Spatial and temporal dynamics of deep percolation, lag time and recharge in an irrigated semi-arid region

Farzaneh Nazarieh, Hossein Ansari, Ali Naghi Ziaei, A Izady, K Davari, P Brunner

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19 Citations (Scopus)


The time required for deep percolating water to reach the water table can be considerable in areas with a thick vadose zone. Sustainable groundwater management, therefore, has to consider the spatial and temporal dynamics of groundwater recharge. The key parameters that control the lag time have been widely examined in soil physics using small-scale lysimeters and modeling studies. However, only a small number of studies have analyzed how deep-percolation rates affect groundwater recharge dynamics over large spatial scales. This study examined how the parameters influencing lag time affect groundwater recharge in a semi-arid catchment under irrigation (in northeastern Iran) using a numerical modeling approach. Flow simulations were performed by the MODFLOW-NWT code with the Vadose-Zone Flow (UZF) Package. Calibration of the groundwater model was based on data from 48 observation wells. Flow simulations showed that lag times vary from 1 to more than 100 months. A sensitivity analysis demonstrated that during drought conditions, the lag time was highly sensitive to the rate of deep percolation. The study illustrated two critical points: (1) the importance of providing estimates of the lag time as a basis for sustainable groundwater management, and (2) lag time not only depends on factors such as soil hydraulic conductivity or vadose zone depth but also depends on the deep-percolation rates and the antecedent soil-moisture condition. Therefore, estimates of the lag time have to be associated with specific percolation rates, in addition to depth to groundwater and soil properties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2507-2520
Number of pages14
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Groundwater recharge
  • Lag time
  • Semi-arid region
  • Vadose zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

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