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Water 2016, 8(8), 353; doi:10.3390/w8080353

Estimation of Groundwater Recharge Using Tracers and Numerical Modeling in the North China Plain

1
Changjiang River Scientific Research Institute, Wuhan 430010, China
2
Institute of Hydrogeology and Environmental Geology, CAGS, Shijiazhuang 050805, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Y. Jun Xu
Received: 10 May 2016 / Revised: 2 August 2016 / Accepted: 3 August 2016 / Published: 18 August 2016
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Tackling Complex Water Problems in China under Changing Environment)
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Abstract

Water resource shortage has been a serious problem since the 1980s in the North China Plain (NCP), resulting in plenty of environmental problems. Estimating the groundwater recharge rate accurately is vital for managing groundwater effectively. This study applied several methods, including chloride mass-balance, tracers (bromide and tritium) and numerical modeling (Hydrus-1D), to estimate groundwater recharge at three representative sites of the NCP: Zhengding (ZD), Luancheng (LC) and Hengshui (HS). The chloride concentration of the soil profile in the ZD site showed that the mean recharge was 3.84 mm/year with the residence time of 105 years for soil water transferring through the vadose area of 45.0 m in depth in the preferential flow model mainly. Considering the influence of preferential flow on the soil water movement in the field scale, the traditional methods (e.g., peak method of bromide and tritium tracers based on piston flow described in the literature) could be unsuitable to estimate groundwater recharge in the LC and HS sites, especially in areas with low recharge rates. Therefore, multi-region and mass balance methods were applied in this study. The results of this investigation showed that the mean values of recharge were 124.3 and 18.0 mm/year in the LC and HS sites, respectively, in 2010. Owing to complexity and uncertainty on the surface resulting from the measuring of evapotranspiration, the upper boundary of 1.4 m (under the ground where most of the plant roots did not reach) was chosen for the numerical modeling of Hydrus-1D, and the result showed that the mean recharge was 225 mm/year from 2003 to 2007, consistent with the result of tracers in the previous literature. The result also showed that the positive relation of groundwater recharge and the sum of irrigation and rainfall was presented in the spatial and temporal scale. Additionally, human activities promoted the recharge rate, and recharge rates increased with greater depths in the LC site generally. However, both cases did not appear clearly in the HS site, showing that the low penetrability of soil controlled the recharge rate in this site. View Full-Text
Keywords: North China Plain; groundwater; recharge; tracer; modeling North China Plain; groundwater; recharge; tracer; modeling
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Wu, Q.; Wang, G.; Zhang, W.; Cui, H.; Zhang, W. Estimation of Groundwater Recharge Using Tracers and Numerical Modeling in the North China Plain. Water 2016, 8, 353.

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