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Abstract

Naturally occurring long-term mean annual base recharge to ground water in Nebraska was estimated with the help of a water-balance approach and an objective automated technique for base-flow separation involving minimal parameter-optimization requirements. Base recharge is equal to total recharge minus the amount of evapotranspiration coming directly from ground water. The estimation of evapotranspiration in the water-balance equation avoids the need to specify a contributing drainage area for ground water, which in certain cases may be considerably different from the drainage area for surface runoff. Evapotranspiration was calculated by the WREVAP model at the Solar and Meteorological Surface Observation Network (SAMSON) sites. Long-term mean annual base recharge was derived by determining the product of estimated long-term mean annual runoff (the difference between precipitation and evapotranspiration) and the base-flow index (BFI). The BFI was calculated from discharge data obtained from the U.S. Geological Survey's gauging stations in Nebraska. Mapping was achieved by using geographic information systems (GIS) and geostatistics. This approach is best suited for regional-scale applications. It does not require complex hydrogeologic modeling nor detailed knowledge of soil characteristics, vegetation cover, or land-use practices. Long-term mean annual base recharge rates in excess of 110 mm/year resulted in the extreme eastern part of Nebraska. The western portion of the state expressed rates of only 15 to 20 mm annually, while the Sandhills region of north-central Nebraska was estimated to receive twice as much base recharge (40 to 50 mm/year) as areas south of it.