Surface-groundwater interactions in hard rock, water-limited environments, simulated at very fine scale using long time-series observations and hydrotope-modeling concept

S M Tanvir Hassan, M.W. Lubczynski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


Hard rock systems are typically characterized by undulated landscapes, short flow path, dense drainage network, and low aquifer storage. If located in water-limited environments (WLE), then typically have variable rainfall characteristics, frequent floods and droughts, and savannah type of vegetation capable to uptake groundwater. In such environments, surface–groundwater interactions are of primary importance. In this study, surface–groundwater interactions are analyzed focusing on spatiotemporal net recharge dependence on hydrotopes, where a hydrotope is conceptualized as spatial unit (or object), which at a given scale of assessment can be assumed as internally homogeneous (e.g. tree canopy or rock outcrop), but hydro(geo)logically different than the adjacent area. The study was carried out in the small (7.6 ha) Trabadillo study area (TSA) in Spain, representative for hard rocks of WLE, using 3D-GSFLOW integrated hydrological model (IHM) at very fine grid (5x5m), extracted from coarser grid (100x100m) of Sardon 3D-GSFLOW model (Hassan et al., 2014, Journal of Hydrology 517, 390–410). The IHM was calibrated using: (i) 20-year head observation; (ii) 8-year soil moisture observations at 4 profiles, each at different hydrotope and each at 4 different depths; and (iii) MODIS satellite earth observation of evapotranspiration. Despite applying spatially uniform rainfall as forcing, surface–groundwater interactions were highly spatially variable, primarily, because of hydrotope-differences in rainfall interception loss and secondarily, because of differences in transpiration, in subsurface evaporation and in hydrological properties of subsurface. The high temporal variability of rainfall, ranging yearly from 310 to 925 mm, resulted in high temporal variability of all water fluxes, including groundwater fluxes; e.g. gross recharge (Rg) varied annually from 2 to 445 mm, net recharge (Rn), from −50 mm to + 89 mm, while the 20-year mean Rn was close to zero, because Rg was counterbalanced by groundwater exfiltration and less by groundwater evapotranspiration. The high temporal variability of groundwater fluxes and many dry years with largely negative Rn, in combination with low aquifer storage, emphasized TSA dependence on rainfall and its vulnerability to droughts. The hydrotope modeling concept applied at the very fine scale, emphasized also large Rn dependence on land cover type, especially on density and species composition of trees, invisible at coarser scale modeling. As such, the proposed hydrotope modelling approach can be applied as a tool to test whether in a given environment planting (or cutting) trees will result in increase or decrease of water resources.
Original languageEnglish
Article number130505
JournalJournal of hydrology
Early online date22 Nov 2023
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024


  • Surface-groundwater interaction
  • Integrated hydrological model
  • Very fine model grid (5x5 m)
  • Hydrotope modeling
  • Water balance
  • UT-Hybrid-D


Dive into the research topics of 'Surface-groundwater interactions in hard rock, water-limited environments, simulated at very fine scale using long time-series observations and hydrotope-modeling concept'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this