Seasonality of Groundwater Recharge in the Basin and Range Province, Western North America
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
For water-scarce communities in the western U.S., it is critical to understand groundwater recharge regimes and how those regimes might shift in the face of climate change and impact groundwater resources. Watersheds in the Basin and Range Geological Province are characterized by a variable precipitation regime of wet winters and variable summer precipitation. The relative contributions to groundwater recharge by summer and winter precipitation vary throughout the province, with winter precipitation recharge dominant in the northern parts of the region, and recharge from summer monsoonal precipitation playing a more significant role in the south, where the North American Monsoon (NAM) extends its influence. Stable water isotope data of groundwater and seasonal precipitation from sites in Sonora, Mexico and the U.S. states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas were examined to estimate and compare groundwater recharge seasonality throughout the region. Contributions of winter precipitation to annual recharge vary from 69% ± 41% in the southernmost Río San Miguel Basin in Sonora, Mexico, to 100% ± 36% in the westernmost Mojave Desert of California. The Normalized Seasonal Wetness Index (NSWI), a simple water budget method for estimating recharge seasonality from climatic data, was shown to approximate recharge seasonality well in several winter precipitation-dominated systems, but less well in basins with significant summer precipitation.