A variable source area for groundwater evapotranspiration: impacts on modeling stream flow

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Tsang, Y.P., G. Hornberger, L.A. KaplanJ.D. Newbold, and A.K. Aufdenkampe. 2014. Hydrological Processes 28(4):2439–2450.



Evapotranspiration (ET) plays a crucial role in catchment water budgets, typically accounting for more than 50% of annual precipitation falling within temperate deciduous forests. Groundwater ET is a portion of total ET that occurs where plant roots extend to the capillary fringe above the phreatic surface or induce upward movement of water from the water table by hydraulic redistribution. Groundwater ET is spatially restricted to riparian zones or other areas where the groundwater is accessible to plants. Due to the difficulty in measuring groundwater ET, it is rarely incorporated explicitly into hydrological models. In this study, we calibrated Topographic Model (TOPMODEL) using a 14-year hydrograph record and added a groundwater ET pathway to derive a new model, Groundwater Evapotranspiration TOPMODEL (GETTOP). We inspected groundwater elevations and stream flow hydrographs for evidence of groundwater ET, examined the relationship between groundwater ET and topography, and delineated the area where groundwater ET is likely to take place. The total groundwater ET flux was estimated using a hydrological model. Groundwater ET was larger where the topography was flat and the groundwater table was shallow, occurring within about 10% of the area in a headwater catchment and accounting for 6 to 18% of total annual ET. The addition of groundwater ET to GETTOP improved the simulation of stream discharge and more closely balanced the watershed water budget.