 1975 1980 1985 1990
2.5
3.0
3.5
4.0
4.5
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
(a) measurements (dots) and simulated precipitation excess (solid)
Figure 6.9. Double-input transfer model for piezometer 26hp0111, where the first input is preci-
pitation excess and the second is groundwater abstraction for the specific location; (a) outcome of
the first transfer model; (b) residual for the single-input model; (c) outcome of the second transfer
model; (d) residual from combining the two models.
236 Understanding water in a dry environment
Correlation matrices (not shown here; see Gehrels et al. 1994) showed very low
correlation between transfer components (c
1
and .
i
Þ and noise components (’
1
and 0
1
Þ.
Values were around 0.05–0.15, indicating independence between precipitation excess
and noise components. The ACFs of the innovation series indicated that autocorrelation
generally falls within the confidence limits, and the innovation series could therefore be
accepted as being white noise.
Conclusions
This example shows that groundwater level fluctuations can be realistically modelled
using single-input and double-input transfer functions to separate natural and
anthropogenic components. The technique is flexible and robust in the majority of cases,
and a wide range of varying types of fluctuations can be simulated. For piezometers
showing a discernible trend in residual series, a significantly better fit is obtained using a
double-input instead of a single-input model. In this way, influences such as groundwater
abstraction can be identified and quantified.
6.3.2 Spectral analysis using the theory of stochastic forcing
The theoretical framework of spectral analysis outlined in Section 6.2.2 can easily be
simulated and illustrated numerically. An example is given from Gieske (1992). Writing
eqn. (6.17) in finite difference form yields:
h
iþ1
À h
i
Át
¼ Àl h
i
þ yðtÞ ð70Þ
Table 6.2. Summary of modelling results for piezometers shown in Figures 6.8 and 6.9. The
ARIMA order (b, r, d, sÞ of the first TF model indicates delay time steps (bÞ, AR (rÞ, differencing
(dÞ and MA (sÞ parameters, respectively. The second TF model, a simple MA (1) model, is used for
abstraction. Diagnostic criteria are given for single- and double-input models: Coefficient of
determination r
2
, variance of (1) actual measurements, (2) residuals and (3) innovations. One-step-
ahead forecast error is given by the standard deviation of the residuals.
Piezometer # Fig. 6.8 33ap0065 Fig. 6.9 26hp0111
Single-input model
TF 1 order (b, r, d, sÞ (1,1,0,4) (0,1,0,1)
Noise order (p, d, qÞ (1,0,1) (1,0,0)
Double-input model
TF 2 order (b, r, d, sÞ (0,0,0,1)
r
2
—single model 0.79 0.59
r
2
—double model 0.85
measured total variance 9091 1173
Residual variance
Single 1857 492.0
Double 169.9
Innovation variance
Single 68.4 78.4
Double 65.1
One-step-ahead error
Single 43.1 22.2
Double 13.0
Aquifer dynamics 237
If recharge occurs every year, then Át ¼ 1 year, and if yðtÞ is given by an exponential
depth distribution with long-term mean recharge
"
R, then eqn. (6.70) can be written as:
h
iþ1
¼ h
i
ð1 À lÞ À
"
R
S
lnðrandomÞ ð71Þ
where random is a random number between 0 and 1. Figure 6.10 illustrates the
fluctuations resulting from a simple example (Gieske 1992). Note that recharge has been
added instantaneously to water in the reservoir in this model, using percolation events
rather than a more gradual recharge at the water table.
In arid to semi-arid climates recharge events can be very rare, as is illustrated in Figure
6.11. This is an example from arid southern Iran at Sarchahan, about 100 km north of
Bandar Abbas, where rainfall is on average about 212 mmyr
À1
. Groundwater recharge
was calculated using the EARTH model (see Section 6.2.3), providing an estimate
of 21 mmyr
À1
. In the 16-year period from 1984 to 2000, the modelling shows eight
percolation events. After convolution of the moisture in the unsaturated zone, there are
only six smoothed peaks visible in the recharge history. As an approximation one can say
that recharge occurred in 1987, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1996 and 1997, an irregular sequence of
arrivals. This can be statistically modelled with a Poisson distribution (Eagleson 1978).
Furthermore, the size distribution of the recharge events can also be taken into account.
However, a total of six recharge seasons is too small to reliably determine the parameters
of these distributions.
Recharge events are more frequent in the semi-arid climate of Botswana and South
Africa, and some longer observational sequences are available. As a first example
consider the fluctuations in well 4876 (Kanye, Botswana), which has been modelled and
Figure 6.10. Random fluctuations in a simple reservoir model when annual recharge is exponen-
tially distributed; arrival time Át ¼ 1 year; an exponential depth distribution was assumed (from
Gieske 1992).
238 Understanding water in a dry environment
described by Gieske (1992) and Van der Lee and Gehrels (1997). The hydrograph in
Figure 6.12 clearly shows the annual recharge peaks as a result of summer rainfall (on
average 600 mmyr
À1
Þ; the aquifer has received significant rainfall in five out of ten years.
The figure also shows a clear and almost linear recession in periods without recharge. In
this case it appears a justifiable approximation to consider that annual recharge always
occurs at the same time of the year (if it does occur). Also for this case, the number of
years in the observed sequence is too small to arrive at a reliable estimate of parameters
for the recharge depth distribution. Fortunately, however, there is a long series of observa-
tions available from the Wondergat Sinkhole dating back to 1922 (see Figures 6.13 and
6.14) and described by Bredenkamp (1988), Gieske (1993), and Bredenkamp et al. (1995).
Bredenkamp et al. (1995) applied several methods to assess the recharge in the
dolomite compartment surrounding the aquifer. One of these methods involved separating
the levels in annual rises and declines. When multiplying the annual rises with the storage
coefficient (S ¼ 0.028) derived from well tests and aquifer modelling, Bredenkamp et al.
derived a sequence of annual recharge values with a mean of 74 mmyr
À1
. Figure 6.15
0
100
200
300
400
R
a
i
n

(
m
m
/
m
o
n
t
h
)
0
20
40
60
80
100
p
e
r
c
o
l
a
t
i
o
n

(
m
m
/
m
o
n
t
h
)
0
2
4
6
8
10
r
e
c
h
a
r
g
e

r
a
t
e
(
m
m
/
m
o
n
t
h
)
684
688
692
696
700
1984 1986 1988 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
a
s
l
)
2000
measured modelled
Figure 6.11. Recharge calculated with EARTH (Sarchahan, southern Iran, 100 km north of Bandar
Abbas); mean rainfall is 212 mmyr
À1
; estimated average recharge is 21 mmyr
À1
; precipitation
above 80 mm per month was assumed to be runoff; the figures show six main recharge events (from
Choopani 2000).
Aquifer dynamics 239
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l

(
m
)
1246
1244
1242
1240
85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96
Figure 6.12. Groundwater level fluctuations in a dolomitic aquifer (Kanye Well 4876, Botswana;
from Van der Lee & Gehrels 1997).
Figure 6.13. The Wondergat Sinkhole in the north of South Africa; the picture shows the sinkhole
where water levels indicate groundwater level in the dolomitic aquifer. The 50 m deep sinkhole is a
popular diving resort.
Time (1922–1993)
20
18
16
14
12
10
8
6
4
2
0
Ϫ2
30 40 50 60 70 80 90 100
w
a
t
e
r

l
e
v
e
l
s

(
m
)
Figure 6.14. Groundwater levels in the Wondergat Sinkhole, South Africa (1922–1993).
240 Understanding water in a dry environment
indicates the recharge values from 1922–1992, and Figure 6.16 illustrates the cumulative
probability plot of the data together with a fitted exponential depth distribution. The latter
figure shows that the assumption of an exponential depth distribution for the annual
recharge values is reasonable, with ÁT equal to one year. The data further show that the
standard deviation of fluctuations around the mean are 2.6 m (o ¼ 2.6 m). Furthermore,
analysis by Bredenkamp (1988) indicates that the recession constant l of the water level in
periods without recharge is ca. 0.63 yr
À1
. The specific flow resistance then becomes
¸ ¼ 56.7 yr (see Section 6.2.2). It is nowpossible to determine the average annual recharge
independently through eqn. (43), giving a value of 82 mm yr
À1
. This is remarkably close
to the 74 mmyr
À1
found by Bredenkamp et al. (1995).
0
50
100
150
200
250
1
9
2
3
1
9
2
6
1
9
2
9
`
1
9
3
2
1
9
3
5
1
9
3
8
1
9
4
1
1
9
4
4
1
9
4
7
1
9
5
0
1
9
5
3
1
9
5
6
1
9
5
9

1
9
6
2
1
9
6
5
1
9
6
8
1
9
7
1
1
9
7
4
1
9
7
7
1
9
8
0 a
n
n
u
a
l

r
e
c
h
a
r
g
e

(
m
m
)
Figure 6.15. Annual recharge values in the Wondergat Sinkhole (1923–1983), after Bredenkamp
et al. (1995); (S ¼0.028,
"
R ¼ 74 mmyr
À1
Þ; the standard deviation of the water levels is 2.6 m.
0
0.2
0.4
0.6
0.8
1
0 50 100 150 200 250
annual recharge (mm)
c
u
m
u
l
a
t
i
v
e

p
r
o
b
a
b
i
l
i
t
y
Figure 6.16. Cumulative probabilities of the recharge values (Wondergat Sinkhole, 1923–1983)
shown together with an exponential depth distribution (mean 74 mmyr
À1
; y ¼ 1 À expðÀx,74Þ
(after Gieske 1993).
Aquifer dynamics 241
6.4 DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS
This chapter describes various methods to interpret and simulate aquifer dynamics,
ranging from purely stochastic transfer function-noise models and stochastic differential
equations incorporating aquifer properties, to purely deterministic physically-based 1D
unsaturated zone and spatially distributed 3D groundwater flow models. Examples are
given for two of the less familiar methods. Each has advantages and drawbacks that have
to be taken into consideration when deciding to apply one or other of these methods to a
specific cases.
In general, stochastic time series methods such as the TFN models do not require data
other than the input and output series to drive and calibrate the models. This is a huge
advantage over physically-based models, which require considerable effort to adequately
incorporate the necessary information on the hydrological system.
On the other hand, the possibilities for physically-based models are greater. Groundwater
flow models provide maps with the spatial distribution of hydraulic head, rather than point
values at piezometer locations. Moreover, these models describe groundwater flow, and
unsaturated zone flow models provide the distribution of soil water content. Finally, and
also extremely important, physically-based models enable scenario calculations to analyze
hypothetical changes and measures in the hydrological system (obviously within certain
limits close to the calibrated groundwater flow situation). This is possible to only a very
limited extent with the stochastic TFN models and differential equations.
The performances of the different methods, in terms of capability for simulating the
history and predicting the future, are very difficult to compare as this would require a
comprehensive study in which all techniques are applied to all sorts of conditions. However,
Gehrels (1999) carried out such a study in which he compared some of the methods
described here. In this study, groundwater level fluctuations were simulated with TFN
models, 1Dsoil water flowmodels, and a spatially distributed 3Dgroundwater flowmodel.
The application of the TFN models was described in Section 6.3.1, and the 1D soil water
flow models were the SWAP and EARTH models, the theory for which was described in
Section 6.2.3. The 3D groundwater flow model was a finite-element MicroFEM model,
including a spatially distributed groundwater recharge description in which the arrival of
recharge is spatially dependent on the thickness of the unsaturated zone.
The simulation performance of the models can be intuitively evaluated by considering
Figure 6.17. This shows that groundwater level fluctuations at this piezometer location
are followed most closely by the 1D physically-based SWAP and EARTH models. These
two models result in the smallest residuals, especially in the 1950s and 1980s. The TFN
models produce larger residuals, and the largest residuals are observed for the 3D ground-
water model.
An initial conclusion is that 1D models are not necessarily inferior to 3D models for
simulating groundwater levels or predicting trends. The fact that 1D models perform best
indicates that groundwater response for an unconfined aquifer system, such as the Veluwe
in this study, can be explained almost entirely from the vertical water flux through the
unsaturated zone. As long as the water table response can be described as a uni-modal
distribution, this can be effectively included in a 1D flow model or impulse-response
function.
Both the SWAP and EARTH soil water flow models simulate groundwater level
fluctuations and recharge better than the TFN models. The deviations encountered with
242 Understanding water in a dry environment
1
9
5
0
1
9
5
5
1
9
6
0
1
9
6
5
1
9
7
0
1
9
7
5
1
9
8
0
1
9
8
5
1
9
9
0
1
9
9
5
2
5
.
5
2
6
.
0
2
6
.
5
2
7
.
0
2
7
.
5
2
8
.
0
2
8
.
5
2
9
.
0
2
9
.
5
3
0
.
0
g r o u n d w a t e r h e a d ( m )
3
3
a
p
0
0
6
5
0
2
V
e
l
u
w
e

m
o
d
e
l
t
r
a
n
s
f
e
r
/
n
o
i
s
e

m
o
d
e
l
S
W
A
P
2
E
A
R
T
H
9
8
F
i
g
u
r
e
6
.
1
7
.
C
o
m
p
a
r
i
s
o
n
o
f
a
3
D
n
u
m
e
r
i
c
a
l
g
r
o
u
n
d
w
a
t
e
r
f
l
o
w
m
o
d
e
l
,
T
F
N
a
n
d
1
D
p
h
y
s
i
c
a
l
l
y
-
b
a
s
e
d
(
S
W
A
P
a
n
d
E
A
R
T
H
)
m
o
d
e
l
s
f
o
r
t
h
e
p
i
e
z
o
m
e
t
e
r
l
o
c
a
t
i
o
n
3
3
a
p
0
0
6
5
a
t
t
h
e
c
e
n
t
r
a
l
V
e
l
u
w
e
i
n
T
h
e
N
e
t
h
e
r
l
a
n
d
s
.
Aquifer dynamics 243
the TFN models are probably explained by the simple formulation of the top boundary
conditions in these models. In the soil water models and the groundwater model, actual
evaporation is calculated as a function of soil water deficits in the root zone, whereas in
the TFN models actual evaporation is represented by potential evaporation as a fixed
proportion of the reference evaporation. In addition, the SWAP and EARTH models use
daily time steps, whereas the TFN models use three-monthly time steps. It is possible,
however, to also include these improvements in the TFN models. Indeed, Berendrecht
et al. (in prep.) found clearly better results when using TFN models with daily time steps,
and including evaporation as a function of soil water status.
An important reason for the larger residuals found with the 3D groundwater flow model
arises from the fact that the model not only generates a temporal, but also a spatial
interpolation. In the 3D model the simulated groundwater head is calibrated by consider-
ing all piezometer locations simultaneously. The spatial coherence in groundwater head
will then give rise to deviations at individual locations. The 1D models are more easily
optimized for a specific location. Furthermore, groundwater head calculated for a 3Dmodel
grid node represents a spatial average over the nodal area. Although a point observation
at the piezometer location is also representative of the immediate surroundings, the extent
of this area will certainly be smaller than the element sizes of the adopted groundwater
model.
With respect to analyzing the effect of groundwater abstraction, Gehrels (1999)
concluded that the groundwater model results provide more insight to the impact of these
measures. Results from the TFN models are restricted to the locations and periods for
which data are available. The spatial extent of the water table lowering needs to be
interpreted qualitatively, whereas this is an explicit result from the groundwater model. In
areas without measurement locations, the groundwater model may show significant water
table declines, whereas TFN models provide no information at all.
In conclusion, stochastic TFN models are especially useful for initial reconnaissance
surveys. In the subsequent phases of water management, in which more detailed spatially
distributed information and scenario calculations are required, physically-based 1D or 3D
models are generally more powerful.
6.5 RECOMMENDATIONS
TFN models are easy to formulate and input data requirements are very limited. These
models are therefore very suitable for a first reconnaissance survey in which the most
important driving forces and trends in groundwater head are identified.
In order to represent precipitation excess and influences such as groundwater
abstraction and lowering of surface water levels, the input time series needed for TFN
models have to be constructed with care. TFN models depend greatly on these series, and
so do the conclusions, with errors, simplifications or trends present in the input series
being linearly transferred to the simulated output. A well-known drawback that may easily
be encountered with TFN models is apparent correlation. It may sometimes be quite
difficult to separate causal relationships, in which case model estimation becomes
troublesome and results unreliable.
Another aspect that one has to be aware of, is that measurement series need to have
a certain minimum length to be able to estimate the model parameters. In TFN models,
244 Understanding water in a dry environment
parameter estimation is based on the autocorrelation and cross-correlation functions
derived from the recorded precipitation and water level data. If the measurement period is
relatively short compared to the correlation length of groundwater head, parameter esti-
mates will be biased by the occasional extremes present in the time series. A rule of thumb
is to use measurement series that include minimally 2–3 times the correlation length.
The performance of the TFN models illustrated here can be improved considerably
by adapting the state-space approach, as described by Berendrecht et al. (2003). In this
approach the stochastic TFN models, and the physically-based unsaturated zone models,
become increasingly integrated to a point where the principal differences between these
procedures have disappeared.
Methods based on stochastic differential equations provide the possibility of forcing
variability in the input signal through the model into the output signal. For example, a
spectral analysis of recharge events provides insight to the groundwater regime. However,
application of these methods is not straightforward and requires considerable research
effort, and their applicability is therefore limited to more theoretical studies. Nevertheless,
clear links exist between the more general applications of the theory of stochastic
processes as used in other scientific disciplines. In fact, this theory lies at the base of the
more easily applicable TFN models.
1D physically-based models are needed if detailed information is required about soil
water status or solute transport through the unsaturated zone. Chapter 5 provides applica-
tion examples and recommendations on their use. For merely simulating groundwater
levels these models are often more complex than is strictly required.
Groundwater flow models are without doubt the most widely applicable models,
providing the widest range of possibilities and outcome. Given the data requirements,
however, it is often worthwhile considering other possibilities as described above, since
many research questions and practical problems can be resolved with simpler approaches.
6.6 LIST OF SYMBOLS
General
x, y spatial co-ordinates in horizontal direction [L]
z spatial co-ordinate in vertical direction [L]
t time [T]
h hydraulic head or groundwater head with respect to a reference level [L]
"
h average groundwater head above the local drainage base level [L]
b aquifer thickness [L]
v specific discharge [LT
À1
]
, density of water
S
s
specific storage [L
À1
]
S storativity or storage coefficient defined as S ¼ S
s
b [–]
P precipitation [LT
À1
]
E
o
Penman open water evaporation [LT
À1
]
PE precipitation excess calculated as PE¼P – 0.8E
o
[LT
À1
]
R groundwater recharge through the plane of the water table [LT
À1
]
"
Q average discharge [LT
À1
]
¸ specific drainage flow resistance [T]
Aquifer dynamics 245
l reaction factor for the water table, equal to l ¼ 1,¸S
L flow path length [L]
K hydraulic conductivity [LT
À1
]
T aquifer transmissivity defined as T ¼ Kb [L
2
T
À1
]
u shape factor [–]
Section 6.2.1
z
t
observation measured at time t
a
t
white noise term at time t that is identically independently
distributed (IID) with zero mean and variance o
2
a
c
i
ith non-seasonal autoregressive (AR) ARIMA model parameter
0
j
jth non-seasonal moving average (MA) ARIMA model parameter
j mean level of the stochastic process
x
t
time series forming dynamic input to transfer function-noise (TFN) model
y
t
dynamic output time series from TFN model calculated from x
t
,
white noise series a
t
and a constant c
c
i.k
kth non-seasonal AR parameter of the ith transfer model
.
i.l
lth non-seasonal MA parameter of the ith transfer model
B backward shift operator defined as B
k
y
t
¼ y
tÀk
Á(B) non-seasonal AR operator defined as ÁðBÞ ¼ 1 À c
1
B À c
2
B
2
À Á Á Á À c
r
B
r
(B) non-seasonal MA operator defined as ðBÞ ¼ 1 À .
1
B À .
2
B
2
À Á Á Á À .
s
B
s
n
t
serially correlated error or residual series modelled with an ARIMA model
from the noise series a
t
È(B) non-seasonal AR operator for noise model defined similarly to ÁðBÞ
Â(B) non-seasonal MA operator for noise model defined similarly to ðBÞ
Section 6.2.2
XðtÞ water level at time t
yðtÞ stationary stochastic process with a long-term mean given by E yðtÞ f g ¼
"
R,S
È t. t
0
ð Þ integrating function
xðtÞ transformed water level such that EfxðtÞg ¼ 0
zðtÞ transformed stochastic recharge process such that EfzðtÞg ¼ 0
À
xx
autocorrelation function for xðtÞ
S
xx
autospectral density function for xðtÞ
È(tÞ integrating function expressed as function of lag t ¼ t À t
0
Hði.) Fourier transform of È(t)
c
k
autocorrelation function of a discrete series of observations
c(tÞ delta function, being zero for all t except for t ¼ 0
Section 6.2.3
h soil water pressure head [L]
z vertical soil depth [L]
C soil water capacity [L
À1
]
0 volumetric soil water content [L
3
L
À3
]
0
r
residual soil water content [L
3
L
À3
]
0
s
saturated soil water content [L
3
L
À3
]
246 Understanding water in a dry environment
D soil water diffusivity defined as D ¼ K
dh
d0
[L
2
T
À1
]
c constant in Van Genuchten soil water retention curve [L
À1
]
n constant in Van Genuchten soil water retention curve [–]
m constant in Van Genuchten soil water retention curve defined as
m ¼ 1 À 1,n [–]
S
e
effective degree of saturation or reduced water content (0 S
e
1Þ [–]
K
s
saturated hydraulic conductivity [LT
À1
]
KðS
e
Þ unsaturated hydraulic conductivity [LT
À1
]
‘ shape parameter in Mualem expression for unsaturated
hydraulic conductivity [–]
E
c
evaporation rate for water intercepted by the canopy during rainfall [LT
À1
]
I interception loss [L]
S
c
canopy capacity [L]
P
G
gross rainfall [LT
À1
]
P
e
excess or net precipitation [LT
À1
]
P
0
G
amount of rain necessary to saturate the canopy [L]
p free throughfall coefficient [–]
p
t
stemflow coefficient [–]
 soil water content defined as  ¼ D0 [L]
D effective root zone thickness [L]
Â
s
saturated soil water content [L]
Â
r
residual soil water content [L]
Â
fc
soil water content at field capacity [L]
E
p
potential evaporation rate [LT
À1
]
E
a
actual evapotranspiration rate [LT
À1
]
R
p
percolation rate to below the root zone [LT
À1
]
C actual surface storage capacity [L]
C
m
maximum capacity of surface storage [L]
Q
s
surface runoff [LT
À1
]
r characteristic soil constant [–]
F(t) transfer function describing transfer from percolation to recharge [–]
h
0
first-order approximation of pressure head h [L]
K
0
first-order approximation of conductivity K [LT
À1
]
h
1
first derivative of h with respect to 0 [L]
K
1
first derivative of K with respect to 0 [LT
À1
]
M
1
first moment of transfer function F(t), i.e. average response time [T]
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250 Understanding water in a dry environment
CHAPTER 7
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid
regions—focus on North Africa
W. Mike Edmunds
British Geological Survey, Crowmarsh Gifford, Wallingford, Oxon., UK
ABSTRACT: Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid zones are described, following
the pathway of water through the hydrological cycle from rainfall via the unsaturated zone to
groundwater. Detailed studies using a combination of chemical and isotopic techniques are recom-
mended to understand the evolution of groundwater quality in arid regions, especially since it is
important to be able to distinguish modern recharge from widespread palaeowaters recharged under
much wetter climate conditions. Once the groundwater system is properly understood it is possible
to monitor changes with simple tools such as Cl, NO
3
and SEC.
The range of methods available for investigation of hydrochemical processes are reviewed, and
are illustrated with various examples from the north African and Sahel region of Africa. The
chemical and isotopic information in the unsaturated zone may be used to estimate recharge and the
build-up of salinity. In the saturated zone the evolution of groundwater chemistry may be under-
stood by following hydrochemical changes along flow lines, especially in confined aquifers. A case
study from Wadi Hawad in central Sudan is used to explain the links between surface and
groundwater quality using a combination of isotopic and chemical studies, which clearly distingu-
ish areas of modern recharge and the identity of palaeowaters.
7.1 INTRODUCTION AND RATIONALE
Groundwater quality issues now assume major importance in semi-arid and arid zones,
since scarce reserves of groundwater (both renewable and non-renewable) are under threat
due to accelerated development, as well as a range of direct human impacts. In earlier
times, settlement and human migration in Africa and the Middle East region were strictly
controlled by the locations and access to fresh water mainly close to the few major per-
ennial rivers such as the Nile, or to springs and oases, representing key discharge points
from large aquifers that had been replenished during wetter periods of the Holocene and
the Pleistocene. This is a recurring theme in writings of all the early civilisations where
water is valued and revered (Issar 1990). The memory of the Holocene sea level rise and
pluvial periods is indicated in the story of the Flood (Genesis 7:10), and groundwater
quality is referred to in the book of Exodus (15:20). More recent climate change may also
be referred to in the Koran (Sura 34:16).
In present times groundwater forms the primary drinking water source in arid and semi-
arid regions, since river flows are unreliable and large freshwater lakes are either ephe-
meral (e.g. Lake Chad) or no longer exist. The rules of use and exploitation have changed
dramatically over the past fewdecades by the introduction of advanced drilling technology
for groundwater (often available alongside oil exploitation), as well as the introduction
of mechanised pumps. This has raised expectations in a generation or so of the availability
of plentiful groundwater, yet in practice falling water levels testify to probable over-
development and inadequate scientific understanding of the resource, or lack of political
will to act on the scientific evidence available. In addition to the issues related to quantity,
quality issues exacerbate the situation. This is because the natural groundwater regime
established over long time scales has developed chemical (and age) stratification in
response to recharge over a range of climatic regimes and geological controls. Borehole
drilling cuts through the natural quality layering and abstraction may lead to deterioration
in water quality with time as water is drawn either from lower transmissivity strata, or is
drawn down from the near-surface where saline waters are commonplace.
Investigations of water quality are therefore needed alongside, and even in advance of
widespread exploitation. The application of hydrogeochemical techniques are needed to
fully understand the origins of groundwater, the timing of its recharge and whether or not
modern recharge is occurring at all. Study is needed of the extent of natural layering and
zonation as well as chemical changes taking place along flow lines due to water–rock
interaction (predicting, for example, if harmful concentrations of certain elements may be
present naturally). The superimposed impacts of human activity and the ability of the
aquifer system to act as a buffer against surface pollution can then be determined against
natural baselines.
Typical landscape elements of (semi-)arid regions are shown in Figure 7.1, using the
example of North Africa, where a contrast is drawn between the infrequent and small
Figure 7.1. Landscape hydrogeology and hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid
regions. The generalised cross-section illustrates the geological environment found in North Africa,
where sedimentary basins of different ages overstep each other unconformably and may be in
hydraulic continuity with each other.
252 Understanding water in a dry environment
amounts of modern recharge as compared with the huge reserves of palaeowaters
recharged during wetter climates of the Pleistocene and Holocene. Broad wadi systems
and palaeo-lakes testify to former less arid climates. Against this background the main
water quality issues of arid and semi-arid regions can be considered both for North Africa
and other similar regions. Geochemical techniques can be applied for defining and mit-
igating several of the key water issues in (semi-)arid areas. These issues include salinis-
ation, recharge assessment, residence timeestimationandthe definitionof natural (baseline)
water quality, as a basis for studying pollution and human-induced changes more gen-
erally. In this context it is noted that the mainly continental sandstones indicated in the
diagram are highly oxidised and that dissolved O
2
can persist to considerable depths in
many basins. Under oxidising conditions several elements (Mo, Cr, As) or species such as
NO
3
remain stable, and may persist or build up along flow pathways.
This chapter describes the application of hydrogeochemical techniques to under-
standing the water quality problems of semi-arid regions and follows the chemical path-
way of water from rainfall through the hydrological cycle. In this way it becomes possible
to focus on the question of modern recharge, how much is occurring and how to recognise
it. It is vital to be able to recognise the interface between modern water and palaeowaters
as a basis for sustainable management of water resources in such regions. Chemical and
especially isotopic methods have helped to distinguish groundwater of different gener-
ations. In fact, the development of water quality may be viewed as an evolution series over
time: (i) undisturbed evolution under natural conditions; (ii) the borehole development
phase with some disturbance of natural conditions, especially stratification; (iii) devel-
opment with contamination, and (iv) artificially managed systems.
7.2 METHODS OF INVESTIGATION
Hydrogeochemical investigations consist of two distinct steps: Sampling and analysis.
Special care is needed with sampling because of the need for representativeness of sam-
ple, the question of mixtures of water (especially groundwaters which may be stratified),
the need to filter or not to filter, as well as the stability of chemical species. For groundwater
investigations a large range of tools is available, both chemical and isotopic, for investigat-
ing chemical processes and overall water quality in (semi-)arid regions. However, it is
essential that unstable variables such as pH, temperature, Eh and DO be measured in the
field. Some details on field approaches are given by Appelo and Postma (1993) and also
by Clark and Fritz (1997).
A summary of potential techniques for the hydrogeochemical study of groundwaters
in arid and semi-arid areas is given in Table 7.1. Chloride can be regarded as a master
variable. It is chemically inert and is therefore conserved in the groundwater system—in
contrast to the water molecule, which is lost or fractionated during the physical processes
of evapotranspiration. The combined use of chloride and the stable isotopes of water
(d
18
O, d
2
H) therefore provide a powerful technique for studying the evolution of ground-
water salinity as well as recharge/discharge relationships (Fontes 1980; Clark &Fritz 1997;
Coplen et al. 1999). A major challenge in arid zone investigations is to be able to distingu-
ish saline water of different origins including saline build-up from rainfall sources, for-
mation waters of different origins, as well as relict sea water. The Br/Cl ratio is an
important tool for narrowing down different sources of salinity (Rittenhouse 1967;
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 253
Edmunds 1996a; Davis et al. 1998), discriminating specifically between evaporite,
atmospheric, and marine Cl sources. The relative concentrations of reactive tracers,
notably the major inorganic ions, must be well understood, as they provide clues to the
water–rock interactions which give rise to overall groundwater mineralisation. Trace
elements also provide an opportunity to fingerprint water masses; several key elements
such as Li and Sr are useful tools for residence time determinations. Some elements such
as Cr, U, Mo and Fe are indicative of the oxidation status of groundwater. The isotopes of
Cl may also be used:
36
Cl to determine the infiltration extent of saline water of modern
origin (Phillips 1999), and d
37
Cl to determine the origins of chlorine in saline formation
waters. The measurement precision (better than Æ0.09‰) makes the use of chlorine
isotopes a potential new tool for studies of environmental salinity (Kaufmann et al. 1993).
In addition, several other isotope ratios: d
15
N (Heaton 1984), d
87
Sr (Yechieli et al. 1992)
and d
11
B (Bassett 1990; Vengosh & Spivak 1999) may be used to help determine the
Table 7.1. Principal geochemical tools for studies of water quality in (semi-)arid zones. Examples
and references to the literature are given in the text.
Geochemical/
isotopic tool
Role in evaluating water quality and salinity
Cl Master variable: Inert tracer in nearly all geochemical processes, use in
recharge estimation and to provide a record of recharge history.
Br/Cl Use to determine geochemical source of Cl.
36
Cl Half-life 3:01 Â10
5
years. Thermonuclear production—use as tracer of
Cl cycling in shallow groundwater and recharge estimation. Potential
value for dating over long time spans and also for study of long-term
recharge processes. However, in situ production must be known.
37
Cl/
35
Cl Fractionation in some parts of the hydrological cycle, mainly in saline/
hypersaline environments, may allow finger printing.
Inorganic tracers:
Mg/Ca Diagnostic ratio for (modern) sea water.
Sr, I, etc. Diagenetic reactions release incompatible trace elements and may
provide diagnostic indicators of palaeomarine and other palaeowaters.
Mo, Cr, As, U, NO
3
, Metals indicative of oxidising groundwater. Nitrate stable
under aerobic conditions.
Fe

Indicative of reducing environments.
Nutrients:
NO
3
,K, PO
4
—also DOC Nutrient elements characteristic of irrigation return flows and pollution.
d
18
O, d
2
H Essential indicators, with Cl, of evaporative enrichment and to quantify
evaporation rates in shallow groundwater environments. Diagnostic
indicators of marine and palaeomarine waters.
87
Sr,
11
B Secondary indicators of groundwater salinity source, especially in
carbonate environments.
d
34
S Indicator for evolution of sea-water sulphate undergoing diagenesis.
Characterisation of evaporite and other SO
4
sources of saline waters.
3
H Recognition of modern recharge (half-life 12.3 years).
14
C, d
13
C Main tool for dating groundwater. Half-life 5730 years. An
understanding of carbon geochemistry (including use of
13
C) is
essential to interpretation.
254 Understanding water in a dry environment
origins and evolution of salinity. Accumulations of
4
He may also be closely related to
crustal salinity distributions (Lehmann et al. 1995).
For most investigations it is likely that conjunctive measurement by a range of methods
is desirable (e.g. chemical and isotopic; inert and reactive tracers). However, several of the
above tools are only available to specialist laboratories and cannot be widely applied,
although it is often found that the results of research using detailed and multiple tools can
often be interpreted and applied so that simple measurements then become attractive. In
many countries advanced techniques are not accessible and so it is important to stress that
basic chemical approaches can be adopted quite successfully. Thus major ion analysis, if
carried out with a high degree of accuracy and precision, can prove highly effective; the
use of Cl mass balance and major element ratios (especially where normalised to Cl) are
powerful investigative techniques.
7.3 RAINFALL CHEMISTRY
Information on the conservative chemical components of rainfall is required by hydro-
logists in order to perform chemical mass balance studies of river flow and recharge.
Rainfall may also be considered as the ‘titrant’ in hydrogeochemical processes, since it
represents the initial solvent in the study of water–rock interaction. A knowledge of
rainfall chemistry can also contribute to our fundamental understanding of air mass
circulation, both from the present day synoptic viewpoint as well as for past climates. In
fact, very little information is available on rainfall composition. This is particularly true
for Africa, where only limited rainfall chemical data are available. However, a reasonable
understanding of the isotopic evolution of rainfall in (semi-)arid areas is emerging, for
example within the African monsoon using isotopes (Taupin et al. 1997, 2000). The stable
isotope (d
18
O and d
2
H) composition of precipitation can aid identification of the origin of
the precipitated water vapour and its condensation history, and hence give an indication of
the sources of air masses and the atmospheric circulation (Rozanski et al. 1993). Several
chemical elements in rainfall (notably Cl) behave inertly on entering the soil and unsatur-
ated zone and may be used as tracers (Herczeg & Edmunds 1999). The combined geo-
chemical signal may then provide a useful initial tracer for hydrologists, as well as
providing a signal of past climates from information stored in the saturated and unsatu-
rated zones (Cook et al. 1992; Tyler et al. 1996; Edmunds & Tyler 2002). In fact, over
much of the Sahara–Sahel region rainfall-derived solutes, following concentration by
evapotranspiration, forma significant component of groundwater mineralisation (Andrews
et al. 1994).
Rainfall chemistry can vary considerably in both time and space, especially in relation
to distance from the ocean. This is well demonstrated in temperate latitudes for North
America (Junge & Werby 1958); the basic relationship between decreasing salinity and
inland distance has also been demonstrated for Australia (Hingston & Gailitis 1976). The
chemical data for Africa are very limited and it is not yet possible to generalize on rainfall
chemistry across the continent. The primary source of solutes is marine aerosols dissolved
in precipitation, but compositions may be strongly modified by inputs from terrestrial dry
deposition. Because precipitation originates in the ocean, its chemical composition near
the coast is similar to that of the ocean. Aerosol solutes are dissolved in the atmospheric
moisture through release of marine aerosols near the sea surface (Winchester & Duce
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 255
1967). This initial concentration is distinctive in retaining most of the chemical signature
of sea water, for example the high Mg/Ca ratio as well as a distinctive ratio of Na/Cl. As
rainfall moves inland towards the interior of continents, sulphate and other ions may
increase relative to the Na and Cl ions.
The more detailed studies of African rainfall have used stable isotopes in relation to the
passage of the monsoon from its origins in the Gulf of Guinea (Taupin et al. 2000) towards
the Sahel, where the air masses track east to west in a zone related to the position and
intensity of the Inter-tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). While the inter-annual vari-
ations and weighted mean compositions of rainfall are rather similar, consistent variations
are found at the monthly scale which are related to temperature and relative humidity.
This is found from detailed studies in southern Niger, where the isotopic compositions
reflect a mixture of recycled vapour. This is illustrated by similarities in Figure 7.2, for
which rainfall amount and isotopic content are compared for two seasons (1993 and 1994)
when the monsoon advance and intensity were considerably different (Taupin et al. 1995).
Chloride may be regarded as an inert ion in rainfall, with distribution and circulation in
the hydrological cycle taking place solely through physical processes. A study of rainfall
chemistry in northern Nigeria has been made by Goni et al. (2001). Data collected on an
event basis throughout the rainy seasons from 1992 to 1997 showed weighted mean Cl
values ranging from 0.6 to 3.4 mg L
À1
. In 1992, Cl was measured at five nearby stations
in Niger with amounts ranging from 0.3 to 1.4 mg L
À1
. The spatial variability at these
locations is notable. Cumulative rainfall is plotted against cumulative Cl for 1992 rains for
both Nigerian and Niger stations in Figure 7.3. The pattern for Kaska (Nigeria) 1992 rain
is distinctly different and probably indicates local dust input. However, it seems that apart
from occasional localized convective events, the accumulation pattern for Cl is temporally
and spatially uniform during the monsoon; chloride accumulation is generally propor-
tional to rainfall amount over wide areas. This is an important conclusion for the use of
chloride in mass balance studies.
Bromide, like chloride, also remains relatively inert in atmospheric processes, though
there is some evidence of both physical and chemical fractionation in the atmosphere
relative to Cl (Winchester & Duce 1967). The Br/Cl ratio may thus be used as a possible
Figure 7.2. Rainfall amount and isotopic composition on an event basis for seasons 1993/1994,
Niger (Taupin et al. 1997).
256 Understanding water in a dry environment
tracer for air mass circulation, especially to help define the origin of the Cl. The ratio Br/Cl
is also a useful palaeoclimatic indicator (Edmunds et al. 1992b), since rainfall ratio values
may be preserved in groundwater in continental areas. Initial Br enrichment occurs near
the sea surface with further modifications taking place over land. The relative amounts of
chloride and bromide in atmospheric deposition result initially from physical processes
that entrain atmospheric aerosols and control their size. A significant enrichment of Br
over Cl, up to an order of magnitude, is found in the Sahelian rains (Goni et al. 2001) when
compared to the marine ratio (Figure 7.4). Some Br/Cl enrichment results frompreferential
concentration of Br in smaller sized aerosol particles (Winchester & Duce 1967). How-
ever, the significant enrichment in the Nigerian ratio is mainly attributed to incorporation
of aerosols from the biomass as the monsoon rains move northwards, either from bio-
degradation or from forest fires. What is clear is that atmospheric dust derived from halite
is unimportant in this region, since this would give a much lower Br/Cl ratio.
7.4 TIME SCALES AND PALAEOHYDROLOGY
Isotopic and chemical techniques are diagnostic for time scales of water movement and
recharge, as well as in the reconstruction of past climates when recharge occurred. In this
way the application of hydrogeochemistry can help solve essentially physical problems
and can assist in validating numerical models of groundwater movement.
A palaeohydrological record for Africa has been built up through a large number of
palaeolimnological and other archives, which demonstrate episodic wetter and drier inter-
ludes throughout the late Pleistocene and Holocene (Servant & Servant-Vildary 1980;
Gasse 2000). The late Pleistocene was generally cool and wet although at the time of the
Last Glacial Maximum much of North Africa was arid, related to the much lower sea
Cumulative rain (mm)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600
C
u
m
u
l
a
t
i
v
e

w
e
i
g
h
t
e
d

C
l

(
m
g

l
Ϫ
1
)
0
1
2
3
Berkiawel
Sameday
Fandouberi
Niamey
Orstom
Kaska
Garin Alkali
Figure 7.3. Cumulative rainfall plotted against cumulative Cl for 1992 rains for Nigerian and Niger
stations (after Goni et al. 2001).
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 257
surface temperatures. The records show, however, that the Holocene was characterized
by a series of abrupt and dramatic hydrological events, mainly related to monsoon
activity, although these events were not always synchronous over the continent. Evidence
(isotopic, chemical and dissolved gas signatures) contained in dated groundwater forms
important and direct proof of the actual occurrence of the wet periods inferred from
the stratigraphic record as well as the possible source, temperature and mode of recharge
of the groundwater. Numerous studies carried out in North Africa contain pieces of a
complex hydrological history.
There is widespread evidence for long-term continuous recharge in the sedimentary
basins of North Africa based on sequential changes in radiocarbon activities (Gonfiantini
et al. 1974; Edmunds & Wright 1979; Sonntag et al. 1980). These groundwaters are also
distinguishable by their stable isotopic composition; most waters lie on or close to the
Global Meteoric Water Line (GMWL), but with lighter compositions than at the present
Cl (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
B
r
/
C
l
0.001
0.01
0.1
Cl (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 2 4 6 8
B
r
/
C
l
0.001
0.01
0.1
Marine Reference
Line
Marine
Reference
Line
KASKA
GARIN
ALKALI
Figure 7.4. Bromide/chloride ratios for rainfall from two stations (Kaska and Garin Alkali) in
northern Nigeria (after Goni et al. 2001).
258 Understanding water in a dry environment
day. This signifies that evaporative enrichment was relatively unimportant and that
recharge temperatures were lower than at present. This is also supported by noble gas data,
which show recharge temperatures at this time typically some 5–7

C lower than at present
(Fontes et al. 1991, 1993; Edmunds et al. 1999). Following the arid period at the end of the
Pleistocene, groundwater evidence records episodes of significant recharge coincident
with the formation of lakes and large rivers, with significant recharge from around
11 Kyr BP. Pluvial episodes with a duration of 1–2000 years are recorded up until around
5.5 Kyr BP, followed by onset of the aridity of the present day from around 4.5 kyr BP.
In Libya, during exploration studies in the mainly unconfined aquifer of the Surt Basin, a
distinct body of very fresh groundwater (<50 mg L
À1
) was found to a depth of 100 mwhich
cross-cuts the general NW–SE trend of salinity increase in water dated to the late
Pleistocene (Edmunds & Wright 1979). This feature (Figure 7.5) is around 10 km in width
Figure 7.5. Chloride concentration contours in groundwater from the Surt Basin, Libya, define a
freshwater feature cross-cutting the general water quality pattern. This feature is younger water
from a former wadi channel, superimposed on the main body of palaeowater.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 259
and may be traced in a roughly NE–SW direction for some 130 km. The depth to the water
table is currently around 30–50 m. Because of the good coverage of water supply wells for
hydrocarbon exploration a three-dimensional impression could be gained of the water
quality. It is clear that this feature is a channel that must have been formed by recharge from
a former ancient river system. No obvious traces of this river channel were found in the
area, which had undergone significant erosion, although Neolithic artefacts and other
remains testify that the region had been settled in the Holocene. Whereas the regional, more
mineralised groundwater gave values of 0.7–5.4%modern carbon, indicating a late Pleisto-
cene age, the fresh water gave values from37.6–51.2%modern carbon (corresponding ages
ranging from 5000–7800 years) and were also distinctive in their hydrogeochemistry.
Evidence from shallow wells in the vicinity, however, proved that fresh water of probable
Holocene age was also present more widely at the water table, indicating that direct
recharge was simultaneously occurring on a regional scale. Similar channels, preserving
the Holocene/Pleistocene interface, have been described by Pearson and Swarzenski
(1974) from Kenya. In Mali the records of Holocene floods from northward migration of
the Niger river inland delta are also well recorded (Fontes et al. 1991).
In comparison with the distinctive light isotopic composition of late Pleistocene
recharge which lies close to the GMWL, Holocene groundwater is characterised by
heavier, more evaporated compositions (Edmunds & Wright 1979; Darling et al. 1987;
Dodo & Zuppi 1999). Extrapolation of these light isotopic compositions along lines of
evaporation on the delta diagrams to the GMWL allow identification of the composition
of the parent rains. It is proposed (Fontes et al. 1993) that these systematically light
isotopic compositions were caused by an intensification of the monsoon coincident with
northward movement of the ITCZ, resulting in convective heavy rains with low
condensation temperatures. From the distribution of such groundwaters over the Sahara it
is implied that the ITCZ moved some 500 km to the north during the Holocene.
7.5 SURFACE WATERS
With the exception of three major rivers—the Senegal, Niger and Nile(s), perennial
surface water is insignificant in northern Africa. In contrast to this, the drainage system
over the whole region may act as a focus for localized groundwater recharge during
ephemeral flows, especially in areas where sandy soils and sediments are least developed.
A case study from Sudan of interaction between wadi flows, the river Nile and adjacent
aquifer sediments is presented later in this chapter.
Lakes are most infrequent in North Africa and, where they occur, they are generally
saline, being fed by ephemeral rivers or groundwater discharge. Fresh groundwaters are
found, however, in three types of location—deep groundwater-fed, interdune depressions
and large bodies, uniquely represented today by Lake Chad. Many of the groundwater-
fed oases have been severely affected by abstraction and do not represent significant
individual resources. The occurrence of inter-dune lakes in Senegal (niayes) has been
described by Lezine (1987). Perennial lakes are also found in the inter-dune areas of the
Manga grassland near the Niger/Nigeria border (Holmes et al. 1999; Edmunds et al. 1999)
and the Kanem region of Chad (Eugster & Maglione 1979). These lakes range in chem-
istry from fresh to saline. The lakes and playas are often characterised by alkaline mineral
deposits such as trona (NaHCO
3
Á NaCO
3
Á 2H
2
O), which may be commercially exploited
260 Understanding water in a dry environment
at a local scale. In Nigeria it is known that the lakes are supported by current recharge. The
waters of Lake Chad region show a distinct evolution with increasing salinity—an
increase in Na and K over alkaline earth elements, and an increase of Mg over Ca with a
drop in SiO
2
(Carmouze 1976; Eugster & Maglione 1979).
Several evolution lines of the inter-dune lakes from shallow groundwater are possible,
following the general trends of closed basin evolution described by Eugster and Hardie
(1978) and Eugster and Jones (1979). This is illustrated in Figure 7.6 for lakes in western
Chad, where Lake Chad water is the point of departure for the saline evolution (Eugster &
Maglione 1979). Mg and Ca are initially removed in carbonate minerals (e.g. low Mg-
calcite) allowing Na to increase. K increases over Na in the inter-dune lakes, this being
explained by a lack of exposure to wetting and drying cycles which would encourage
K-uptake by clays.
7.6 THE UNSATURATED ZONE
Diffuse recharge through the unsaturated zone over time scales ranging from decades to
millennia is an important process in controlling the chemical composition of groundwater
in (semi-)arid regions. In this zone fluctuations in temperature, humidity and CO
2
create
a highly reactive environment. Below a certain depth (often termed the zero-flux plane)
Chad
playas
lakes
Napal
Chad
playas
lakes
Napal
3
Ϫ1
l
o
g

N
a
log Cl
1 3
1
2
Ϫ1 1 3
l
o
g

K
log Cl
0
In
te
rd
u
n
a
l la
k
e
s
40 km
14°
13°
14° 15°
K
a
n
e
m
Lake
Chad
Figure 7.6. Evolution of the chemistry of small lakes around Lake Chad (after Eugster & Maglione
1979).
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 261
the chemical composition will stabilise, and in homogeneous porous sediments near
steady-state movement (piston flow) takes place towards the water table. It is important
that measurements of diffuse groundwater recharge only consider data below the zero-
flux plane. Some vapour transport may still be detectable below these depths at low mois-
ture fluxes, however, as shown by the presence of tritium at the water table in some studies
(Beekman et al. 1997). The likelihood of preferential recharge via surface runoff is also
important in many (semi-)arid regions.
In indurated or heterogeneous sediments in (semi-)arid systems, by-pass (macropore or
preferential) flow is also an important process. In older sedimentary formations joints and
fractures are naturally present. In some otherwise sandy terrain where carbonate material is
present, wetting and drying episodes may lead to mineralisation in and beneath the soil
zone, as mineral saturation (especially calcite) is repeatedly exceeded. This is strictly a
feature of the zone of fluctuation above the zero-flux plane, however, where calcretes and
other near-surface deposits may give rise to hard-grounds with dual porosities. Below a
certain depth the pathways of soil macropore movement commonly converge and a more
or less homogeneous percolation is re-established. In some areas, such as the southern
USA, by-pass flow via macropores is found to be significant (Wood & Sandford 1995;
Wood 1999). In areas of Botswana it is found that preferential flowmay account for at least
50% of fluxes through the unsaturated zone (Beekman et al. 1999; De Vries et al. 2000).
Four main processes influence soil water composition within the upper unsaturated
zone:
(i) The input rainfall chemistry is modified by evaporation or evapotranspiration.
Several elements such as chloride (also to a large extent Br, F and NO
3
) remain
conservative during passage through this zone and the atmospheric signal is
retained. A build-up of salinity takes place, though saline accumulations may be
displaced annually or inter-annually to the groundwater system.
(ii) The isotopic signal (d
2
H, d
18
O) is modified by evaporation, with loss of the lighter
isotope and enrichment in heavy isotopes with a slope of between 3 to 5 relative to
the meteoric line (with a slope of 8). Transpiration by itself, however, will not lead
to fractionation.
(iii) Before passage over land, rainfall may be weakly acidic and neutralization by
water–rock interaction will lead rapidly to an increase in solute concentrations.
(iv) Biogeochemical reactions are important for the production of CO
2
, thus assisting
mineral breakdown. Nitrogen transformations are also important (see below), lead-
ing frequently to a net increase in nitrate input to the groundwater.
These processes may be considered further in terms of the conservative solutes that may
be used to determine recharge rates and recharge history. The reactive solutes provide
evidence of the controls during reaction, tracers of water origin and pathways of
movement, as well as an understanding of the potability of water supplies.
7.6.1 Tritium and
36
Cl
Tritium has been widely used in the late 20th century to advance our knowledge of
hydrological processes, especially in temperate regions (Zimmerman et al. 1967). It has
also been used in a few key studies in (semi-)arid zones where it has been applied, in
particular, to the study of natural movement of water through unsaturated zones. In several
262 Understanding water in a dry environment
parts of the world including the Middle East (Edmunds & Walton 1980; Edmunds et al.
1988), North Africa (Aranyossy & Gaye 1992; Gaye & Edmunds 1996) and Australia
(Allison & Hughes 1978), classical profiles from the unsaturated zone show well-defined
1960s tritium peaks some metres below surface, indicating homogeneous movement
(piston flow) of water through profiles at relatively lowmoisture contents (2–4 wt%). These
demonstrate that low, but continuous rates of recharge occur in many porous sediments. In
some areas dominated by indurated surface layers, deep vegetation or very low rates of
recharge, the tritium peak is less well defined (Phillips 1994), indicating some moisture
recycling to greater depths (up to 10 m), although overall penetration of modern water can
still be estimated. Some problems have been created with the application of tritium (and
other tracers) to estimate recharge, through sampling above the zero-flux plane, where
recycling by vegetation or temperature gradients may occur (Allison et al. 1994).
The usefulness of tritium as a tracer has now largely expired due to weakness of the
signal following cessation of atmospheric thermonuclear testing and radioactive decay
(half-life 12.3 years). It may still be possible to find the peak in unsaturated zones, but this
is likely to be at depths of 10–30 m based on those areas where it has been successfully
applied. Other radioisotope tracers, especially
36
Cl (half-life 301,000 years), which also
was produced during weapons testing, still offer ways of investigating unsaturated zone
processes and recharge at a non-routine level. However, in studies where both
3
H and
36
Cl
have been applied, there is sometimes a discrepancy between recharge indications from
the two tracers due to the non-conservative behaviour of tritium (Cook et al. 1994; Phillips
1999). Nevertheless, the position and shape of the tritium peak in unsaturated zone mois-
ture profiles provides convincing evidence of the extent to which ‘piston displacement’
occurs during recharge, as well as providing reliable estimates of the recharge rate.
An example of tritium profiles (with accompanying Cl profiles) sampled in 1977 from
adjacent sites in Cyprus is shown in Figure 7.7, which shows peaks at between 9 and 13 m
Tritium (TU)
0 100 200
0 100 200
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
0 100 200
Cl (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 100 200
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
Tritium (TU)
Cl (mg L
Ϫ1
)
Water Table
1963
1963
AK3
AK2
C
s
= 199
C
s
= 120
Figure 7.7. Tritium and chloride profiles from Cyprus with corresponding rainfall tritium.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 263
depth. These peaks correspond with rainfall tritium (uncorrected) for the period from the
1950s to 1970s. The profiles approximate piston displacement and the peaks align well. A
vertical moisture movement of 0.9 myr
À1
is calculated and the recharge rates are 52 and
53 mmyr
À1
; these figures compare well with estimates using Cl (Edmunds et al. 1988).
A further example of a tritium profile showing piston flow is presented in Figure 7.8, and
is further described in Section 7.6.6.
The combined use of tritium and
36
Cl is well illustrated in Figure 7.9, adapted from
Cook et al. (1994). Cores are from sandy soils in an area cleared of native Eucalyptus
vegetation since the early 20th century and used for dry land farming. The profiles illus-
trate the leaching of Cl due to the increase in soil water flux following clearance. The
thermonuclear
3
H and
36
Cl tracer penetration in the profiles is to approximately the same
depth. However, there is poor agreement between the water fluxes obtained using
3
H,
36
Cl
Moisture Content
0 2 4 6 8 10
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
5
10
15
20
25
30
35
40

δ
18
O (per mil)
-5 0 5
Chloride (mg L
Ϫ1
)
0 20 40 60 80 100 0 20 40 60 80 100

δ
2
H (per mil)
-60 -40 -20 0 20 40
Cl
18
O
δ
2
H
3
H (Tritium Units)
3
H
NO
3
-N (mg L
Ϫ1
)
NO
3
MC
1963
SAHEL
DROUGHT
40 30 20 10
Figure 7.8. Profiles of tritium, stable isotopes, chloride and nitrate in the unsaturated zone from the
same location—profile L18, Louga, Senegal.
Figure 7.9. Combined profiles of moisture content, Cl,
3
H and
36
Cl/Cl from Borrika, South
Australia, illustrating the clearance of native vegetation (after Cook et al. 1994).
264 Understanding water in a dry environment
and stable chloride. This is because the two former estimate soil water flux from the soil
surface, whereas the stable Cl is estimating flux below the plant root zone.
7.6.2 Stable isotopes
Stable isotopes have been used in the study of recharge, but in general only semi-
quantitative recharge estimates can be obtained. In (semi-)arid regions, however, the
fractionation of isotopes between water and vapour in the upper sections of unsaturated
zone profiles has been used successfully to calculate rates of discharge (Barnes & Allison
1983) and to indicate negligible recharge (Zouari et al. 1985).
At high rainfall, the recharging groundwater undergoes seasonal fractionation within the
zone of fluctuation (Darling & Bath 1988), but any seasonal signal is generally smoothed
out with the next pulse of recharge and little variation remains belowthe top fewmetres. In
(semi-)arid zones, however, where low recharge rates occur, the record of a sequence of
drier years may be recorded as a pulse of
18
O-enriched water, as recorded for example from
Senegal (Gaye & Edmunds 1996). Isotopic depletion in deep unsaturated zones in North
America has been used to infer extended wet and dry intervals during the late Pleistocene
(Tyler et al. 1996). Extreme isotopic enrichment in the unsaturated zone accompanies
chloride accumulation over intervals when recharge rates are zero (Darling et al. 1987).
7.6.3 Chloride
Numerous studies using Cl as a conservative tracer in recharge calculations have been
reported, and Cl mass-balance methods probably offer the most reliable approach to
recharge estimation for semi-arid and arid regions (Allison et al. 1994). In addition, Cl
analysis is inexpensive and is widely applicable, bringing it within the budgets of most
water resource organizations, although the capacity for accurate measurements at low Cl
concentrations is required. The methods of investigation are straightforward and involve
the recovery of dry samples by augur, percussion drilling, or dug wells followed by the
measurement of moisture content and the elution of Cl. A number of criteria must be
satisfied or taken into account for successful application of the technique: That no surface
runoff occurs, that Cl is solely derived from rainfall, that Cl is conservative with no add-
itions from within the aquifer, and that steady-state conditions operate across the unsatur-
ated interval where the method is applied (Edmunds et al. 1988; Herczeg & Edmunds
1999; Wood 1999). As with tritium, it is important that sampling is made over a depth
interval which passes through the zone of fluctuation. For the example shown in Figure
7.7, from Cyprus, the mean (steady-state) concentrations of Cl in the pore waters (119 and
122 mg L
À1
respectively) provide recharge estimates of 56 and 55 mmyr
À1
. These esti-
mates are derived using mean Cl data over three years at the site for rainfall chemistry and
the measured moisture contents. Macropore flow is often present in the soil zone, but in
the Cyprus and northern African profiles, in the absence of large trees, this is restricted
to the top 2–4 m of profile.
7.6.4 Nitrate
Groundwater beneath the arid and semi-arid areas of the Sahara is almost exclusively
oxidising. The continental aquifer systems contain little or no organic matter, and dissolved
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 265
oxygen concentrations of several mg L
À1
may persist in palaeowater dated in excess of
20,000 years old (Winograd &Robertson 1982; Heaton et al. 1983). Under these conditions
nitrate also is stable and acts as an inert tracer recording environmental conditions. Nitrate
concentrations in Africa are often significantly enriched and frequently exceed 10 mg L
À1
NO
3
–N (Edmunds & Gaye 1997; Edmunds 1999). High nitrate concentrations may be
traced in interstitial waters through the unsaturated zone to the water table and are clearly
the result of biogeochemical enrichment. This enrichment is well above concentrations
from the atmosphere, allowing for evapotranspiration, and the source is most likely to be
naturally occurring N-fixing plants such as acacia, though in the modern era some
cultivated species may also contribute. In Senegal (Edmunds &Gaye 1997), the NO
3
–N/Cl
ratio can even exceed 1.0. A record of nitrate in the unsaturated zone can therefore be used
as an indicator of vegetation changes, including land clearance and agriculture.
7.6.5 Reactive tracers and water–rock reactions in the unsaturated zone
The main process of groundwater mineralisation takes place by acid–base reactions in the
top few metres of the earth’s crust. Natural rainfall acidity is between pH 5 and 5.5.
Atmospheric CO
2
concentrations are low, but may increase significantly due to micro-
biological activity in the soil zone. In warmer tropical latitudes the solubility of CO
2
is
lower than in cooler mid-high latitude areas, and weathering rates will be somewhat lower
(Tardy 1970; Berner & Berner 1996). The concentration of soil CO
2
(pCO
2
) is neverthe-
less of fundamental importance in determining the extent of a reaction; an open system
with respect to the soil/atmosphere reservoir may be maintained by diffusion to a depth of
several metres.
Investigation of the geochemistry of pore solutions in the unsaturated zone is usually
hampered by low moisture contents. Elutriation using distilled water is possible for inert
components but not for reactive solutes, since artefacts may be created in the process.
Where moisture contents exceed about 5 wt% it may be possible to extract small volumes
by immiscible liquid displacement (Kinniburgh & Miles 1983). Results for one profile
from Nigeria (see Edmunds et al. 1999) illustrate the trends for some elements in relation
to Cl (Figure 7.10). An increase in Na/Cl above that in rainfall indicates that some reaction
with the rock is taking place (probably feldspar dissolution). Concentrations of Fe and
Al show strong gradients, probably related to low pH in the top 10 m of the profile.
7.6.6 Examples of integrated studies
Two examples where multiple tracers have been used are considered as illustration:
Louga, Senegal
An example of an integrated study from Senegal using tritium, Cl and stable isotopes is
given in Figure 7.8, based on Gaye and Edmunds (1996) and Aranyossy and Gaye (1992).
Samples were obtained from Quaternary dune sands where the water table was at 35 m
and where the long-term (100 year) average rainfall is 356 mmyr
À1
(falling by 36% to
223 mm since 1969 during the Sahel drought). The tritium peak clearly defines the 1963
rainfall as well as demonstrating that piston displacement is occurring. A recharge rate of
26 mmyr
À1
is indicated, and little if any by-pass flow is taking place.
266 Understanding water in a dry environment
The profile has a mean Cl concentration (23.6 mg L
À1
) that corresponds to a recharge
rate of 34.4 mmyr
À1
, calculated using a value for rainfall Cl of 2.8 mg L
À1
and an average
rainfall of 290 mmyr
À1
. This rate is in close agreement with the tritium-derived value,
indicating homogeneous movement with little dispersion of water and solute. Oscillations
in Cl with depth are due to variable climatic conditions, and the prolonged Sahel drought
is indicated by the higher Cl concentrations. These profiles have been used to create a
chronology of recharge events (Edmunds et al. 1992a). The stable isotope values are con-
sistent with the trends in recharge rates indicated by Cl, the most enriched values corres-
ponding to high Cl and periods of drought, but the stable isotopes are unable to quantify
the rate of recharge, unlike Cl and
3
H.
Further profiles from Louga in northwest Senegal (Edmunds & Gaye 1994) illustrate
the spatial variability of recharge within one site (1 km
2
). Average chloride concentration
for seven separate profiles at this site is 82 mg L
À1
, giving a spatially averaged recharge
of 13 mmyr
À1
. Having established that all Cl in this region is atmospherically derived, it is
therefore possible to extrapolate the unsaturated zone data to determine the spatial vari-
ability of recharge at a regional scale using data from shallow dug wells. Data from 120
shallow wells over an area of 1600 km
2
were used to calculate the recharge distribution.
Regional recharge is shown to vary from <1 to 20 mmyr
À1
, corresponding to a renewable
resource of between 1100 and 13,000 m
3
km
À2
yr
À1
(Edmunds & Gaye 1994).
Central Kalahari, Botswana
Information on sediment composition, chloride and moisture contents, and changes in
isotopic compositions of Cl,
18
O and
3
H have been obtained from three adjacent profiles,
obtained by auguring (Beekman et al. 1999; De Vries et al. 2000; Selaolo 1998). These
profiles are mainly sand, but the silt content increases below 14 m (Figure 7.11); the
moisture contents reflect the sediment compositions. The sediments are slightly calcare-
ous and the presence of macropores was observed in the sediments.
Chloride concentrations range from below 100 to 2100 mg L
À1
and the shape of the
profile indicates that recharge must be taking place at low but positive rates. The profiles
are complex and are interpreted as having been influenced by macropore flow, especially
mg L
Ϫ1
8 0 4 12 16
mMg/Cl
0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0
mSr/Ca.10
3
0 5 10 15 0.0 0.2 0.4 0.6
mg L
Ϫ1
0 5 10 15 20
mNa/Cl
0.0 0.5 1.0 1.5 2.0
NO
3
-N
mMg/Cl
Sr/Ca.10
3
Fe (total)
Al
mg L
Ϫ1
0 20 40 60 80 100
D
e
p
t
h


(
m
)
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
14
16
18
Cl
water table
mNa/Cl
rain
mg L
Ϫ1
rain
Figure 7.10. Geochemistry of interstitial waters in the unsaturated zone—profile MD1 from
northern Nigeria with concentrations and ratios for a number of elements. The molar N/Cl (Â10) is
also plotted on the nitrate diagram.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 267
above 9 m, though the fluctuations may also be superimposed on climatic variations (piston
displacement) reflecting variable recharge rates.
The mean Cl concentration for the upper 7.5 m provides recharge estimates of
0.5 mmyr
À1
, which contrasts with somewhat higher moisture flux estimates from tritium
of 3.8 mmyr
À1
. A significant feature of this profile is the presence of tritium at intervals
down the profile, which suggests the presence of some by-pass flow, though it is also
Figure 7.11. Unsaturated zone profiles (
3
H,
18
O and
2
H) from Botswana.
268 Understanding water in a dry environment
proposed that water movement in the vapour phase has also redistributed the tritium
(Beekman et al. 1999). The tritium ‘peaks’ also seem to correlate with areas of lower Cl.
The stable isotope profile has been used here to measure recharge rates according to the
method of Allison et al. (1984). This is one of the few examples where this method
appears to be applicable, and a moisture flux of 1.1 mmyr
À1
is obtained. Further details of
this Botswana study are presented by Seth (this volume, Section 8.8.1).
7.7 HYDROCHEMISTRY OF GROUNDWATER SYSTEMS IN
(SEMI-)ARID REGIONS
From the foregoing discussion it is evident from geochemical and isotopic evidence that
significant recharge to aquifer systems does not occur at present in most arid and semi-
arid regions. In the Senegal example illustrated above, recharge rates to sandy areas with
long-term average rainfall of around 350 mm are between <1 and 20 mmyr
À1
. It is likely
that these results could be extrapolated to other regions with similar landscape, geology
and climate over much of northern Africa, though preferential recharge along drainage
systems is also important, providing areas with small but sustainable supplies (see Wadi
Hawad case study, Section 7.8). These present-day low recharge conditions will have an
impact on the overall chemistry due to lower water-rock ratios and larger residence times,
leading to somewhat higher salinities and evolved hydrogeochemistry.
Africa is characterised by several large overstepping sedimentary basins (Figure 7.1)
which contain water of often excellent quality. Much of this water is shown to be
palaeowater recharged during the late Pleistocene or Holocene pluvial periods. Hydro-
geochemical processes observed in these aquifers have principally been taking place
along flow-lines under declining heads towards discharge points in salt lakes or at the
coast. Present rates of groundwater movement in the large sedimentary basins are likely to
be less than one metre per year; in the Great Artesian Basin of Australia rates as low as
0.25 mmyr
À1
are recorded (Love et al. 2000). Piezometric decline has generally been
occurring, since fully recharged and transient conditions are likely to be still operating at
the present day as adjustment continues towards modern recharge conditions. Ground-
water in large basins is never ‘stagnant’ and water–rock interaction will continue to occur.
The evolution of inorganic groundwater quality is considered here in the light of the
isotopic evidence, which provides information on the age and different recharge episodes
in the sedimentary sequences.
7.7.1 Input conditions—inert elements and isotopic tracers
The integrated use of inert chemical and isotopic techniques provides a powerful means of
determining the origin(s) of groundwater in semi-arid regions. To a large extent these
tracers (Cl, d
18
O, d
2
H) are the same as used in studies of the unsaturated zone and may be
adopted to clearly fingerprint water from past recharge regimes. However, the longer time
scales of groundwater recharge require the assistance of radiocarbon dating and, if
possible, other radioisotopic tools such as
36
Cl,
81
Kr and
39
Ar (Loosli et al. 1999). Noble
gas isotopic ratios also provide evidence of recharge temperatures which are different
from those of the present day (Stute & Schlosser 1999).
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 269
Several elements, especially Br and Br/Cl ratios, remain effectively inert in the flow
system, and may be used to follow various input sources and the evolution of salinity in
aquifers (Edmunds 1996a; Davis et al. 1998). An example is given from the Continental
Intercalaire in Algeria (Edmunds et al. submitted) along a section from the Saharan Atlas
to the discharge area in the Tunisian Chotts (Figure 7.12). The overall evolution is
indicated by Cl, which increases from around 200 to 800 mg L
À1
. The sources of salinity
Distance (km)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800
F

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
I
/
C
l


(
w
t
)
0.0000
0.0001
0.0002
0.0003
0.0004
0.0005
B
r
/
C
l

(
w
t
)
0.000
0.001
0.002
0.003
0.004
0.005
0.006
C
l

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0
200
400
600
800
1000
B
r

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
seawater
halite
(seawater Ϫ 3.1x10
Ϫ6
)
ATLAS MTS
(ALGERIA)
CHOTTS
(TUNISIA)
Cl
Br
Br/Cl
I/Cl
F
Figure 7.12. Down-gradient hydrogeochemical profile (west-to-east) in the Continental
Intercalaire aquifer from the Atlas mountains of Algeria to the discharge area in the Chotts of
southern Tunisia. The chloride profile indicates a progressive increase in salinity. The other
halogen elements Br, I, F help to explain the origins of salinity and the general chemical evolution
down-gradient.
270 Understanding water in a dry environment
are shown by the Br/Cl ratio; the increase along the flow-lines for some 600 km is due to
the dissolution of halite from one or more sources, whilst in the area of the salt lakes
(chotts) some influence of marine formation waters is indicated (possibly from water
flowing to the chotts from a second flow-line). Fluorine remains buffered at around
1 mg L
À1
controlled by saturation with respect to fluorite and iodine follows fluorine
behaviour, being released from the same source as F, possibly from organic rich horizons.
The Cl and Br concentrations and ratio are related to inputs and differ from F and I, which
are principally controlled by water–rock interaction.
7.7.2 Reactions and evolution along flow lines
The degree of groundwater mineralisation in the major water bodies in semi-arid and arid
zones, recharged during the Holocene and the late Pleistocene, is likely to be a reflection
of atmospheric/soil chemical inputs, the relatively high recharge rates during the pluvial
episodes, the aquifer sedimentary facies and mineralogy. Most of North Africa south of
latitude 28

N comprises variable thicknesses of continental sediments overlying crys-
talline basement, whereas to the north, marine facies may occur containing residual
formation waters and intra-formational evaporites which lead to high salinities. Similar
relationships are found in the coastal aquifers of West Africa, as well as on the Gulf of
Guinea. In the Surt Basin of Libya the change of facies to marine sediments is marked by a
progressive change in chemistry (especially Sr increase) as groundwater moves north of
latitude 28

30
0
(Edmunds 1980). For many of the large basins of the Sahara and Sahel,
away from coastal areas, the groundwater chemistry for inert solutes reflects, to a signifi-
cant extent, inputs from the atmosphere (Fontes et al. 1993). Superimposed on these
inputs, the effects of water–rock interactions in mainly silicate dominated rock assem-
blages are recorded.
Important changes in reactive tracers (major and trace elements) also occur, which can
be followed by (time-dependent) water–rock reactions. In addition to the chemical sig-
nature derived from atmospheric inputs, the chemistry of groundwater is determined to a
significant extent by reactions taking place in the first few metres of the unsaturated or
saturated zone and reflecting the predominant rock type. Any incoming acidity will be
neutralised by carbonate minerals or, if absent, by silicate minerals. In the early stages of
flow the groundwater will approach saturation with carbonates (especially calcite and
dolomite). Thereafter, it will react relatively slowly with the matrix in reactions where
impurities (e.g. Fe, Mn and Sr) are removed from these minerals, and purer minerals are
precipitated under conditions of dynamic equilibrium towards saturation limits with
secondary minerals (e.g. fluorite and gypsum).
During this stage, other elements may accumulate with time in the groundwater and
indicate if the flow process is homogeneous or not; discontinuities in the chemistry are
likely to indicate discontinuities in the aquifer hydraulic connections. An example from
the Continental Intercalaire aquifer in Algeria/Tunisia (Edmunds et al. 2003) shows how
the major elements may vary along the flow line (Figure 7.13). The ratios of reactive
versus an inert tracer are used to indicate the evolution. The very constant Na/Cl ratio
(weight ratio of 0.65) throughout the flow path as salinity increases indicates the
dissolution of halite with very little reaction; at depth a different source is indicated. The
Mg/Ca ratio indicates that saturation with respect to calcite (0.60) is approached after a
short distance but that this is disturbed at depth by water depleted in Mg, probably from
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 271
the dissolution of gypsum. The K/Na ratio increases along the flow-line from 0.05 to 0.18,
suggesting a time-dependent release of K from feldspars or other silicate sources.
7.7.3 Redox reactions
Under natural conditions, groundwater undergoes oxidation-reduction (redox) changes
moving along flow-lines (Champ et al. 1979; Edmunds et al. 1984). The solubility of
oxygen in groundwater at the point of recharge (around 10–12 mg L
À1
Þ reflects the ambi-
ent air temperature and pressure. The concentration of dissolved oxygen (DO) in newly
recharged groundwater may remain high (8–10 mg L
À1
), indicating relatively little loss of
DO during residence in the soil or unsaturated zone (Edmunds et al. 1984). Oxygen slowly
M
g
/
C
a

(
w
t
)
0.0
0.1
0.2
0.3
0.4
0.5
K

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0
20
40
60
80
100
120
889
N
a
/
C
l

(
w
t
)
0.0
0.5
1.0
1.5
2.0
Distance (km)
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800
K
/
C
l

(
w
t
)
0.00
0.05
0.10
0.15
0.20
Figure 7.13. Down-gradient hydrogeochemical profile (west-to-east) in the Continental Inter-
calaire aquifer from the Atlas mountains of Algeria to the discharge area in the Chotts of southern
Tunisia. The ratios of major ions (Na/Cl, Mg/Ca, K/Cl) help to explain the progressive water–rock
interaction taking place.
272 Understanding water in a dry environment
reacts with organic matter and/or with Fe

released fromdissolution of impure carbonates,
ferromagnesian silicates or with sulphides. Oxygen may persist, however, for many
thousands of years in unreactive sediments (Winograd & Robertson 1982). Complete
reaction of oxygen is marked by a fall in the redox potential (Eh) by up to 300 mV. This
provides a sensitive index of aquifer redox status. A decrease in the concentration of
oxygen in pumped groundwater therefore may herald changes in the input conditions. An
increase in dissolved iron (Fe

) concentration as well the disappearance of NO
3
may be
useful as secondary indicators.
The Continental Intercalaire aquifer is again used to illustrate redox conditions for a
typical continental aquifer system in an arid zone (Figure 7.14). The redox boundary
Redox boundary
N
O
3

N

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0
2
4
6
8
F
e

t
o
t
a
l

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0.01
0.1
1
10
U

(
µ
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0
1
2
3
4
5
Distance
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800
C
r

(
µ
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0
20
40
60
80
M
n

(
m
g
L
Ϫ
1
)
0.001
0.01
0.1
1
10
Figure 7.14. Down-gradient hydrogeochemical profile (west-to-east) in the Continental Inter-
calaire aquifer from the Atlas mountains of Algeria to the discharge area in the Chotts of southern
Tunisia; Eh and changes at the redox boundary.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 273
corresponds with a position some 300 km along the flow path in the confined aquifer and
in waters of late Pleistocene age (Edmunds et al. submitted). Neither Eh nor O
2
measure-
ments were possible in the study, but the position of the redox change is clearly marked
by the disappearance of NO
3
, the increase in Fe

, as well as in the sharp reduction in
concentrations of several redox-sensitive metals (Cr, U for example), which are stabilised
as oxy-anions under oxidising conditions.
7.7.4 Salinity generation
Salinity build up in groundwater in (semi-)arid regions has several origins, some of which
are referred to in the preceding sections. Edmunds and Droubi (1998) and Attia and Salih
(2002) review the topic and discuss the main issues and techniques for studies in such
regions. Three main sources are important: atmospheric aerosols, sea water of various
generations and evaporite sequences, all of which may be distinguished using a cocktail of
chemical or isotopic techniques (Table 7.1).
Atmospheric inputs that slowly accumulate over geological time scales are of great
importance as a source of salinity. The impact on groundwater composition will be
proportional to the inputs (including proximity to marine or playa source areas), climate
change sequences and the turnover times of the groundwater bodies. The accumulation
of salinity from atmospheric sources is most clearly demonstrated from the Australian
continent (Hingston & Gailitis 1976), where the landscape and groundwaters closely
reflect the deposition of aerosols over past millennia.
Formation waters from marine sediments are important as a salinity source in aquifers
near to modern coastlines. Different generations of salinity may be recognised, either
from formation waters laid down with young sediments or from marine incursions arising
from eustatic or tectonic changes. Evaporites containing halite and/or gypsum are an
important cause of quality deterioration in many aquifers in present day arid and semi-
arid regions. Formation evaporites are usually associated with inland basins of marine or
non-marine origin. The different origins and generations of salinity in formation waters
may be characterised by a range of isotopic and chemical tracers, such as d
87
Sr and d
11
B
(Table 7.1).
7.8 WADI HAWAD, SUDAN—A CASE STUDY OF SURFACE–
GROUNDWATER RELATIONSHIPS IN SEMI-ARID ZONES;
RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN MODERN AND PALAEOWATERS
7.8.1 Regional setting
Wadi Hawad is an ephemeral tributary of the river Nile in Sudan, which it joins some
20 km downstream of Shendi. This major wadi (or khor) is joined in turn by a series of
smaller khors which are fed by monsoon rains. Wadi Hawad lies in the Butana region of
Sudan between the Nile and the Atbara rivers, and is underlain by an embayment of the
Nubian Sandstone Series (Cretaceous). Abu Delaig lies almost on the boundary between
the Nubian Sandstone and the Basement Complex, which is encountered at shallow depth
(26 m) in wells south of the town. Much of the area is grazed by local or nomadic farmers
who rely on the shallow groundwater resource exploited by hand-dug wells (to 26 m). This
274 Understanding water in a dry environment
system has been the subject of extensive regional water resource assessment (for details
see Kotoub 1987; Darling et al. 1987; Edmunds et al. 1992a; Edmunds 2002), within which
geochemical and isotopic studies illustrate the relationship between the wadi system and
the underlying groundwater, as well as the river Nile. Some of these studies are focused on
Abu Delaig, a small town some 200 km northeast of Khartoum (Figure 7.15) lying on the
Figure 7.15. Area of Wadi Hawad case study, Sudan. The radiocarbon ages (uncorrected) and
13
C
are shown.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 275
banks of a small khor, which normally flows for short periods several times per year. It is
typical of many settlements on the Sahel margin which rely on water from shallow dug
wells (up to 26 m) in alluvium and the Nubian Sandstone, and on several deep (to 150 m)
pumped boreholes drilled further north in the Nubian Sandstone. This case study shows
how, using hydrogeochemical techniques, the local groundwater has evolved from rainfall
and from surface waters of the wadi and, most importantly, its sources of recharge and
how it can be protected as a valuable and sustainable natural resource. Results are sum-
marised in the delta-diagram and trilinear plots of Figures 7.16 and 7.17.
Figure 7.16. Stable isotope plot for all waters in the Wadi Hawad region in central Sudan. The
corresponding areas are shown schematically in the cross-section from the Nile to Abu Delaig.
276 Understanding water in a dry environment
7.8.2 Rainfall chemistry
The period 1982–1985 proved to be one of the most arid since records began. The Sahel
drought from 1969 onwards produced a weighted mean average annual rainfall of
154 mm, against a longer term average (1938–1968) of 225 mm. The years 1983 and 1984
each produced only 15 mm of rain. The most significant feature of the rainfall chemistry is
the relatively high total mineralisation for a continental site (Abu Delaig is about 700 km
from the Red Sea and over 2000 km from the Indian Ocean). Rainfall at Abu Delaig has
chloride concentrations in the range 0.9–18.4 mg L
À1
, with a weighted mean value of
4.6 mg L
À1
over the four year period 1982–1985. In general, the lightest rains (i.e. the
smallest storms) have the highest chlorinity.
Rainfall analyses closely reflect the total annual deposition for most parts of the area.
There is considerable cycling of dust throughout much of the dry season, though this is
considered to be a close to steady-state process with little or no net deposition in the very
open landscape of the Wadi Hawad basin. During rain storms, however, the situation is
different and rainout of soluble and particulate material takes place and there is the
opportunity for solutes to enter the soil. The heavier rains are quantitatively more
Figure 7.17. Trilinear diagram showing the compositional ranges of shallow groundwaters (Abu
Delaig) and deep Nubian groundwater compared with rainfall and Wadi Hawad floods. The
composition of the Blue Nile and White Nile are shown and compared with Nile Valley
groundwater; this indicates the dominance of the latter in the recharge from the river.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 277
important in determining the solute loading and isotopic inputs; the rainfall cation
composition is shown in Figure 7.16.
Stable isotope data for rain collected during the period 1982–1985 are shown, relative
to the world meteoric line (Figure 7.16) and the regression line for Khartoum rainfall
measured by IAEA (Vienna) for the nine years between 1962–1977. Distinction is made
between rain storms of different intensity, and it can be seen that the heaviest rainfall (with
two important exceptions) usually has the lightest isotopic composition. There is no cor-
relation between
2
H and Cl in rainfall, which suggests that there is no evaporative control
on Cl concentrations.
7.8.3 Chemistry of wadi flows and the river Nile
Data for flood water obtained at Abu Delaig in a tributary of Wadi Hawad during 1983 and
1985 are shown in Figure 7.17. These data represent only two floods in 1983 and five in
1985, with no flood recorded at all in 1984. Chloride concentrations are lower in the flash
flood waters than in the weighted mean rainfall for the whole period, as expected, cor-
relating with the heaviest rains. For 1985 the flood waters have mean chloride concen-
trations of 2.6 mg L
À1
, against a weighted mean average of 4.6 mg L
À1
for rainfall. Stable
isotope evidence for wadi floods (Figure 7.16) confirms that no significant evaporation
has occurred. During the wadi flow, in addition to a doubling of total mineralisation an
increase in the Mg/Ca ratio is observed (Figure 7.17), which probably indicates the release
of Mg by cation exchange from the weathering of clay minerals or Mg-rich soil
carbonates.
The river Nile at Shendi represents the combined flow of the Blue and the White Niles,
the total mineralisation of the White Nile being higher than that for the Blue Nile. The
compositions of the two rivers are also distinctive (Figure 7.16), the Blue Nile composition
being Ca-dominated. Seasonal changes in the isotopic composition of the combined river
flows are also significant. The White Nile has a composition of þ5.4‰ d
18
O, compared
with flood waters of the Blue Nile which have minimum values of around À5.7‰ d
18
O.
These isotopic and chemical differences can be used to fingerprint Nile water recharging
the adjacent aquifers.
7.8.4 Wadi recharge and shallow groundwaters
The oxygen and hydrogen stable isotope results (Figure 7.16) from shallow groundwater
found within a few km of the wadi in the vicinity of Abu Delaig all group near the
Khartoum meteoric line and show only slight evidence of evaporation from rainfall, all
samples overprinting the weighted mean value for Khartoum. Many well waters are
isotopically slightly lighter than any of the rainfall measured. It is likely that wadi
recharge would not reflect the same seasons’s rainfall. In 1983 the wadi at Abu Delaig did,
however, containing water with isotopic values similar to the dug wells. Like rainfall,
wadi flood events can vary significantly in isotopic content, but unlike rainfall appear to
be relatively consistent within a particular wet season (Darling et al. 1987).
Tritium was measured for ten samples of shallow water at a distance of up to 1 km from
the wadi line, all of which indicated a large component of recent recharge (24–76 TU).
Samples fromdeep wells north of the area, away fromWadi Hawad, all gave values 9 TU.
278 Understanding water in a dry environment
Despite the lack of significant evaporation, the salinity of the dug well samples is much
higher than in rainfall, with a specific electrical conductance (SEC) of between 300–1700
mS cm
À1
. Chloride and sulphate concentrations are higher in water samples further fromthe
wadis and SO
4
/Cl ratios are generally in excess of 2.75 in the shallow groundwaters,
compared with about 1.0 in the rainfall, indicating a net addition of sulphate to groundwater
subsequent to recharge. The cation distribution in water from the shallow wells is highly
variable (Figure 17). Although the ionic ratio of the rainfall, or wadi flood, is preserved in
three wells close to the wadi, the trend is for an increase in Mg and Na relative to Ca, so that
most of the wells contain Mg/Ca ratios near to 1.0 and with sodium the dominant cation
(Figure 7.17). Calculations using PHREEQC(Parkhurst 1995) showthat all the Abu Delaig
groundwater is saturated or slightly supersaturated with respect to calcite, indicating that
carbonates must be present in the soils or sandstones as a primary or secondary interstitial
mineral. The high Mg/Ca ratios of the shallow groundwater are distinct fromthe chemistry
of deeper palaeowater, and offer one way to identify modern recharge to the deeper aquifer.
Nitrate concentrations are also high; up to 52.4 mg L
À1
NO
3
ÀN. The distribution of
nitrate is irregular and high values are often, but not always, correlated with proximity to
Abu Delaig town and must partly represent an anthropogenic source. High potassium con-
centrations (or high K/Na ratios), being additional contaminant indicators, are not found
and it is therefore difficult to apportion the source of nitrate.
7.8.5 The unsaturated zone
Chloride concentrations in elutriate samples from twelve unsaturated zone sites at Abu
Delaig were used to compare possible direct recharge in the interfluve areas with that in
the wadis, and to study the evolution of groundwater quality in the shallow water cycle.
Chloride concentrations reach plateau concentrations within 1–1.5 m. The upper metre
contains consistently low salinities, indicating that atmospherically-derived solutes are
being washed into the profile during rainfall events and do not accumulate as salts on the
surface.
Mean chloride concentrations in four of these profiles lie between 1350 and 4600 mg L
À1
(Figure 7.18). These concentrations indicate that there is a negligible direct (diffuse)
recharge component, which lies in the range of 0.2–1.3 mmyr
À1
. Accumulated chloride in
the top 10 mof the unsaturated zone therefore represents storage in the order of 2000 years.
Very high nitrate concentrations of up to 2800 mg L
À1
NO
3
–N are found in several
interstitial solutions from profiles drilled south of wadi Abu Delaig (e.g. E, G, Q), but in
profiles to the north (e.g. A, C) background values are found to be as low as 10 mg L
À1
NO
3
ÀN. Under strongly oxidising conditions (see above) nitrate concentrations must be
related to variable inputs, possibly from different cycles of vegetation or settlement over
periods of hundreds of years.
The stable isotope compositions (Figure 7.16) of the unsaturated zone moisture for
shallow profiles (0–20 m) in this area all show a strong evaporative increase derived from
local rainfall, in line with the Cl increase (Darling et al. 1987).
7.8.6 Shallow and deep groundwaters
The major cation chemistry of groundwater from shallow dug wells in the area of Abu
Delaig and that for deeper water from boreholes in the unconfined Nubian Sandstone in
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 279
the Butana are compared in Figure 7.17. All groundwaters are fresh, with low chloride
(generally below 50 mg L
À1
in most waters in both shallow and deep aquifers). There is a
net increase in the Mg/Ca and Na/Ca ratios in all the groundwaters compared with the
rainfall, indicating the extent of water–rock interaction with the detrital mafic minerals
and mainly alkaline suite of minerals derived from the basement rocks. The deeper paleo-
water has a narrow compositional range, but a much wider variation is shown by the
shallow groundwater. Groundwater chemical composition in the Nile valley is closer to
that of the White Nile base flow than the Blue Nile flood waters.
7.8.7 Overall recharge sources in Wadi Hawad
The palaeoclimatic history of the region (Williams & Adamson 1980) shows that during
the early Holocene at least 400 mmyr
À1
rainfall occurred, but that by 4500 BP the region
became arid (<100 mmyr
À1
, or even below that at present). It is likely that the regional
water table has declined steadily over historical times. Over large interfluve areas cover-
ing the Butana plain and typified by the results from Abu Delaig, diffuse recharge is
currently taking place on only an intermittent basis. The long-term diffuse or direct
recharge is likely to be no more than about 1 mmyr
À1
, under conditions typical of the
average rainfall of around 220 mmyr
À1
during the past century. The presence of clay soils
and the clay matrix (on sand or gravel surfaces) effectively restricts infiltration in this type
of terrain, though more sandy areas may permit additional recharge.
Cl (g L
Ϫ1
)
10 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
D
e
p
t
h

(
m
)
0
2
4
6
8
10
12
Profile A - 1357 mg L
Ϫ1
Profile G - 1364 mg L
Ϫ1
Profile Q - 1782 mg L
Ϫ1
Profile N - 4684 mg L
Ϫ1
Water table
(Approx)
Figure 7.18. Unsaturated zone profiles near Wadi Hawad, showing high salinity in the unsaturated
zone of the interfluve areas.
280 Understanding water in a dry environment
The overall situation may be summarised using the isotopic compositions of the
different water types in this region (Figure 7.16). The shallow aquifer serving Abu Delaig
is likely to be a perched aquifer created by clay horizons in the basal Nubian Sandstone.
This is demonstrated hydraulically by the relatively shallow permanent water table in the
vicinity of the town, compared with outlying wells which have water levels tens of metres
lower than near the wadi at Abu Delaig. The chemical and isotopic evidence from shallow
wells in the vicinity of the wadi and in outlying areas indicates only local modern water,
and there is no evidence from the isotopic signatures that significant recharge on a regional
scale is taking place to the Nubian Sandstone aquifer.
The main groundwater body beneath the Butana plain has a radiocarbon age of 5500–
8000 years, indicating regional replenishment during the Holocene and possibly earlier
perods of recharge during the late Pleistocene. Only one well shows a composition
intermediate between the shallow groundwater and the isotopically much lighter and
distinct palaeowater. Other outlying wells sampled at the water table by traditional
methods gave palaeowater signatures indicating that neither direct recharge nor wadi
recharge had been effective regionally for several millennia. It is unlikely, however, that
present day recharge beneath the wadi system is zero, but a dedicated programme of
drilling beneath and adjacent to the wadi would be necessary to demonstrate this
adequately.
Groundwater sampled from the Nubian Sandstone aquifer in the Nile valley indicates
that the river Nile is a source of modern recharge for several kilometres distant. The Nile
valley groundwaters all group around a regression line for the river, with values near to
À3 d
2
H and À1.5d
18
O. This value is intermediate between the White Nile base flow and
flood waters from the Blue Nile, indicating a contribution from both sources.
The only effective source of water supply for the Wadi Hawad basin, as exemplified by
the area around Abu Delaig, is recharge which takes place during the few annual flash
floods occurring in the wadi system. Surface runoff saturates the wadi sediments and then
infiltrates the shallow, perched, aquifer system. This infiltration is rapid and, without any
significant evaporation (as shown by the stable isotope evidence), is sufficient to sustain
lateral flow for up to at least 1 km from the wadi source, as shown by tritium. The annual
water table oscillations saturate the lowest horizons of the interfluve sediments. This
allows leaching of solutes from the lower unsaturated zone which have accumulated and
drained during the much slower recharge process, and imparts the main chemical char-
acteristics to the shallow groundwater.
This case study of one small town in Sudan, representative of the Wadi Hawad
catchment, is probably typical of the water resource situation in many other regions of the
African Sahel. Direct recharge is insignificant, due to the highly weathered nature of
superficial sediments containing clays which restrict rapid infiltration of rain. These wadi
systems contain ephemeral fresh water bodies which may, under favourable geological
conditions, recharge the regional aquifer system. They represent linear recharge sources,
which offer possibilities for sustaining and stabilising the local population. The recharge
rates will vary according to wadi flow, and thus evaluation of these rates will be closely
linked to rainfall intensity as opposed to rainfall amount. Many wadi systems cease to
flow in Sudan and elsewhere before they reach the Nile, so that headwater regions may be
favourable for development. This is the only alternative to depletion and mining of the
deeper palaeowater resource in such areas.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 281
7.9 RECOMMENDATIONS
This chapter has focused on water quality from a number of different viewpoints: (a) as a
diagnostic tool for understanding the occurrence evolution of groundwater; (b) as a means
for determining the recharge amounts; and (c) as a means for studying the controls on
groundwater quality dependent on geology and time scales. Emphasis has been placed on
natural processes rather than direct human impacts such as pollution. Nevertheless, in arid
regions the deterioration of groundwater quality due to human activity, such as excessive
pumping, may lead to loss of resources through salinisation, and the approach adopted
here will assist in a better understanding of what may be going on. Salinity increase is also
a consequence of point source (single well/village) or regional (town and city) pollution,
and any overall quality deterioration may be monitored using simple parameters such as
specific electrical conductance (SEC) or chloride.
The approach adopted here has been to recognise that water contains numerous items of
chemical information that may be interpreted to aid water management. Measurement in
the field and in the laboratory of the basic chemistry can inexpensively provide additional
information during exploration, development and monitoring of groundwater resources.
Too often only physical parameters are seen as important. For example, it is important
to understand not only that water levels are falling, but why they are falling. Some key
recommendations that emerge from this chapter are summarised as follows:
7.9.1 Data requirements
Useful information may be obtained through the measurement and careful interpretation
of a few key parameters. In the field, the measurement of T, pH and SEC are thus
recommended. Temperature is essential, since it provides a proxy for the depth of sample
origin in cases where details of production are unknown. Field measurement of pH is
essential if meaningful interpretation of the results is to be made, since loss of CO
2
will
take place between the well head and the laboratory, leading to a pH rise; laboratory pH is
therefore meaningless. SEC is a key parameter in both surveys and monitoring, enabling
the hydrogeologist to quickly detect spatial or temporal changes in the groundwater. In the
field, two filtered (0.45 mm) samples (one acidified and the other not acidified) can then be
taken for laboratory analysis (Edmunds 1996b).
In hydrochemical studies the measurement of chloride is particularly important, since
Cl behaves as an inert tracer which allows it to be used as a reference element to follow
reactions in the aquifer and to interpret physical processes such as groundwater recharge,
mixing, and the development of salinity. Chloride should always be measured, and it is
recommended that rainfall Cl also be measured in collaboration with meteorologists.
Most central laboratories are able to cope with at least major ion analyses and these
should be measured as the basic data set for water quality investigations, after first
establishing that there is an ionic balance (Appelo & Postma 1993). Minor and trace
elements described earlier are helpful in the diagnosis of processes taking place in the
aquifer, as well as in determining potability criteria. The more detailed measurements
described in this chapter are desirable, but are not essential for routine investigations.
Nevertheless, the implications of case studies where combined isotopic and chemical data
have been used should be digested and extrapotated for local studies. The results from
expensive and specialised case studies are often of considerable value, since at practical
282 Understanding water in a dry environment
and local level these then allow simple tools such as nitrate or chloride to be subsequently
used for monitoring.
7.9.2 Groundwater resources assessment
In (semi-)arid regions the main resources issue is the amount of modern recharge. In this
chapter stress has been placed on how to determine whether modern recharge is taking
place and, if so, how much. In sandy terrain, or other areas with unconsolidated sediments,
it is recommended that attention be paid to information contained in the unsaturated zone.
The use of Cl to measure the direct recharge component is recommended. However, the
distribution of Cl on a regional scale is also important, since salinity variations will be
proportional to the amount of recharge. The use of isotopes and additional chemical para-
meters will then be needed to help confirm whether this recharge belongs to the modern
cycle or is palaeowater.
7.9.3 Groundwater exploration and development
Important information can be obtained during the siting and completion of new wells
or boreholes. Chemical information obtained at the end of pumping tests provides the
‘initial’ baseline chemistry against which subsequent changes may be monitored. It is
recommended that analyses of all major ions, minor ions, and also stable isotopes of
oxygen and hydrogen if possible, be carried out during this initial commissioning phase.
In more extensive groundwater development it is recommended that exploration of the
quality variation with depth be made. One or more boreholes should be regarded as
exploration wells for this purpose. Depth information can be obtained during the drilling
using packer testing, air-lift tests or similar, which can then help determine the optimum
screen design or well depth, for example to minimise salinity problems. Alternatively,
single wells can be drilled to different depths in a well field for purposes of studying the
stratification in quality or in age (e.g. whether modern groundwater overlies palaeowater).
It should be remembered that subsequent pumped samples are inevitably going to be
mixtures in terms of age and quality, and this initial testing will enable assessment of
changes to be made as the wells are used.
7.9.4 Groundwater quality and use
Most water sampling programmes are heavily oriented towards suitability for drinking
use, having regard to health-related problems. In this chapter emphasis has been placed on
understanding the overall controls on water quality evolution. Natural geochemical reac-
tions taking place over hundreds or thousands of years will thus give rise to distinctive
natural properties. It is important to recognise this natural baseline, without which it will
be impossible to identify if pollution from human activity is taking place. It has also been
shown how salinity distribution is related to natural geological and climatic factors. In
addition, the oxidising conditions prevalent in many (semi-)arid regions may give rise to
enhanced concentrations of metals such as Cr, As, Se and Mo. Prolonged residence times
may also lead to high fluoride and manganese concentrations. Under reducing conditions,
high Fe concentrations may occur.
Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 283
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Hydrogeochemical processes in arid and semi-arid regions—focus on North Africa 287
CHAPTER 8
Human impacts and management issues in
arid and semi-arid regions
S.M. Seth
Former Director, National Institute of Hydrology, Roorkee (Uttaranchal), India
ABSTRACT: Societies in arid zones have historically evolved using traditional farming methods,
involving rain-fed agriculture and limited withdrawal of groundwater. However, the introduction of
modern farming methods, irrigation canals, electric pumps and the growth of towns and cities have
completely changed this environmental balance. The variability of precipitation and high potential
evapotranspiration are the most crucial factors in these regions. In planning, developing and
managing water resources the quantity of water available is not the only important variable. Quality
is equally important, particularly in arid zones where the natural input to the system from rainfall is
small. There is greater risk of salt accumulation in the soil and groundwater from fertilizers and
other agricultural inputs, and from urban and industrial wastes.
There are instances of flash floods causing heavy damage. For water supply purposes, however,
groundwater storage helps compensate the impacts of runoff variability. The assessment of surface
and groundwater resources therefore needs to be carefully carried out, and their interaction under-
stood for optimal development and conjunctive use. Several methods and technologies for rain
water harvesting, artificial recharge of groundwater, conjunctive use, waste water reuse and recycl-
ing hold good potential in arid areas. However, due care is needed to ensure proper protection of
water quality. The knowledge and understanding of hydrological processes discussed in previous
chapters provide essential insight for practitioners as well as researchers involved in water
resources management issues in arid and semi-arid regions under changing scenarios of population
pressure and the possibility of climate change. For effective and sustainable management in arid
and semi-arid regions there is thus a need for proper understanding, continuous monitoring, and a
structured scientific assessment of the effects of human activities on land and water resources.
8.1 INTRODUCTION
Aridity is generally defined as a lack of moisture on the basis of average climatic
conditions over a region and is manifest through the soils, vegetation and topography. The
latter are often used as non-climatic criteria for identifying arid lands. Nevertheless, there
is great diversity of physical environments and patterns of human occupation in these
areas. Agricultural activities include: endurers (pastoralists who inhabit the most arid
parts), avoiders (dry-land farmers who are only active in wet seasons) and escapers
(irrigation farmers who create an artificial environment).
Soil degradation by salinization and alkalinization is an age-old problem of irrigated
agriculture and is a serious and growing problemfor sustainability. Overuse and exhaustion
of groundwater resources and contamination of water with harmful substances are equally
important concerns. Arid and semi-arid lands are in a somewhat disadvantaged situation
due to a number of environmental constraints. These include low and erratic rainfall,
frequent droughts, high evaporation demands, erosive winds in summer and frosts in
winter. The soils are also not conducive to intensive crop production due to poor soil
fertility and low water retention, shallow depth and excess of salts. Groundwater is often
saline and, when used for irrigation, causes secondary salinization. Both high livestock
and human population growth are increasing the pressure on land, the former leading to
degradation of grazing lands and the latter to degradation due to mining, deforestation,
soil salinization, water logging, rising/lowering of water tables and land fragmentation
leading to decreased land holding (Faroda 1998).
During the course of history humanity has learned to adapt its life and activities to the
arid and semi-arid conditions in these regions. In recent times, however, with the growth
of science and engineering and greater populations, there is increasing movement away
from this environmental balance. There is hardly any difference between a city in an arid
region and one in a humid area. Arid and semi-arid regions are therefore likely to face
growing demands for water due to increases in population and urbanization, industrializa-
tion and rising standard of living. Correspondingly, there will be an increasing impact of
human activities on the hydrological regime of these regions.
Although arid lands contain some of the world’s largest river systems, the distribution
of these fresh water resources is uneven (Agnew & Anderson 1992). Many arid countries
are presently consuming more water annually than is naturally replenished. Occurrences
of surface water flow in the natural water courses of arid areas are unpredictable, are often
of short duration and are highly variable. These, in turn, can be the primary source of
recharge to shallow, unconsolidated aquifers and the processes involved need to be properly
understood. However, the limited availability of meteorological, hydrological, hydro-
geological and hydrochemical data, short records and sparse networks, are handicaps in
characterizing hydrological processes in arid and semi-arid environments for arriving at
realistic management decisions.
The scarce water resources in arid and semi-arid regions are very obviously under
increasing stress from growing populations and are the focus of many challenges. There is
thus a need for proper understanding, continuous monitoring and scientific assessment of
the effects of human activities on land and water resources in these regions to support
effective, sustainable management of supply and demand. Arid area development cannot
be and should not take the same form as that for humid areas. This chapter therefore
addresses human impacts and some important management issues, with emphasis on the
application of hydrological knowledge and scientific principles to operational solutions
for these ongoing problems.
The chapter is structured to cover hydrological and management issues relating to: (i)
surface water development; (ii) urbanization, industrial pollution and waste water reuse;
(iii) irrigation, drainage, dryland salinity and land cover change; (iv) water harvesting and
artificial recharge; (v) groundwater over-exploitation; and (vi) climate variability, drought
management, and conjunctive use of surface- and groundwater. Summary case studies are
added to each section to illustrate the specific challenges and, where possible, the course
of action adopted for a local/regional solution. Additional case studies, from the Arab
region in particular, are presented by Al-Weshah (2002), Attia and Salih (2002), Khater
and Al-Weshah (2002) and Wheater and Al-Weshah (2002).
290 Understanding water in a dry environment
8.2 SURFACE WATER DEVELOPMENT
The surface hydrology of arid regions is not fully understood. Flow measurements
present problems and, wherever these are made, the irregular occurrence of runoff in both
time and space constitutes a serious handicap in determining parameters of the hydro-
logical regime. In arid regions runoff only occurs when conditions are favourable, such
as on soils of low permeability and on steep slopes, and only on a few days in a year.
Runoff generally comprises one or more flood flows, between which events the river bed
is often dry.
As example, Mengxiong (1995) focuses on the impacts of human activities on the
hydrological system in relation to the ecological environment in the Gobi desert, an arid
area of northwest China. He clearly shows that surface water resource development has
caused an extensive decline in the groundwater table. This, in turn, has resulted in serious
deterioration of the ecological environment, including worsening water quality, depletion
of springs and lakes, disappearance of vegetation and an extension of desertification. In
irrigated areas rising groundwater tables have led to the extension of soil salinization. The
author advocates a revised policy for water development in arid areas: Developing
groundwater, including the use of overflowing springs, and limited construction of
reservoirs in the upper river reaches. He also suggests that the great thickness of gravel
beds in the Gobi plain be used as a natural underground reservoir, since these have a great
storage capacity and no evaporation. In order to deal with the negative ecological effects
of the many reservoirs already built in arid northwest China, artificial groundwater
recharge is proposed as a means to protect the original irrigation system.
8.2.1 Examples of arid zone surface water development impacts
Pilbara region, Western Australia
The Pilbara region of Western Australia experiences hydrological extremes with droughts
of over three years on the same rivers that have floods equivalent to world peak flows. The
region is also characterized by a transition from small winter and larger summer flows in
the west to only summer flows in the east. The high spatial variability of rainfall in such
regions indicates the need to incorporate this aspect in any rainfall-runoff modelling.
Average annual rainfall varies from 200 to 350 mm, with a coefficient of variation ranging
from 0.4 to 0.7.
Ophthalmia dam was constructed by a mining company in 1981 on the Fortescue river
in the Pilbara region. Ng et al. (1991) have since made an assessment of the hydrological
impact of this dam, which provides water for an artificial recharge system in a nearby bore
field for town and mining water supply. The catchment behind Ophthalmia dam is
2960 km
2
; local long-term mean annual precipitation is about 250 mm with a range from
60 to 700 mm, occurring principally between December and March. The flood plain of the
Fortescue river downstream of Ophthalmia dam has experienced long-term, severe
degradation in the form of almost complete loss of vegetative cover and soil erosion due
to historical overgrazing. Since about 1987, however, there has also been widespread
stress and death of trees (mainly Eucalyptus coolabah) and loss of perennial grasses.
Hydrological understanding was thus essential in order to determine whether these
stresses were due to natural climate variability or to water abstraction and flooding from
Ophthalmia dam.
Human impacts and management issues in arid and semi-arid regions 291
The reservoir’s maximum storage capacity is 30.6 million cubic metres (Mcm), while
mean annual flow for the Fortescue river at Ophthalmia dam is 29.9 Mcm (mean annual
runoff 10 mm). Based on gauged and modelled data, annual flows over the past 90 years
have ranged from 0 to 200 Mcm. Annual stream flow variability is thus high, with a
standard deviation of 47.7 Mcm and a coefficient of variation of 1.6; extreme events have
principally been caused by large cyclones.
Rainfall data analysis indicated that although post-dam average annual totals were not
significantly different from pre-dam values, mean stream flow volumes were less in the
post-dam period. The water supply to the flood plain downstream of Ophthalmia dam
depends on direct rainfall and stream flow. An assessment of the changes to this supply
thus involved analysis of rainfall and stream flow at specific points along Fortescue river.
Although changes in the rainfall regime are a result of natural variations, stream flow
changes can be due to either flow restriction by the dam, or natural rainfall variation over
runoff generation areas upstream of the point of interest.
The post-dam period from 1982 to 1990 has had 14% less annual stream flow compared
to the longer term average. In addition, there were no large floods; the last major flow year
was 1980. In the study by Ng et al. (1991) the relative causes of the lower flows down-
stream of Ophthalmia dam were partitioned into impacts due to climate variability and
those due to the dam (Table 8.1).
Closer analysis of the rainfall data indicated that since the dam construction there has
been a lack of large cyclone-generated storm events. 30 km downstream of the dam, in the
absence of the structure, over-bank flooding would have occurred three times and bank-
full capacity very nearly reached on another three occasions in the nine years since the
dam was built. However, with the dam present and from 1982 to 1990, there have been no
over-bank flows and bank-full capacity was nearly reached only once in the nine years. At
150 km downstream of Ophthalmia dam the dam effects are low. The average reduction in
flooded width because of the effects of the dam is about 200 m for the post-dam modelled
events. The lower impact at this site is primarily due to the addition of unregulated flow to
Fortescue river from Jiggalong creek.
Small farm reservoirs and urban water supply in Botswana
Meigh (1995) describes a study in Botswana of the impact of small farm reservoirs on
urban water supplies which are largely dependent on surface water sources. Three major
reservoirs have been constructed to supply the urban centres. However, in eastern
Botswana there are many small farm reservoirs within the catchments of these major
water supply reservoirs, and there is increasing demand for more small reservoirs. This
development has an impact on the availability of water for the major reservoirs and creates
a conflict between the needs of the rural, urban and industrial water users.
Table 8.1. Relative impact of dam and climate variability on stream flow reductions downstream
of Ophthalmia dam (Ng et al. 1991).
Location Impact due to
dam
Impact due to
climate variability
30 km downstream of Ophthalmia dam 49% 51%
150 km downstream of Ophthalmia dam 31% 69%
292 Understanding water in a dry environment
The catchments of these three major reservoirs lie close to the eastern border of
Botswana where the majority of population is concentrated. The climate of the area is
semi-arid, with an annual rainfall of 450–550 mm, which falls almost exclusively from
October to April and generally as short intense storms that are often localized. The soils of
the catchments are mostly sandy. Significant runoff usually occurs only after several days
of rain, the rivers being dry much of the time even in the rainy season. Runoff events
typically occur in events lasting up to a week, 75% or more of annual runoff being
concentrated in the period December to March, with a very high flow variability from year
to year. Annual open water evaporation is about 2000 mm. This pattern of runoff and
evaporation has significance when considering the effect of small dams. At the beginning
of the rainy season almost all dams are dry and have their greatest impact at this time as
they fill with the first few runoff events. If more runoff follows fairly soon it tends to pass
through the dams little changed but if, as often happens there is a longer dry period,
subsequent flows will again be considerably affected as the dams fill once more.
The small dams are typically between 1000 and 100,000 m
3
in size, with a fewsomewhat
larger, compared with the three major dams that range from 19 to 144 Mcm. A total of 320
small dams were identified in the catchments; the majority are used for stock watering, with
a lesser number for small-scale irrigation schemes and other purposes. A numerical model
of the system has been developed for the Botswana Department of Water Affairs, which
allows quantification of the effects of existing small dams and the possible effects of future
proposed dams. This was constructed and calibrated for the catchments of the three existing
major water supply reservoirs (Figure 8.1), but provision has been made for it to be easily
reconfigured to run for other catchments when additional major dams are developed.
The model was required to simulate daily flows into the major water supply reservoirs
over a period of several years. This needed to be carried out for each of the conditions of
no small dams, existing small dams only and existing plus proposed dams in the upstream
catchments. It was necessary to allow any combination of proposed small dams to be
examined and to provide facilities for comparisons with observed data to permit model
calibration.
Daily time steps were used because it was necessary to examine the effects of dams on
short-period flows as well as on monthly totals. This choice was a compromise, viz: to
represent the temporal variability of processes as fully as possible hourly or even shorter
time intervals would be required, but considerations such as computation time and lack of
suitable data mean that a daily time step was the shortest practicable. The model comprises
a number of modules for rainfall-runoff transformation, routing through dams, channel
routing and transmission losses. The overall structure (Figure 8.2) can best be visualized
by following the processes involved in a typical model run. Each sub-catchment is
processed in turn working in a downstream direction. The steps are:
(1) The dams in the sub-catchment are divided into a number of different categories and
within these they are amalgamated into composite dams.
(2) A rainfall-runoff model generates a flow series for the local sub-catchment.
(3) A proportion of these flows is routed through the composite dams that are on side
branches of the main channel, and non-routed flows are then added to the routed
flows.
(4) The next part of the process is only carried out when there are other sub-catchments
upstream of the current one. The summed flows from the upstream sub-catchments
Human impacts and management issues in arid and semi-arid regions 293
are passed through a channel routing and transmission loss model to account for time
delay, attenuation of the flood wave, and for any significant transmission losses.
(5) The flows are routed through the dams on the main channel. Again, this is only
applied when there are upstream sub-catchments.
(6) Dams can also be defined as special dams that can only be at the downstream end
of a sub-catchment. The total flow from upstream plus the local sub-catchment run-
off are routed through this special dam.
27°E 27.5°E
26.5°E
21°E
20.5°E
Bokaa
dam
Gaborone
dam
Gaborone catchment
26°E
24.5°S
25°S
25.5°S
Major water supply dam
Small dam
KEY
Shashe catchment
Shashe dam Bokaa catchment
Figure 8.1. Location map (Meigh 1995).
294 Understanding water in a dry environment
At this point the processing for a single sub-catchment is complete and the flows are
saved to provide inputs to other downstream sub-catchments. Each remaining sub-
catchment is processed in the same manner.
Processing of the system is carried out for the three cases of no dams, existing dams
only and existing plus proposed dams. The final results are thus the flow series for these
Dam module (dams on side branches only):
route appropriate proportion of local flows
through the dams and add the unrouted part
Loop for EX,EX + P dams
Loop for each
sub-catchment Yes No
START
If necessary sum flows
from upstream sub-catchment(s)
Channel routing and transmission
loss modules
Dam module: route flows from upstream sub-
catchment(s) through dams on main channel
Add flows from local sub-catchment
Loop for No,EX,EX + P dams
Loop for EX,EX+P dams
Is there a special dam?
Dam module: special dams
Store flows for this sub-catchment
If in calibration mode, compare to observed flows
Summary and plots of results
KEY
EX = Existing dams
EX + P = Existing + proposed dams
FINISH
Is there an upstream sub-catchment?
Yes
No
Create composite dams
in separate catagories
Rainfall-runoff module: generate flows
for the local sub-catchment
Figure 8.2. Simplified overall structure of the model (Meigh 1995).
Human impacts and management issues in arid and semi-arid regions 295
three cases. Summary statistics are then calculated and a range of plotting options are used
to allow the flow series to be compared. An additional option allows the model to be run in
calibration mode; in this case the flow series for existing plus proposed dams is not
computed. Instead, the flows for no dams and for existing dams only are compared with
observed flows at a river recording station.
There are three separate modules within the overall model (to describe the processes of
rainfall-runoff conversion, dam routing and channel routing–transmission losses), and the
model was calibrated for three study catchments upstream of Gaborone, Bokaa and Shashe
reservoirs. Since very few data on construction dates were available for the purpose of
calibration it was assumed that all dams existed for the whole period. The model generally
tended to overestimate observed flows in the earlier part of the calibration and under-
estimate them in the later period (Figure 8.3), whereas if significant numbers of small
dams had come into use during this period the opposite would have been expected.
Figure 8.3. Model calibration for Gaborone catchment; comparison of monthly flows (Meigh
1995).
296 Understanding water in a dry environment
The model allows assessment of the impacts of existing small dams and a range of
proposed small dams within major water supply reservoir catchments. It provides a
planning tool, enabling guidelines to be determined for future small dam development. It
is a generalized model that can also be reconfigured to other catchments with a similar
semi-arid climate. By using a semi-distributed approach the model accounts for the spatial
variability of hydrological processes and, to a reasonable extent, allows the high temporal
and spatial variability of rainfall in Botswana to be represented. Methods have also been
developed to estimate the physical characteristics of small dams using only the surface
area shown on maps. This means that the majority of dams, for which detailed information
is lacking, can still be included in the model without the need to carry out extensive field
surveys.
Results from the three study catchments show that the total capacity of small dams is
the overriding factor causing decline in catchment runoff. Dams having a total capacity of
10% mean annual runoff (MAR) cause approximately the same decline of between about
8 and 10% in catchment MAR.
This decline in MAR is affected by other factors which are of secondary importance but
still significant. These include dam location; for example, the same total capacity of small
dams has a greater effect if they are placed further downstream. This is because flows
entering the dams are greater. The dams are therefore likely to fill more frequently and
will thus tend to lose more water. A further factor is size of the proposed small dams;
a small number of large dams has a relatively smaller effect than a large number of small
dams with the same total capacity. This is because larger dams tend to have a smaller
surface area in relation to their capacity. Larger dams thus have a more efficient shape
which produces lower evaporation losses. Another factor, the use to which the dams are
put, whether for stock watering or for irrigation, also has an effect. In addition, it was
found that small dams have a greater impact in dry years and at the start of the hydro-
logically active period.
8.3 URBANIZATION, INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION, WASTE WATER REUSE
Population expansion and industrial development in urban areas have proved disastrous to
the quality of both groundwater and surface water. Receiving waters have often become
waste receptacles, subject to increasing flow volumes and effluents harmful to both
quality and ecology. Furthermore, the expansion of urban areas is now greater in less
developed countries having the lowest Gross National Product than in developed regions.
In most cities in these less developed countries municipal and industrial wastes are
generally disposed of without adequate treatment. A further aspect of this problem is the
poor condition of traditional sewage systems designed and built in the late 19th century.
Many major environmental issues have emerged with the dramatic expansion of urbanized
areas in all climatic regions (Foster et al. 1999). These include:
(1) Disruption of the natural hydrological cycle due to reduced infiltration and
groundwater recharge, and increase in volume and rate of runoff due to change in
land use and growth of impermeable surface areas.
(2) Decline in groundwater levels and possible land subsidence due to groundwater
mining.
(3) Increased pollutant loads to water courses and surface water bodies.
Human impacts and management issues in arid and semi-arid regions 297
(4) Leakage to groundwater from old and poorly maintained sewers.
(5) Extensive soil and groundwater contamination from industrial leakages or spills of
hazardous chemicals, or poorly planned solid and liquid waste disposal practices.
(6) Increased artificial surface water infiltration and recharge from polluted sources
leading to poor groundwater quality.
Urban areas affect the behaviour and characteristics of groundwater below and around
them. Water abstraction increases when the urban area grows, producing a progressive
groundwater level draw down with corresponding effects on the whole groundwater
system. In situations where groundwater abstraction decreases or recharge is increased,
this leads to groundwater level recovery and sometimes water logging and inundation
problems. Urbanization also has a series of effects on groundwater quality due to changes
in the source of recharge water, and modifications to the way groundwater is mixed in the
abstraction wells.
Groundwater pollution may be serious in some areas due to rain water flushing of
soluble salts, heavy metals and organic material (mostly oils) deposited on buildings and
streets. Point sources caused by subsurface disposal of contaminated water and solid
wastes or stored substances are also important, as are leakages from service areas, work-
shops, storage tanks and pipes. Hydrocarbons, chlorinated organic solvents and heavy
metals are common occurrences in groundwater below urban areas. Quality changes also
take place due to degradation of organic matter in the soil.
8.3.1 Examples of urbanization impacts
Barcelona metropolitan area
Barcelona occupies a relatively small, sloping area between a coastal range and the sea on
the Mediterranean side of the Iberian Peninsula, and is confined on each side by two
rivers—the Besos to the northeast and the more important Liobregat to the southwest.
Both rivers cross the mountain range through deep canyons and have developed coarse
alluvium filled valleys that end in fans and eolian deposits partly covering a former land
surface. These recent formations contain a two-layer aquifer as an extension of the valley
alluvium. Near the coast there are infilled old marshes.
In early times the urban water supply system was mostly based on groundwater. In the
1950s, however, it was decided to further develop the surface water resources. Some of
the consequent changes in the groundwater body were (Custodio 1997):
Groundwater level changes: Intensive groundwater abstraction in the valleys and delta
produced a general water table and piezometric level draw down. As a result, the water
table in some areas dropped below sea level inducing seawater penetration, and a series of
former swampy and shallow water table areas dried up. The consequences have been
progressive abandonment of salinized wells, or using them for only cooling purposes. The
increased cost of groundwater abstraction for factories requiring large water quantities
promoted the creation of a groundwater users association to protect the aquifer. At the
same time, groundwater abstraction for urban supply has been drastically reduced when
treated surface water was available for drinking purposes. The result has been ground-
water level recovery in many areas, especially in wet years, initiating water-logging
problems. Current difficulties are inundation of subway tunnels, underground parking
lots, domestic cellars and entrenched parts of roads. Some underground spaces have now
298 Understanding water in a dry environment
been abandoned due to the cost of pumping and the danger of creating geotechnical
problems. In the Barcelona plain leakage from the water distribution network has added to
groundwater level recovery. Subway tunnels and entrenched motorways have probably
also contributed to the rise in water table in some coastal areas by reducing aquifer
transmissivity.
Groundwater quantity changes: Intensive water exploitation of alluvial aquifers and
deltas means that the principal recharge component in a water balance is often river water
infiltration. In the Liobregat area, however, infiltration occurs both from the river bed and
on the irrigated lands. Large water depths are applied to the latter, not only as a con-
tinuation of traditional practices, but also to control grasses and pests by periodic land
inundation in order to reduce the need for agrochemical applications. River flow has been
progressively regulated by means of dams and the river has been channelled to control
flood damage. This has resulted in less frequent and less intense floods which, together
with increased water turbidity and pollution, has led to a decrease of in-bed infiltration
which is only partly compensated by recharge from irrigation. In addition, the area
irrigated is being progressively decreased by construction of new motorways and urban
and industrial settlements. Local recharge from creeks in the delta and valley sides has
also been drastically reduced by channelling, and hence aquifer replenishment is being
progressively impaired.
Groundwater quality changes: Two main groundwater quality changes have been
induced in the alluvial and delta aquifers. The first is the result of seawater intrusion, which
has penetrated most of the Besos delta and affects a large part of the Liobregat delta. In the
Liobregat area some industrial wells exploiting saline water are nowprotecting other wells
placed further inland. Effort is being made to maintain this situation until a groundwater
management plan is adopted. The other main change arises from the poor river water
quality; the Besos is heavily polluted and the Liobregat suffers from brine disposal and the
previously indicated pollution problems.
Delhi, Iran, China, Gaza, Yemen, Patagonia, Arabian peninsula
Delhi represents a typical example of accelerated urbanization in a semi-arid environ-
ment, with disposal of urban waste into water bodies, unregulated open waste dumping
and poorly designed landfills. Singh (1999) reports high levels of groundwater con-
tamination by industrial and domestic effluents.
Khazai and Riggi (1999) discuss the impact of urbanization on the Khash aquifer in the
arid region of southeast Iran. They clearly indicate that groundwater management in an
urban area requires a systematic approach for investigations of the quantitative and
qualitative impacts of urbanization.
Gengxu and Guodong (1999) highlight influences on the eco-environment in the arid
zone of northwestern China due to exploitation of land and water resources over the last
50 years. These have resulted in drastic reductions in river discharge, shortening of river
courses and contraction/drying up of terminal lakes. The authors advocate more effective
use of water resources, with harmonization of the eco-environmental and economic