Recession of Ground-Water Discharge and Estimating Mean Ground-Water Recharge and Discharge from Streamflow Records


RECESS is a group of 6 computer programs (RECESS, RORA, PART, TRANS, CURV and STREAM) for describing the Recession of Ground-Water Discharge and for Estimating Mean Ground-Water Recharge and Discharge from Streamflow Records. These programs develop a mathematical expression for recession of ground-water discharge and estimate mean ground-water recharge and discharge. The programs are intended for the analysis of the daily streamflow record of a basin where one can reasonable assume that all, or nearly all, ground water discharges to the stream except for that which is lost to riparian evapotranspiration, and where regulation and diversion of flow can be considered to be negligible.

The RECESS programs utilize extended memory.


The program RECESS determines the master recession curve (MRC) of streamflow recession during times when all flow can be considered to be ground-water discharge and when the profile of the ground-water-head distribution is nearly stable. The program uses a repetitive interactive procedure for selecting several periods of continuous recession, determines a best-fit equation for the rate of recession as a function of the logarithm of flow, then uses the coefficients of this equation to derive the MRC, which is an equation of time as a function of the logarithm of flow. The program thus allows for the possibility of nonlinearity in the relation between time and the logarithm of flow.


The program RORA uses the recession-curve-displacement method to estimate the recharge for each peak in the streamflow record. The method, also called the Rorabaugh Method, is based on the measurement of the change in the total potential ground-water discharge as estimated at critical time after the peak by extrapolation from the pre-peak and the post-peak recession periods. Program RORA is applied to a long period of record and gives an estimate of the mean rate of ground-water recharge.


The program PART uses streamflow partitioning to estimate a daily record of base flow under the streamflow record. The program scans the record for days that fit a requirement of antecedent recession, designates base flow to be equal to streamflow on these days, then linearly interpolates the daily record of base flow for days that do not fit the requirement of antecedent recession. PART is applied to a long period of record to obtain an estimate of the mean rate of ground-water discharge.


The program TRANS translates data into a format that can be read by the above three programs. TRANS may be used to convert 2 & 3-card format daily mean streamflow data from a USGS data base


The program STREAM allows the user to screen the daily-values data file for periods of continuous record.


The program CURV reads an output file from program RECESS, then creates a simple file that can be used as input to separate graphical software from which an MRC can be drawn.


The methods described herein are intended for the analysis of the ground-water-flow system of a basin for which a streamflow-gaging station at the downstream end can be considered the only point of outflow. For most applications, it should be reasonable to assume that all or nearly all ground water in the basin discharges to the stream, except for that which is lost by evapotranspiration. The area of contribution in the ground-water system is equal to the surface-drainage area for the purpose of expressing flow in units of specific discharge (for example, inches per year). Regulation and diversion of flow should be negligible.

It is preferable, but not required, that the record of daily mean streamflow is at least several years in duration. Results are most useful if the programs are executed to give long-term (at least yearly) results. Interbasin comparisons should be made only when the programs are executed for a uniform time period because of climatic variations. The programs work on the basis of the calendar year. In the application of the methods for estimating recharge or discharge, the record should be complete for each year in the period of analysis (365 or 366 daily values per calendar year).

The procedure for defining the recession of ground-water discharge selects several individual periods of continuous streamflow recession (periods during which each pair of subsequent daily values must meet the condition that the first value exceeds or is equal to the second). Periods of reduced precipitation must be long enough that the profile of the groundwater head distribution is nearly stable and ground-water discharge will plot with characteristic linearity or near-linearity on the graph of the logarithm of flow as a function of time. This condition may not be met for ground-water-flow systems of very low diffusivity (transmissivity divided by storage coefficient).

The procedure for defining streamflow recession allows for the possibility of nonlinearity in the relation between the logarithm of ground-water discharge and time when the profile of the ground-water head distribution is nearly stable. Nonlinearity can result from variation in saturated thickness, geologic heterogeneities, and attrition of ground water to leakage or evapotranspiration.

The methods for estimation of recharge or discharge are intended for the analysis of flow systems that are driven by areally diffuse recharge events that can be considered to be roughly concurrent with peaks in streamflow. The stream is the sink (discharge boundary) of the groundwater-flow system. Results of these methods may not be reliable for flow systems dominated by leakage to or from regional-flow systems, snowmelt runoff, recharge from losing streams, or ground-water withdrawals. The methods for estimating recharge or discharge should be used only if the drainage area is larger than 1 square mile, so that the time base of surface runoff will exceed the time increment of the data (one day). The upper limit of drainage area may depend on the degree of nonuniformity of weather systems. It has been suggested that the unit hydrograph concept should not be applied for basins that are larger than 2,000 square miles and that the upper limit may be much smaller where convective rainfall predominates. The upper limit for the unit-hydrograph concept may also apply to the methods described here for estimating recharge and discharge.

In addition to the above, the user should assess the validity of the mathematics described in the study area. For example, the procedure for defining streamflow recession uses the assumption that the recession index is linearly related to the logarithm of flow, and the methods for estimating ground-water recharge and discharge use an empirical equation for determining the time base of surface runoff, to estimate the number of days after a peak in streamflow when most flow can be considered ground-water discharge. Output of the programs allow for some degree of adjustment for variation between the real problem and the default mathematics of the programs.

Both source and executable codes are included with the package. The RECESS Report/Doc is not included.

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Incredible NetworksΤελευταία Ενημέρωση 27 Ιουλίου 2004 - Last Revised on 2July 27, 2004
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