Groundwater recharge indicator as tool for decision makers to increase socio-hydrological resilience to seasonal drought

Back to previous page
Authors: Hund, SV; Allen, DM; Morillas, L; Johnson, MS
Year: 2018
Journal: J. Hydrol. 563: 1119-1134   Article Link (DOI)
Title: Groundwater recharge indicator as tool for decision makers to increase socio-hydrological resilience to seasonal drought
Abstract: Communities in regions with seasonal rainfall face annual dry seasons, during which water shortages and conflicts between different water use sectors may erupt. These difficulties increase following wet seasons with low rainfall, such as in relation to El Nino events in the wet-dry tropics of Central America. Hydrologic data are typically scarce in this region, making the development of drought adaptation strategies challenging. Many communities in the region depend on groundwater as their primary water source. For instance in the Province of Guanacaste in Costa Rica, groundwater supplied 78% of the total domestic water demand in 2015 and groundwater recharge from the wet season provides the primary water supply for the subsequent dry season. In this research we present a 'groundwater recharge indicator' that can support water managers in preparing for seasonal droughts. We developed this tool for an aquifer in northwestern Costa Rica where we conducted hydrological monitoring of streams and groundwater levels for 2.5 years, obtained further hydrological data (groundwater levels from 2005 to 2016), and worked with communities to assemble water use data. We combined these datasets in a hydrologic model (the Water Evaluation And Planning system, WEAP) and modelled groundwater recharge from 2005 to 2016, permitting a characterization of the relationship between rainfall and groundwater recharge. The groundwater recharge indicator is based on this relationship, and allows estimating total groundwater recharge for a wet season from cumulative rainfall measured to date. The indicator permits water managers to assess if the current year will likely fall into a low recharge category prior to the end of the wet season. This information can then be used to trigger short-term adaptation strategies with the goal to 'bank' groundwater while surface water sources are still available in the wet season. This indicator-based tool was refined through feedback provided in local stakeholder workshops. We also assessed the overall accuracy of predicting end-of-wet-season groundwater recharge with cumulative rainfall to date, and found that after the first 2-3 months of the wet season, prediction accuracies are high, leaving 5-6 months of wet season to respond adaptively to the prediction. The indicator can help water managers to plan ahead, and communicate the need for water conservation (demand management) and consideration of other water sources such as rain and surface water (supply management). This idea is transferable to other communities in regions with seasonal rainfall, and can support decision makers in increasing the socio-hydrological resilience of communities to seasonal droughts.
Back to previous page

Departmental members may update their publication list.