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Water balance modelling in a tropical watershed under deciduous forest (Mule Hole, India): Regolith matric storage buffers the groundwater recharge process

Abstract : Accurate estimations of water balance are needed in semi-arid and sub-humid tropical regions, where water resources are scarce compared to water demand. Evapotranspiration plays a major role in this context, and the difficulty to quantify it precisely leads to major uncertainties in the groundwater recharge assessment, especially in forested catchments. In this paper, we propose to assess the importance of deep unsaturated regolith and water uptake by deep tree roots on the groundwater recharge process by using a lumped conceptual model (COMFORT). The model is calibrated using a 5 year hydrological monitoring of an experimental watershed under dry deciduous forest in South India (Mule Hole watershed). The model was able to simulate the stream discharge as well as the contrasted behaviour of groundwater table along the hillslope. Water balance simulated for a 32 year climatic time series displayed a large year-to-year variability, with alternance of dry and wet phases with a time period of approximately 14 years. On an average, input by the rainfall was 1090 mm/year and the evapotranspiration was about 900 mm/year out of which 100 mm/year was uptake from the deep saprolite horizons. The stream flow was 100 mm/year while the groundwater underflow was 80 mm/year. The simulation results suggest that (i) deciduous trees can uptake a significant amount of water from the deep regolith, (ii) this uptake, combined with the spatial variability of regolith depth, can account for the variable lag time between drainage events and groundwater rise observed for the different piezometers and (iii) water table response to recharge is buffered due to the long vertical travel time through the deep vadose zone, which constitutes a major water reservoir. This study stresses the importance of long term observations for the understanding of hydrological processes in tropical forested ecosystems.
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Submitted on : Monday, March 8, 2010 - 1:39:39 PM
Last modification on : Friday, September 25, 2020 - 11:02:44 AM
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Laurent Ruiz, M.R.R. Varma, M.S. Mohan Kumar, Muddu Sekhar, Jean-Christophe Maréchal, et al.. Water balance modelling in a tropical watershed under deciduous forest (Mule Hole, India): Regolith matric storage buffers the groundwater recharge process. Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, 2010, 380 (3-4), pp.460-472. ⟨10.1016/j.jhydrol.2009.11.020⟩. ⟨hal-00462049⟩

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