Analysis of groundwater-level response to rainfall and recharge estimates in fractured hard rock aquifers, NW Ireland

Zuansi Cai, Ulrich Ofterdinger

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    Despite fractured hard rock aquifers underlying over 65% of Ireland, knowledge of key processes controlling groundwater recharge in these bedrock systems is inadequately constrained. In this study, we examined 19 groundwater-level hydrographs from two Irish hillslope sites underlain by hard rock aquifers. Water-level time-series in clustered monitoring wells completed at the subsoil, soil/bedrock interface, shallow and deep bedrocks were continuously monitored hourly over two hydrological years. Correlation methods were applied to investigate groundwater-level response to rainfall, as well as its seasonal variations. The results reveal that the direct groundwater recharge to the shallow and deep bedrocks on hillslope is very limited. Water-level variations within these geological units are likely dominated by slow flow rock matrix storage. The rapid responses to rainfall (⩽2 h) with little seasonal variations were observed to the monitoring wells installed at the subsoil and soil/bedrock interface, as well as those in the shallow or deep bedrocks at the base of the hillslope. This suggests that the direct recharge takes place within these units. An automated time-series procedure using the water-table fluctuation method was developed to estimate groundwater recharge from the water-level and rainfall data. Results show the annual recharge rates of 42–197 mm/yr in the subsoil and soil/bedrock interface, which represent 4–19% of the annual rainfall. Statistical analysis of the relationship between the rainfall intensity and water-table rise reveal that the low rainfall intensity group (⩽1 mm/h) has greater impact on the groundwater recharge rate than other groups (>1 mm/h). This study shows that the combination of the time-series analysis and the water-table fluctuation method could be an useful approach to investigate groundwater recharge in fractured hard rock aquifers in Ireland.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)71-84
    Number of pages14
    JournalJournal of Hydrology
    Early online date02 Feb 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


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