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Assessment of groundwater mass balance and zone budget in the semi-arid region: A case study of Palar sub-basin, Tamil Nadu, India

Research highlights

  • Delineated groundwater potential zones by a weighted overlay analysis based on conventional method with 110 electrical resistivity surveys and 40 lithological data.

  • MODFLOW was used to calibrate and validate the flow pattern and characteristics of groundwater.

  • Groundwater potential map was validated with specific capacity and MODFLOW results were validated with pumping test results.

  • The groundwater volume during the calibration and validation period was found to be 7.12 and 7.52 Mm3, respectively.

  • The groundwater mass balance assessment performed in this study can be useful in the planning and management of groundwater resources.


The assessment of groundwater potential zones is crucial for estimating and managing available groundwater resources. In the proposed study, quantification of groundwater availability is performed using the information collected from the hydrogeological and geophysical (electrical resistivity) investigation of the aquifer. We delineate groundwater potential zones using a weighted overlay analysis based on the conventional method with 110 electrical resistivity surveys and 40 lithological data. MODFLOW is used to calibrate and validate the flow pattern and groundwater characteristics. The study area comprises a complex geological formation. The groundwater potential map is prepared using the observed groundwater level instead of rainfall data as the study area lacks rainfall stations. The final potential map is validated with the specific capacity obtained from the pumping test. This map is divided into 13 zones and each zone is considered as boundaries for the MODFLOW simulation. The thickness of each zone is assessed using the electrical resistivity method. The calibration and validation of the groundwater model are performed for one year and 1.5 years, respectively, between November 2012 and March 2015. We consider two layers, namely topsoil and unconfined/semi-confined aquifers in the groundwater model. During the calibration and validation periods, the groundwater volume is found to be 7.12 and 7.51 Mm3, respectively. The groundwater mass balance assessment performed in this study will be helpful in the planning and management of groundwater resources in the area.

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This paper was supported by a postdoctoral research fellowship under the initiation grant from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal (INST/EES/2017067). The data used in this study were collected during the Ph.D. of the first author at Anna University, Chennai. The authors thank Dr Suresh A Kartha at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati, for his comments on the earlier version of the manuscript. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments.

Author information




Dr Mathiazhagan collected the data. Dr Sanjeev Jha supervised Dr Mathiazhagan in performing the analysis and writing the manuscript. Dr Ashis Biswas helped in editing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Mathiazhagan Mookiah.

Additional information

Communicated by Riddhi Singh

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Mookiah, M., Jha, S.K. & Biswas, A. Assessment of groundwater mass balance and zone budget in the semi-arid region: A case study of Palar sub-basin, Tamil Nadu, India. J Earth Syst Sci 130, 187 (2021).

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  • Groundwater potential zone
  • visual MODFLOW
  • groundwater velocity
  • electrical resistivity
  • mass balance