Aquifer recharge through ephemeral streambeds is believed to be a major source of groundwater recharge in arid areas; however, comparatively few studies quantify this streamflow recharge. This review synthesizes the available field-based aquifer recharge literature from arid regions around the world. Seven methods for quantifying ephemeral and intermittent stream infiltration and aquifer recharge are reviewed; controlled infiltration experiments, monitoring changes in water content, heat as a tracer of infiltration, reach length water balances, floodwave front tracking, groundwater mounding, and groundwater dating. The pertinent temporal and spatial scales, as well as the advantages and limitations of each method are illustrated with examples from the literature. Comparisons between the methods are used to highlight appropriate uses of each field method, with emphasis on the advantages of using multiple methods within a study in order to avoid the potential drawbacks inherent in any single method. Research needs are identified, including: quantitative uncertainty analysis, long-term data collection and analysis, understanding of the role of riparian vegetation, and reconciliation of transmission losses and infiltration estimates with actual aquifer recharge.
- Floodwave infiltration
- Streambed dynamics
- Surface water groundwater interactions