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Environments 2018, 5(5), 55; https://doi.org/10.3390/environments5050055

Use of Water Balance and Tracer-Based Approaches to Monitor Groundwater Recharge in the Hyper-Arid Gobi Desert of Northwestern China

1
Department of Socio-Cultural Environmental Studies, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo, Kashiwa 277-8563, Japan
2
Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, Kyoto 603-8047, Japan
3
Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Nagoya 464-8601, Japan
4
Faculty of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Tsukuba 305-8577, Japan
5
Graduate School of Environmental Earth Science, Hokkaido University, Sapporo 060-0810, Japan
6
Advanced Systems Analysis Group, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Laxenburg A-2361, Austria
7
Center for the Development of Global Leadership Education, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 113-8654, Japan
*
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 20 April 2018 / Revised: 28 April 2018 / Accepted: 30 April 2018 / Published: 4 May 2018
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Abstract

The groundwater recharge mechanism in the hyper-arid Gobi Desert of Northwestern China was analyzed using water balance and tracer-based approaches. Investigations of evaporation, soil water content, and their relationships with individual rainfall events were conducted from April to August of 2004. Water sampling of rainwater, groundwater, and surface water was also conducted. During this period, 10 precipitation events with a total amount of 41.5 mm, including a maximum of 28.9 mm, were observed. Evaporation during the period was estimated to be 33.1 mm. Only the soil water, which was derived from the heaviest precipitation, remained in the vadose zone. This is because a dry surface layer, which was formed several days after the heaviest precipitation event, prevented evaporation. Prior to that, the heaviest precipitation rapidly infiltrated without being affected by evaporation. This is corroborated by the isotopic evidence that both the heaviest precipitation and the groundwater retained no trace of significant kinetic evaporation. Estimated δ-values of the remaining soil water based on isotopic fractionation and its mass balance theories also demonstrated no trace of kinetic fractionation in the infiltration process. Moreover, stable isotopic compositions of the heaviest precipitation and the groundwater were very similar. Therefore, we concluded that the high-intensity precipitation, which rapidly infiltrated without any trace of evaporation, was the main source of the groundwater. View Full-Text
Keywords: groundwater recharge; evaporation; water balance; stable isotopes; hyper-arid environment; Gobi Desert; Northwestern China groundwater recharge; evaporation; water balance; stable isotopes; hyper-arid environment; Gobi Desert; Northwestern China
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Akiyama, T.; Kubota, J.; Fujita, K.; Tsujimura, M.; Nakawo, M.; Avtar, R.; Kharrazi, A. Use of Water Balance and Tracer-Based Approaches to Monitor Groundwater Recharge in the Hyper-Arid Gobi Desert of Northwestern China. Environments 2018, 5, 55.

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