Estimating groundwater recharge using chloride mass balance in the upper Berg River catchment, South Africa
Previous studies have shown that the use of chloride mass balance (CMB) method is a suitable and practical approach to estimate groundwater recharge. This enables the prediction of groundwater availability to inform practical strategies for managing groundwater resources. However, such studies have largely applied the chloride mass balance method on national and catchment scales with limited focus on quaternary catchment level (QCL). Neglecting the chloride mass balance method at quaternary catchment level limits practical management and utilization of water resources at quaternary catchment level. The goal of the current study was to prove that 1) the chloride mass balance method should be applied at quaternary catchment level to ensure practical assessment of groundwater availability and that 2) chloride mass balance assessment should be accompanied with supplementary methods for its application in quaternary catchments of similar physiographic and hydrogeologic conditions. To achieve these goals, the present study assessed the application of chloride mass balance method on a pilot scale used alongside rainwater infiltration breakthrough (RIB) and water table fluctuation (WTF) methods to estimate the groundwater recharge as an indicator of groundwater availability. The pilot area (PA) was in the upper Berg River catchment in Western Cape in South Africa. Chloride concentrations were determined in groundwater samples collected from boreholes and rain water in rain gauges in the pilot area. Rainfall and borehole water levels in the pilot area were used in water table fluctuation and rainwater infiltration breakthrough analyses. As quality assurance, the specific yield data obtained from the pumping test were compared to those determined with the linear regression model. This established the reliability of the analysis i.e. the relationship between groundwater level and rainfall. Mean groundwater recharge values calculated using the chloride mass balance, rainwater infiltration breakthrough and water table fluctuation methods were 27.6 %, 23.67 %, and 22.7 % of the total precipitation received in the catchment, respectively. These results indicate that the use of these three methods have potential to estimate groundwater recharge at quaternary level which is the basic unit of water management in South Africa. These findings agree with previous studies conducted in the same catchment that indicate that mean groundwater recharge ranges between 18.6 % and 28 % of the total precipitation. In the future, these methods could be tested in catchments which have physiographic and hydrogeologic conditions similar to those of the current pilot area.