Mountain-block recharge: A review of current understanding

Water Resources Research
By: , and 

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Abstract

Mountain-block recharge (MBR) is the subsurface inflow of groundwater to lowland aquifers from adjacent mountains. MBR can be a major component of recharge but remains difficult to characterize and quantify due to limited hydrogeologic, climatic, and other data in the mountain block and at the mountain front. The number of MBR-related studies has increased dramatically in the 15 years since the last review of the topic was conducted by Wilson and Guan (2004), generating important advancements. We review this recent body of literature, summarize current understanding of factors controlling MBR, and provide recommendations for future research priorities. Prior to 2004, most MBR studies were performed in the southwestern United States. Since then, numerous studies have detected and quantified MBR in basins around the world, typically estimating MBR to be 5–50% of basin-fill aquifer recharge. Theoretical studies using generic numerical modeling domains have revealed fundamental hydrogeologic and topographic controls on the amount of MBR and where it originates within the mountain block. Several mountain-focused hydrogeologic studies have confirmed the widespread existence of mountain bedrock aquifers hosting considerable groundwater flow and, in some cases, identified the occurrence of interbasin flow leaving headwater catchments in the subsurface—both of which are required for MBR to occur. Future MBR research should focus on the collection of high-priority data (e.g., subsurface data near the mountain front and within the mountain block) and the development of sophisticated coupled models calibrated to multiple data types to best constrain MBR and predict how it may change in response to climate warming.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Mountain-block recharge: A review of current understanding
Series title Water Resources Research
DOI 10.1029/2019WR025676
Volume 55
Issue 11
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description 27 p,
First page 8278
Last page 8304
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