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Water Resources Research

Estimation of the base flow recession constant under human interference

Authors

  • Brian F. Thomas,

    Corresponding author
    1. University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
    • Corresponding author: B. F. Thomas, University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling, University of California, 240D Rowland Hall, Irvine, CA 92697, USA. (bfthomas@uci.edu)

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  • Richard M. Vogel,

    1. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts, USA
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  • Charles N. Kroll,

    1. Department of Environmental Resources Engineering, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, New York, USA
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  • James S. Famiglietti

    1. University of California Center for Hydrologic Modeling, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
    2. Department of Earth System Science, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
    3. Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, California, USA
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Abstract

[1] The base flow recession constant, Kb, is used to characterize the interaction of groundwater and surface water systems. Estimation of Kb is critical in many studies including rainfall-runoff modeling, estimation of low flow statistics at ungaged locations, and base flow separation methods. The performance of several estimators of Kb are compared, including several new approaches which account for the impact of human withdrawals. A traditional semilog estimation approach adapted to incorporate the influence of human withdrawals was preferred over other derivative-based estimators. Human withdrawals are shown to have a significant impact on the estimation of base flow recessions, even when withdrawals are relatively small. Regional regression models are developed to relate seasonal estimates of Kb to physical, climatic, and anthropogenic characteristics of stream-aquifer systems. Among the factors considered for explaining the behavior of Kb, both drainage density and human withdrawals have significant and similar explanatory power. We document the importance of incorporating human withdrawals into models of the base flow recession response of a watershed and the systemic downward bias associated with estimates of Kb obtained without consideration of human withdrawals.

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