19 Sep 2023
 | 19 Sep 2023
Status: this preprint is open for discussion.

An underground drip water monitoring network to characterize rainfall recharge of groundwater at different geologies, environments, and climates across Australia

Andy Baker, Margaret Shanafield, Wendy Timms, Martin Sogaard Andersen, Stacey Priestley, and Marilu Melo Zurita

Abstract. Understanding when and why groundwater recharge occurs is of fundamental importance for the sustainable use of this essential freshwater resource for humans and ecosystems. However, accurately capturing this component of the water balance is widely acknowledged to be a major challenge. Direct physical measurement identifying when groundwater recharge is occurring is possible by utilizing a sensor network of hydrological loggers deployed in underground spaces located in the vadose zone. Through measurements of water percolating into these spaces from above, we can record the potential groundwater recharge process in action. By using automated sensors, it is possible to precisely determine when recharge occurs (which event, month, or season, and for which climate condition). Combined with daily rainfall data, it is possible to quantify the ‘rainfall recharge threshold’, the amount of rainfall needed to generate groundwater recharge, and its temporal and spatial variability. Australia’s National Groundwater Recharge Observing System (NGROS) provides the first dedicated sensor network for observing groundwater recharge at an event-scale across a wide range of geologies, environments, and climate types representing a wide range of Australian hydroclimates. Utilizing tunnels, mines, caves, and other subsurface spaces located in the vadose zone, the sensors effectively record ‘deep drainage’, water that can move beyond the shallow subsurface and root zone to generate groundwater recharge. The NGROS has the temporal resolution to capture individual recharge events, with multiple sensors deployed at each site to constrain the heterogeneity of recharge between different flow paths, and to quantify (including uncertainty bounds) rainfall recharge thresholds. Established in 2022, the network is described here together with examples of data being generated.

Andy Baker et al.

Status: open (until 02 Nov 2023)

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Andy Baker et al.

Andy Baker et al.


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Short summary
Much of the world relies on groundwater as a water resource, yet it is hard to know when and where rainfall replenishes our groundwater aquifers. Caves, mines, and tunnels that are situated above the groundwater table are unique observatories of water transiting from the land surface to the aquifer. This paper will show how networks of loggers deployed in these underground spaces across Australia have helped understand when, where and how much rainfall is needed to replenish the groundwater.