Groundwater consumption by phreatophytes is a difficult-to-measure but important component of the water budget in many arid and semiarid environments. Over the past 70 years the consumptive use of groundwater by phreatophytes has been estimated using a method that analyzes diurnal trends in hydrographs from wells that are screened across the water table (White, 1932). The reliability of estimates obtained with this approach has never been rigorously evaluated using saturated-unsaturated flow simulation. We present such an evaluation for common flow geometries and a range of hydraulic properties. Results indicate that the major source of error in the White method is the uncertainty in the estimate of specific yield. Evapotranspirative consumption of groundwater will often be significantly overpredicted with the White method if the effects of drainage time and the depth to the water table on specific yield are ignored. We utilize the concept of readily available specific yield as the basis for estimation of the specific yield value appropriate for use with the White method. Guidelines are defined for estimating readily available specific yield based on sediment texture. Use of these guidelines with the White method should enable the evapotranspirative consumption of groundwater to be more accurately quantified. Copyright 2005 by the American Geophysical Union.
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Estimation of groundwater consumption by phreatophytes using diurnal water table fluctuations: A saturated-unsaturated flow assessment