Challenges in developing a global gradient-based groundwater model (G3M v1.0) for the integration into a global hydrological model

Reinecke, Robert; Foglia, Laura; Mehl, Steffen; Trautmann, Tim; Cáceres, Denise; Döll, Petra

In global hydrological models, groundwater (GW) is typically represented by a bucket-like linear groundwater reservoir. Reservoir models, however, (1) can only simulate GW discharge to surface water (SW) bodies but not recharge from SW to GW, (2) provide no information on the location of the GW table, and (3) assume that there is no GW flow among grid cells. This may lead, for example, to an underestimation of groundwater resources in semiarid areas where GW is often replenished by SW or to an underestimation of evapotranspiration where the GW table is close to the land surface. To overcome these limitations, it is necessary to replace the reservoir model in global hydrological models with a hydraulic head gradient-based GW flow model. We present G3M, a new global gradient-based GW model with a spatial resolution of 5′ (arcminutes), which is to be integrated into the 0.5∘ WaterGAP Global Hydrology Model (WGHM). The newly developed model framework enables in-memory coupling to WGHM while keeping overall runtime relatively low, which allows sensitivity analyses, calibration, and data assimilation. This paper presents the G3M concept and model design decisions that are specific to the large grid size required for a global-scale model. Model results under steady-state naturalized conditions, i.e., neglecting GW abstractions, are shown. Simulated hydraulic heads show better agreement to observations around the world compared to the model output of de Graaf et al. (2015). Locations of simulated SW recharge to GW are found, as is expected, in dry and mountainous regions but areal extent of SW recharge may be underestimated. Globally, GW discharge to rivers is by far the dominant flow component such that lateral GW flows only become a large fraction of total diffuse and focused recharge in the case of losing rivers, some mountainous areas, and some areas with very low GW recharge. A strong sensitivity of simulated hydraulic heads to the spatial resolution of the model and the related choice of the water table elevation of surface water bodies was found. We suggest to investigate how global-scale groundwater modeling at 5′ spatial resolution can benefit from more highly resolved land surface elevation data.

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Reinecke, Robert / Foglia, Laura / Mehl, Steffen / et al: Challenges in developing a global gradient-based groundwater model (G3M v1.0) for the integration into a global hydrological model. 2019. Copernicus Publications.

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