Estimating long-term groundwater storage and its controlling factors in Alberta, Canada

Soumendra N. Bhanja, Xiaokun Zhang, Junye Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

44 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater is one of the most important natural resources for economic development and environmental sustainability. In this study, we estimated groundwater storage in 11 major river basins across Alberta, Canada, using a combination of remote sensing (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, GRACE), in situ surface water data, and land surface modeling estimates (GWSAsat).We applied separate calculations for unconfined and confined aquifers, for the first time, to represent their hydrogeological differences. Storage coefficients for the individual wells were incorporated to compute the monthly in situ groundwater storage (GWSAobs). The GWSAsat values from the two satellitebased products were compared with GWSAobs estimates. The estimates of GWSAsat were in good agreement with the GWSAobs in terms of pattern and magnitude (e.g., RMSE ranged from 2 to 14 cm). While comparing GWSAsat with GWSAobs, most of the statistical analyses provide mixed responses; however the Hodrick-Prescott trend analysis clearly showed a better performance of the GRACE-mascon estimate. The results showed trends of GWSAobs depletion in 5 of the 11 basins. Our results indicate that precipitation played an important role in influencing the GWSAobs variation in 4 of the 11 basins studied. A combination of rainfall and snowmelt positively influences the GWSAobs in six basins.Water budget analysis showed an availability of comparatively lower terrestrial water in 9 of the 11 basins in the study period. Historical groundwater recharge estimates indicate a reduction of groundwater recharge in eight basins during 1960-2009. The output of this study could be used to develop sustainable water withdrawal strategies in Alberta, Canada.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6241-6255
Number of pages15
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 6 Dec. 2018


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