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ISSN 01458752, Moscow University Geology Bulletin, 2014, Vol. 69, No. 1, pp. 47–52. © Allerton Press, Inc.

, 2014.
Original Russian Text © S.O. Grinevskii, 2014, published in Vestnik Moskovskogo Universiteta. Geologiya, 2014, No. 1, pp. 54–60.

The Effect of Topography on the Formation

of Groundwater Recharge
S. O. Grinevskii
Department of Geology, Moscow State University, Moscow, 119991 Russia
Received April 24, 2013

Abstract—Analysis of the influence of a gently sloping relief on groundwater recharge was made by a surface
and vadosezone waterbalance simulation for different slope (gradient and exposure) and landscape (type of
soil and vegetation) characteristics for humid climate conditions. The model results show that the main fea
ture of the relief is slope exposure and the greatest differences in recharge in comparison with flat surface are
manifested at the foot of a hill. For northern slope exposures there are local zones that exceed recharge, but
for southern exposures the foot of a hill may be the area of groundwater evapotranspiration discharge, which
is subject to landscape conditions.

Keywords: groundwater recharge, water balance, vadose zone, unsaturated flow modeling
DOI: 10.3103/S0145875214010025

INTRODUCTION density and vertical depth of the land surface, influ

ences regional mechanisms of the global waterbal
Different natural factors that define the dispropor ance component ratio. At the same time the relief
tion of water balance components on the land surface mesoforms and macroforms impact waterbalance
and in the vadose zone form groundwater recharge. processes, in particular, those on the groundwater
The most substantial ones are (Grinevskii, Pozdnya recharge, in different ways. As for negative microforms
kov, 2010): of surface irregularities (geologic basins), their role is
(i) Weather and climate factors that define the vol rather clear. They are conducive to surface water col
umes and the type of atmosphericmoisture supply lection and to the formation of local zones of exceed
and radiation and the thermal surface balance, which ing “potuscular” (this refers to the areas of lower soil
limits the evaporation and transpiration processes firmness) recharge (Koronkevich, 1982), which can
(evapotranspiration); significantly exceed background effects according to
(ii) Landscape factors, which are presented by the V. Shestopalov’s estimates (Vodoobmen..., 2001).
relief, soilcontinuum type, and vegetation; these are However, the role of such recharge in the groundwater
the governing conditions of precipitation interception, supply of the entire river basin area by means of soil
snow accumulation, snowmelt, moisture absorption, percolation through the vadose zone is not always that
and the formation of surface discharges (overland flow), important.
soil evaporation, and moisture intake by plant roots; Therefore, the goal of this research is to estimate
(iii) Hydrogeological factors, which are groundwa the influence of relief mesoforms and macroforms on
ter depth (GWL), thickness, the structure and compo the groundwaterrecharge processes and its role in the
sition of the vadosezone soil, its hydrophysical prop formation of areal heterogeneity of mean annual
erties, and groundwater lateral and vertical seepage– recharge volumes within a drainage basin. Such a task
outflow conditions, which depend on the type of seems to be rather relevant from the point of view of
drainage or underlying aquifers. protection from groundwater contamination.
The combined influences of all the factors men Topographic effect on microclimatic conditions on
tioned above determines the substantial differences in the land surface. Mesoforms and macroforms favor the
the formation of groundwater recharge, the main formation of heterogeneity of microclimatic condi
mechanisms of which were considered in (Grinevskii, tions, which appear to redistribute precipitates by
Novoselova, 2011), and leads to sharp heterogeneity of means of the flow of snowmelt water or snowdrift
the mean annualrecharge volumes in a riverbasin transport under different temperature and radiation
area. conditions (subject to the type of surface). Thus, it
It is evident that the relief, which is characterized at specifies different conditions of snow accumulation
the macrolevel by the genetic type and also by the areal and snowmelt intensity, the depth of soil freezing and


Table 1. Redistribution of the effective precipitates on the charges. In this case the slope type (cambered plane) is
slope (Romanova, 1977) of a subordinate value, while soildeposit penetration
and slope forest coverage increase along with the
Type of soil and slope exposure
moisture differentiation level. According to the opin
Part ion of the paper that was mentioned above, moisture
loamy soil sandy loam
of the slope redistribution on the slope and the limits of the effec
northern southern northern southern tive volume for soil absorption that exceeds the
Upper 0.82 0.88 0.87 0.94 amount of precipitates is described more by the nature
of the soil and vegetation than by the slope steepness.
Middle 0.87 0.92 0.91 0.97 However this paper (Ridolfi et al., 2003) doesn’t take
Hill foot 1.46 1.30 1.30 1.14 account of the differences in the evapotranspiration
processes that are due to surface exposure.
Thus, different slope sites have diverse waterbal
Table 2. The evaporation on the slope and on the flat sur ance and microclimatic conditions, which explains
face in different time period (Romanova, 1977) the significant heterogeneity of groundwater recharge.
Slope exposure and steepness At the same time the recharge values of the global
water balance components analyzed above are not
Season northern southern enough to describe the topographic effect on ground
water recharge because of diverse microclimatic influ
5° 10° 5° 10°
ences and all the other factors of recharge formation
Spring 0.93 0.83 1.06 1.12 mentioned in the text. Therefore, if the tendency to
Summer 0.96 0.91 1.07 1.10 increase the effective moisture volume at the foot of
the hill favors a recharge increase, then increases in
Fall 0.79 0.51 1.45 1.62 potential evapotranspiration at the same locations
may withdraw moisture by means of evapotranspira
tion processes.
speed of soil thawing, the moisture volume for absorp Furthermore, the moisture absorption intensity,
tion, and soil losses in the vadose zone as a result of the bulk of which is produced during the snow melt,
water evaporation and transpiration from vegetation. significantly depends on moisture conditions in the
All the processes mentioned above define the moisture vadose zone that formed in the previous autumn. At
inflow rate and the annual volume of the moisture sup the same time, northern regions are characterized by
ply of groundwater, which is groundwater recharge. intensive autumn moistening in the vadose zone and
E. Romanova’s monograph (Romanova, 1977) the bulk of the meltwater soil absorption level is not
gave a more detailed analysis of microclimatic condi that high. Snowmelt and defrostation rate ratio also
tion differences depending on the nature of sloping play significant roles in spring moisture absorption.
and gently sloping surface irregularities (form, steep On the northern slopes the soil thaws earlier than the
ness, or slope exposure) and on the soil lithology in snow does. Thus, the soil takes up more meltwater
different climatic zones. E. Romanova sets the average than on the southern slopes, where the snow melts
coefficients, which show the differences in microcli faster than the soil (Romanova, 1977). It is important
matic conditions on a slope and on a flat surface. The to take into consideration the indirect influence of
average coefficients are presented in Tables 1 and 2, mesoforms and macroforms on the recharge pro
while the generalized coefficients are shown on Fig. 1. cesses, which is expressed by the development of rep
The analysis based on this data shows that moisture resentative vegetation species, different groundwater
redistribution along the slope (primarily runoff) depth levels, diverse textures, and upper layer soil pen
diminishes the effective precipitates on the slope head etration in morphological slope components. The last
and increases at the foot of a hill. The volume of circumstance, which is determined by the slope sheet
potential evapotranspiration, which reflects the differ wash processes, is illustrated by the differences in
ences in temperature conditions and solar radiation, is upperlayer soil penetration of the vadose zone on dif
more influenced by the slope exposure. The north is ferent pitted relief components (Vodoobmen..., 2001).
characterized by a potential evapotranspiration Thus, E. Romanova’s estimates characterize the
decrease in comparison with the flat surface, while on microclimatic heterogeneity of potential water ther
southern slopes we observe the reverse process. Thus, mal power conditions on the slope surface, while their
the highest differences appear in the autumn (Table 2). real influence on the formation of groundwater
The simulation model of slopemoisture conditions recharge is defined by moisture transport and water
basically gives similar results, which prove that mois balance processes in the vadose zone.
ture redistribution occurs on the slope (Ridolfi et al., The complexity and multiplefactor processes of
2003). According to these results, moisture redistribu groundwater recharge in different slope sites may be
tion is typical of a humid climate, where high precipi considered on the conceptual model of recharge for
tation intensity leads to the formation of surface dis mation. The analysis procedure of the role of meso



forms and macroforms consists in the implementing of 60

simulated variants of modeling that combine diverse
landscape and hydrogeological recharge factors that
form in different slope sites depending on their steep

Precipitates, evaporation (% of the flat surface)

ness, exposure and in further analysis of the differ 40
ences of mean annual recharge ratings.
Method of recharge modeling and rated conditions.
The conceptual model of forming groundwater
recharge consists of two rated blocks. In the first one
(SurfBal software (Pozdnyakov, Preobrazhenskaya, 20
2009)) the precipitate transformation processes on the
ground, such as interception by vegetation, snow
accumulation and snowmelt, vegetation evaporation,
and sublimation, as well as the formation of hanging 0
layers (Grinevskii, Pozdnyakov, 2010) are simulated
every 24 hours. The modeling is based on the long
term daily weather records (precipitates, air tempera
ture, and solar radiation) received from the Mosalsk –20
meteorological station (Kaluga Oblast), which are
typical of the moderate climate of Russia. The model
ing variations reflect the principal contrast differences
in landscape conditions, such as closed “forest” and
breezy “meadow” surface types with a diverse vegeta –40 Top Middle Bottom
tion and lithology of the vadose zone and their aver
aged data shown in the Table 3 (Grinevskii, Pozdnya 1 2 3 4
kov, 2010). As a result, the effective moisture volume
for absorption and the daily data on potential evapora Fig. 1. The percentage of the relative redistribution of
tion and transpiration are calculated. effective precipitates (1, 2) and evaporation (3, 4) in differ
The second recharge block evaluates the processes ent slope sites of the northern and southern exposure from
of moisture transport in the vadose zone, soil evapora a flat surface (Romanova, 1977).
tion, and transpiration moisture intake by vegetation
and is presented using HYDRUS–1D software zone in different surfaces of hollow (steepness <1° on
(Šimu° nek et al., 2009). According to the results of the
first modeling step, the available daily moisture data the top and 5° at the hill foot) and steep slopes (5° and
and potential evaporation and transpiration values are 10° respectively), different exposures, soil continu
set on the upper line of the 1D model and the annual ums, and vegetation. Moreover, the calculations took
average groundwater level is on the lower line. Thus, account of the differences in the groundwater depth
the computed discharge through the lower model line level on different types of slopes: the GWL for upper
describes groundwater recharge. The three computa divides was rather deep (more than 5–6 m); the GWL
tive layers, which reflect the principal genetic soil hori for the steepest part of the slope corresponded to 3–4 m,
zons (A, B, C) characterize the vadosezone section, while at the foot of the hill it was 1–2 m (Fig. 1).
which is defined by the generalized data on moisture
transport and lithology of separated ranges
(Grinevskii, 2010). Transpiration moisture intake by Table 3. Landscape conditions of the moisture transforma
vegetation, which depends on soil water suction (soil tion model on the surface (SurfBal)
humidity) is specified by Van Genughten’s equation Landscape
(Genuchten van., 1987). In this case the typical data of Condition
transpiration intake and root structures of trees and meadow forest
herbaceous vegetation according to the lithology type
are used for calculations (Grinevskii, 2011). Seasonal index variation of frondes 0–3 2–8
cence, LAI, [–]
The simulated modeling of the topographic effect
on the formation of groundwater recharge depending Seasonal variation of degreeday 2–6 1.5–3.5
on the vegetation type and the vadose zone structure is melting factor, ε, mm per day, degree
based on the data of microclimatic coefficients of Melt delay, day 1 3
effective moisture redistribution and potential evapo Landscape shading coefficient; δ, [–] 0.45 0.55
transpiration that are given in Tables 1 and 2. These Runoff curve Flinty soil 70 40
data characterizes sloping and gently sloping reliefs in number, CN, sub
humid climate conditions. At the same time they Sandy loam 88 83
ject to soil texture
changed the water balance conditions in the vadose Loamy soil 94 90



Flat surface Top part Middle part Bottom part

ϕ = 0° ϕ = 0°–5°

GWL Z>5m
Z = 3–4 m

ϕ = 5°–10°
Z = 1–2 m
ϕ = 0°–5°

Fig. 2. The computative data on the waterbalance vadose zone model on the slope.

MODELING RESULTS AND DISCUSSION However, this increase doesn’t always correspond to
the amount of effective precipitates, since full satura
According to the results of simulated modeling, the tion of the vadosezone top layer moisture surplus
mean annual values of the annual water balance of the forms a surface discharge. In addition, the actual
vadose zone in different slope sites were analyzed. evapotranspiration significantly increases at the foot of
The results show a rather significant difference in the hill regardless of slope exposure, although on the
mean annual groundwater recharge values on different northern slopes its potential values decrease (Fig. 1).
slope surface, caused by redistribution of potential The reason evidently lies in the moisture production
absorption and evapotranspiration conditions. On the that is available for evapotranspiration processes.
whole, predictably, the amount of moisture absorbed Thus, the relationship between effectively absorbed
by soil increases from the peak to the foot of the hill. moisture (V) and the total of soil discharge and tran
spiration (ET) influences the redistribution of the
recharge in different slope sites. This relationship on
4 1.3 the level of mean annual values may be described as the
Relative effectivemoisturizing index change

effective moisturizing index Iv:

3 1.2 V
Iv=  . (1)
Relative recharge change

2 1.1 Relative value variations of this index in different
slope sites in comparison with a flat surface describe
1 1.0 the relative recharge change (Fig. 3). If the I v index
increases, which may be connected with effective
moisture absorption or evapotranspiration reduction,
the groundwater recharge also increases, and vice
versa, the decline of the index leads to a recharge
–1 0.8 decrease. At the same time the negative values of
change of the relative recharge characterize the condi
tions when rising moisture outflow and GWL that
Flat Top Middle Bottom form evapotranspiration discharge prevail in the mean
annual water balance of the vadose zone. On the
1 2 3 4 whole, the relationship between soil absorption and its
losses and evapotranspiration in different slope sites is
Fig. 3. Relative recharge change (1, 2) in comparison with defined by a set of conditions. This relationship affects
the effective moisturizing index (3, 4) in different sites of
herbaceous sandy loam slopes of northern (1, 3) and the value redistribution of the mean annual recharge
southern (2, 4) exposures. (Fig. 4). Therefore, simulated modeling analysis



5 5
(a) (b)
Relative recharge change 4 4

Relative recharge change

3 3

2 2

1 1

0 0

–1 –1

–2 –2
Flat Top Middle Bottom Flat Top Middle Bottom

5 5
(c) (d)
4 4
Relative recharge change

3 Relative recharge change 3

2 2

1 1

0 0

–1 –1

–2 –2
Flat Top Middle Bottom Flat Top Middle Bottom

1 2 3 4

Fig. 4. Relative recharge change in different sites of herbaceous (a, b) and forest (c, d) slope, subject to its steepness and sandy loam (a, c)
and loamy soil (b, d) exposure in the vadose zone. Exposure: 1 is northern, 2 is southern; steepness: 3 is 0°–5°, 4 is 5°–10°.

enables one to single out certain mechanisms of such a ferences occur at the foot of a hill in comparison with
redistribution. a flat surface. However, as opposed to the northern
In the northern slope exposure, regardless of the exposure slopes, the change in recharge conditions is
vegetation and soil, the higher mean annual recharge defined for the most part by vegetation and soil. On
values (by up to five times) are more typical of the foot breezy herbaceous slopes, in the middle and at the foot
of the hill while the recharge decline is characteristic of a hill there are conditions for mean annual evapo
of the upper and central slope sites (Fig. 4). The differ transpiration groundwater discharge, whose intensity
ences in recharge values in comparison with a flat sur depends on the vadose zone soil and the slope steep
face are more dramatic in the loamy structure of the
ness (Figs. 4a and 4b). Thus, in a loamy soil and in the
vadose zone and evapotranspiration groundwater dis
charge may be formed in central sites of steep herba vadose zone the evapotranspiration groundwater dis
ceous slopes (Fig. 4a). The steepness factor has a sub charge intensity is the highest in the central slope sites
ordinate value and is realized only on a breezy surface (Fig. 4a) and in a sandy loam it is highest at the foot of
with herbaceous vegetation (Figs. 4a and b), where a hill (Fig. 4b). On forested southern slope exposures,
there are better conditions for moisture flow. central sites are typified by an almost zero moisture
Much more heterogeneity of the mean annual balance in the vadose zone and an insignificant
recharge values is typical of the southern slope expo recharge increase at the foot of the hill (Figs. 4c and 4d).
sure. Here, as well, the highest possible recharge dif Its important to point that the steepness of a southern



slope exposure significantly influences the conditions ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

of recharge, which occurs only at the foot of the hill.
This work was performed with financial support
All in all, the recharge at the foot of the hill is dif from RFBR NSFC (grant 110500478a).
ferent from a flat surface when there is a loamy soil,
any slope exposure, and regardless of vegetation,
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