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Predicting Water Table Response to Rainfall Events, Central Florida


  • [Correction added after online publication July 26, 2012: Author affiliations have been updated.]

Corresponding author: Department of Natural Sciences, St. Petersburg College, 9200 113th St. North, Seminole, FL 33772; (727) 709-1515;


A rise in water table in response to a rainfall event is a complex function of permeability, specific yield, antecedent soil-water conditions, water table level, evapotranspiration, vegetation, lateral groundwater flow, and rainfall volume and intensity. Predictions of water table response, however, commonly assume a linear relationship between response and rainfall based on cumulative analysis of water level and rainfall logs. By identifying individual rainfall events and responses, we examine how the response/rainfall ratio varies as a function of antecedent water table level (stage) and rainfall event size. For wells in wetlands and uplands in central Florida, incorporating stage and event size improves forecasting of water table rise by more than 30%, based on 10 years of data. At the 11 sites studied, the water table is generally least responsive to rainfall at smallest and largest rainfall event sizes and at lower stages. At most sites the minimum amount of rainfall required to induce a rise in water table is fairly uniform when the water table is within 50 to 100 cm of land surface. Below this depth, the minimum typically gradually increases with depth. These observations can be qualitatively explained by unsaturated zone flow processes. Overall, response/rainfall ratios are higher in wetlands and lower in uplands, presumably reflecting lower specific yields and greater lateral influx in wetland sites. Pronounced depth variations in rainfall/response ratios appear to correlate with soil layer boundaries, where corroborating data are available.