We examine in-place recharge as an example of the complex, basin-scale hydrologic processes that are being represented with simplified numerical models. The rate and distribution of recharge depend on local meteorological conditions and hydrogeologic properties. The pattern of recharge is defined predominantly by the distribution of net precipitation (precipitation less evapotranspiration), but different pedotransfer functions (PTFs) predict different fractions of precipitation that become in-place recharge at a given location. At any single location, these differences can often be explained on the basis of the PTF characteristics, but because of the complex averaging that occurs across a basin, the combined effects of meteorological variation and soil textural variation on the basin-wide recharge rates cannot be predicted on the basis of the characteristics of different PTFs. In fact, we show that the same basin-scale numerical model, using identical inputs and modeling options, can produce almost an order of magnitude variation in predicted basin total recharge depending on the choice of PTF. This suggests that sensitivity analyses should be performed on the choice of constitutive relationship (e.g., PTF) when assessing the predictive capability of basin-scale hydrologic models.

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