A new approach for assessing groundwater recharge by combining GRACE and baseflow with case studies in karst areas of southwest China

Zhiyong Huang, Pat J.F. Yeh, Jiu Jimmy Jiao, Xin Luo, Yun Pan, Yuannan Long, Chong Zhang, Longqun Zheng

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A new approach combining groundwater storage change (GWSC) derived from Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite data and baseflow was proposed to estimate groundwater recharge at large spatial scales but a short (monthly) time scale. This method was applied in two typical karst basins of southwest China, the Wujiang River basin (WRB, ∼87,900 km2, ∼70% karstification) and Xijiang River Basin (XRB, ∼360,000 km2, ∼44% karstification). The 2006–2012 monthly baseflow was first separated from in situ streamflow through multivariate regression analysis. Groundwater recharge was estimated using separated baseflow and GWSC estimated from GRACE data and observation-based groundwater-level data. The comparison between GRACE- and observation-based recharge in the larger XRB shows better consistency, while that in the smaller WRB shows larger discrepancies. Considering the associated uncertainty (60–93 mm/yr), the 2006–2012 mean recharge in two basins, ranging 199–225 mm/yr (17%–19% of precipitation) is comparable to bulletin-reported estimates (∼145 mm/yr). Both the degree of karstification and aquifer water table depth influence recharge and discharge processes in karst areas of southwest China. The more karstic WRB exhibits more rapid infiltration (due to more developed permeable epikarst zone) and higher discharge capability (due to more developed underground drainage systems), particularly during dry periods (2009, 2011, and winter). Baseflow exhibits a shorter time lag to recharge and GWSC in the XRB than WRB owing to more quick flow, lower storage with more rapid infiltration, and shorter mean groundwater residence time. Observation-based monthly recharge reflects different rainfall-infiltration-runoff processes under different rainfall intensities, particularly in the WRB.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2022WR032091
Number of pages25
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • baseflow separation
  • groundwater recharge
  • groundwater storage change
  • karst
  • water table depth

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