The application of electromagnetic techniques to groundwater recharge investigations

P. G. Cook, G. R. Walker, G. Buselli, I. Potts, A. R. Dodds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


The use of electrical methods for estimating spatial patterns of groundwater recharge was evaluated at a field site in southeastern Australia. Here, recharge increased from less than 0.2 mm year-1 under native Eucalyptus vegetation, to between 1 and 14 mm year-1 under dryland agriculture. This increase in recharge results in progressive leaching of salts in the soil profile. Differences in recharge can be estimated from differences in depth of leaching. The estimated recharge rates are correlated with soil texture, with higher recharge rates generally occurring through sandier soils. The relationships of recharge to salt content and soil texture both contribute to lower apparent electrical conductivities for higher recharge rates. The effect of recharge rate on measured apparent electrical conductivities was modelled for various geophysical devices (including frequency-domain (FEM) and time-domain (TEM) electromagnetic instruments and direct current resistivity). The soil-texture effect was shown to have a greater effect than the solute leaching effect in determining the correlation between recharge and apparent electrical conductivity. Analysis of sensitivity to geological noise showed that variations in soil type below 2 m could disguise any correlation. Correlations between recharge rate, measured at core sites from chloride tracer techniques, and apparent electrical conductivity, measured with FEM electromagnetic devices, supported the conclusions of the model. For DC resistivity and TEM methods, correlations between recharge and apparent electrical conductivity were not significant, although for resistivity this may be due partly to the small number of measurements made. The FEM device most sensitive to variations in recharge had an operating frequency of 9.8 kHz. At lower frequencies the sensitivity is reduced, as the instruments are sensing too deeply. The poor correlations for TEM, as compared with FEM, are due probably to the relatively deeper penetration of the TEM instrument used in the study, rather than any inherent differences between the techniques. Because the major reason for the correlation between recharge and apparent electrical conductivity is soil texture, in this area the geophysical devices are mostly mapping soil type.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-229
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number1-4
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1992
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'The application of electromagnetic techniques to groundwater recharge investigations'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this