A numerical flow model of the Spokane Valley-Rathdrum Prairie aquifer currently (2007) being developed requires the input of values for areally-distributed recharge, a parameter that is often the most uncertain component of water budgets and ground-water flow models because it is virtually impossible to measure over large areas. Data from six active weather stations in and near the study area were used in four recharge-calculation techniques or approaches; the Langbein method, in which recharge is estimated on the basis of empirical data from other basins; a method developed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in which crop consumptive use and effective precipitation are first calculated and then subtracted from actual precipitation to yield an estimate of recharge; an approach developed as part of the Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer Model (ESPAM) Enhancement Project in which recharge is calculated on the basis of precipitation-recharge relations from other basins; and an approach in which reference evapotranspiration is calculated by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Penman-Monteith equation, crop consumptive use is determined (using a single or dual coefficient approach), and recharge is calculated.
Annual recharge calculated by the Langbein method for the six weather stations was 4 percent of annual mean precipitation, yielding the lowest values of the methods discussed in this report, however, the Langbein method can be only applied to annual time periods. Mean monthly recharge calculated by the USDA method ranged from 53 to 73 percent of mean monthly precipitation. Mean annual recharge ranged from 64 to 69 percent of mean annual precipitation. Separate mean monthly recharge calculations were made with the ESPAM method using initial input parameters to represent thin-soil, thick-soil, and lava-rock conditions. The lava-rock parameters yielded the highest recharge values and the thick-soil parameters the lowest. For thin-soil parameters, calculated monthly recharge ranged from 10 to 29 percent of mean monthly precipitation and annual recharge ranged from 16 to 23 percent of mean annual precipitation. For thick-soil parameters, calculated monthly recharge ranged from 1 to 5 percent of mean monthly precipitation and mean annual recharge ranged from 2 to 4 percent of mean annual precipitation. For lava-rock parameters, calculated mean monthly recharge ranged from 37 to 57 percent of mean monthly precipitation and mean annual recharge ranged from 45 to 52 percent of mean annual precipitation.
Single-coefficient (crop coefficient) FAO Penman-Monteith mean monthly recharge values were calculated for Spokane Weather Service Office (WSO) Airport, the only station for which the necessary meteorological data were available. Grass-referenced values of mean monthly recharge ranged from 0 to 81 percent of mean monthly precipitation and mean annual recharge was 21 percent of mean annual precipitation; alfalfa-referenced values of mean monthly recharge ranged from 0 to 85 percent of mean monthly precipitation and mean annual recharge was 24 percent of mean annual precipitation. Single-coefficient FAO Penman-Monteith calculations yielded a mean monthly recharge of zero during the eight warmest and driest months of the year (March-October).
In order to refine the mean monthly recharge estimates, dual-coefficient (basal crop and soil evaporation coefficients) FAO Penman-Monteith dual-crop evapotranspiration and deep-percolation calculations were applied to daily values from the Spokane WSO Airport for January 1990 through December 2005. The resultant monthly totals display a temporal variability that is absent from the mean monthly values and demonstrate that the daily amount and timing of precipitation dramatically affect calculated recharge. The dual-coefficient FAO Penman-Monteith calculations were made for the remaining five stations using wind-speed values for Spokane WSO Airport and other assumptions regarding