Modelling of recharge and pollutant fluxes to urban groundwaters

Abraham Thomas, John Tellam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Citations (Scopus)


Urban groundwater resources are of considerable importance to the long-term viability of many cities world-wide, yet prediction of the quantity and quality of recharge is only rarely attempted at anything other than a very basic level. This paper describes the development of UGIf, a simple model written within a GIS, designed to provide estimates of spatially distributed recharge and recharge water quality in unconfined but covered aquifers. The following processes (with their calculation method indicated) are included: runoff and interception (curve number method); evapotranspiration (Penman-Grindley); interflow (empirical index approach); volatilization (Henry's law); sorption (distribution coefficient); and degradation (first order decay). The input data required are: meteorological data, landuse/cover map with event mean concentration attributes, geological maps with hydraulic and geochemical attributes, and topographic and water table elevation data in grid form. Standard outputs include distributions of: surface runoff, infiltration, potential recharge, ground level slope, interflow, actual recharge, pollutant fluxes in surface runoff, travel times of each pollutant through the unsaturated zone, and the pollutant fluxes and concentrations at the water table. The process of validation has commenced with a study of the Triassic Sandstone aquifer underlying Birmingham, UK. UGIf predicts a similar average recharge rate for the aquifer as previous groundwater flow modelling studies, but with significantly more spatial detail: in particular the results indicate that recharge through paved areas may be more important than previously thought. The results also highlight the need for more knowledge/data on the following: runoff estimation; interflow (including the effects of lateral flow and channelling on flow times and therefore chemistry); evapotranspiration in paved areas; the nature of unsaturated zone flow below paved areas; and the role of the pipe network. Although considerably more verification is needed, UGIf shows promise for use: in providing input for regional groundwater solute transport models; in identifying gaps in knowledge and data; in determining which processes are the most important influences on urban groundwater quantity and quality; in evaluating existing recharge models; in planning, for example in investigation of the effects of landuse or climate change; and in assessing groundwater vulnerability. (c) 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)158– 179
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2006


  • groundwater
  • urban
  • aquifer
  • recharge
  • urgent
  • pollutants
  • Birmingham
  • GIS


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