Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 541–557 | Cite as

Diffuse and concentrated recharge evaluation using physical and tracer techniques: results from a semiarid carbonate massif aquifer in southeastern Spain

  • Francisco J. AlcaláEmail author
  • Yolanda Cantón
  • Sergio Contreras
  • Ana Were
  • Penélope Serrano-Ortiz
  • Juan Puigdefábregas
  • Albert Solé-Benet
  • Emilio Custodio
  • Francisco Domingo
Original Article


In the high-permeability, semiarid carbonate aquifer in the Sierra de Gádor Mountains (southeastern Spain), some local springs draining shallow perched aquifers were of assistance in assessing applicability of the atmospheric chloride mass balance (CMB) for quantifying total yearly recharge (R T) by rainfall. Two contrasting hydrological years (October through September) were selected to evaluate the influence of climate on recharge: the average rainfall year 2003–2004, and the unusually dry 2004–2005. Results at small catchment scale were calibrated with estimated daily stand-scale R T obtained by means of a soil water balance (SWB) of rainfall, using the actual evapotranspiration measured by the eddy covariance (EC) technique. R T ranged from 0.35 to 0.40 of rainfall in the year, with less than a 5% difference between the CMB and SWB methods in 2003–2004. R T varied from less than 0.05 of rainfall at mid-elevation to 0.20 at high elevation in 2004–2005, with a similar difference between the methods. Diffuse recharge (R D) by rainfall was quantified from daily soil water content field data to split R T into R D and the expected concentrated recharge (R C) at catchment scale in both hydrological years. R D was 0.16 of rainfall in 2003–2004 and 0.01 in 2004–2005. Under common 1- to 3-day rainfall events, the hydraulic effect of R D is delayed from 1 day to 1 week, while R C is not delayed. This study shows that the CMB method is a suitable tool for yearly values complementing and extending the more widely used SWB in ungauged mountain carbonate aquifers with negligible runoff. The slight difference between R T rates at small catchment and stand scales enables results to be validated and provides new estimates to parameterize R T with rainfall depth after checking the weight of diffuse and concentrated mechanisms on R T during moderate rainfall periods and episodes of marked climatic aridity.


Recharge Diffuse Concentrated Mountain carbonate areas Semiarid climate SE Spain 



This research was funded by Spanish CICYT Research Projects FIS2005-07083-C02-02, CGL2006-11619/HID and CGL2009-12910-C03 and Andalusian Research Projects P06-RNM-01732, RNM-332 and RNM-3721. The authors would like to thank the personnel of the IGME Chemical Laboratory. The first author is also grateful to the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science for a “Juan de la Cierva” Programme Contract (JCI-2007-123-334) and to the Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education for a “Ciência 2008” Programme Contract (C2008-IST/CVRM.1). The authors would like to thank Alfredo Durán Sánchez and Diego Moreno for their invaluable help in the field work. We also wish to express our gratitude to the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable advice and comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Francisco J. Alcalá
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yolanda Cantón
    • 3
  • Sergio Contreras
    • 4
  • Ana Were
    • 5
  • Penélope Serrano-Ortiz
    • 6
    • 7
  • Juan Puigdefábregas
    • 2
  • Albert Solé-Benet
    • 2
  • Emilio Custodio
    • 8
    • 9
    • 10
  • Francisco Domingo
    • 2
    • 11
  1. 1.Geo-Systems Centre/CVRM, Instituto Superior TécnicoLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Estación Experimental de Zonas Áridas, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones CientíficasAlmeríaSpain
  3. 3.Departamento de Edafología y Química AgrícolaUniversidad de AlmeríaAlmeríaSpain
  4. 4.Bureau of Economic Geology, Jackson School of GeosciencesUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  5. 5.Department of Hydrology and Geo-environmental SciencesVrije Universiteit AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  6. 6.Centro Andaluz de Medio Ambiente (CEAMA)GranadaSpain
  7. 7.Department of EcologyUniversity of AntwerpWilrijkBelgium
  8. 8.Departament d’Enginyería del Terreny, Cartogràfica i GeofísicaUniversitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC)BarcelonaSpain
  9. 9.International Centre for Groundwater Hydrology (FCIHS)BarcelonaSpain
  10. 10.Royal Academy of Sciences of Spain (RAC)MadridSpain
  11. 11.Departamento de Biología Vegetal y EcologíaUniversidad de AlmeríaAlmeríaSpain

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