The impact of climate change on groundwater recharge: National-scale assessment for the British mainland

Hughes, A.; Mansour, M.; Ward, R.; Kieboom, N.; Allen, S.; Seccombe, D.; Charlton, M.; Prudhomme, C.. 2021 The impact of climate change on groundwater recharge: National-scale assessment for the British mainland. Journal of Hydrology, 598, 126336.

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Groundwater systems provide an important source of water supply as well as contributing baseflow to rivers, lakes and dependent ecosystems and so the impact of climate change on these systems needs to be understood. Calculating recharge to groundwater systems is, therefore, necessary to quantify what is typically one of the largest components of the groundwater balance. This study uses the national-scale recharge model developed for the British mainland and the 11 ensemble members from the Hadley Centre for rainfall and potential evaporation created by the Future Flows and Groundwater Levels (FFGWL) project to investigate the impact of future climate on groundwater resources. Changes to seasonal and monthly recharge for the 2050s and 2080s time slices have been produced for the whole modelled area and for river basin districts for England and Wales. Areal summaries and monthly time series of recharge values show a generally consistent trend of increased recharge in winter, decreased recharge in summer, and mixed pattern in autumn and spring. The work shows that increased winter rainfall is the main factor in increasing recharge. Water balance calculations reveal that over the 2050s and 2080s, the climate change “signal” predominates over the annual variability, which results in a clearer pattern of more recharge being concentrated in fewer months. This finding should prove useful for water resources planners to assess the resilience of groundwater resources to climate change. Further work is recommended to understand the sequencing of flooding and drought events and to the effects of soil health and land cover changes in the future analysis.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 00221694
Additional Keywords: GroundwaterBGS, Groundwater
Date made live: 30 Jun 2021 14:49 +0 (UTC)

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