EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

A conceptual analytical framework to assess the large-scale effects of groundwater withdrawal on groundwater storage and surface water flow

Marc F.P. Bierkens1,2, Edwin H. Sutanudjaja1, and Niko Wanders1
Marc F.P. Bierkens et al.
  • 1Utrecht University, Physical Geography, Utrecht, Netherlands (
  • 2Deltares, Unit Soil and Groundwater Systems, Utrecht, Netherlands

To meet increasing food demands, irrigated agriculture has expanded into semi-arid areas with limited precipitation and surface water availability. This has greatly intensified the dependence of irrigated crops on groundwater withdrawal and caused a steady increase of non-renewable groundwater use. One of the effects of groundwater pumping is the reduction in streamflow through capture of groundwater recharge, with detrimental effects on aquatic ecosystems. The degree to which groundwater withdrawal affects streamflow or groundwater storage depends on the nature of the groundwater-surface water interaction (GWSI). So far, analytical solutions that have been derived to calculate the impact of groundwater on streamflow depletion involve single wells and streams and do not allow the GWSI to shift from connected to disconnected, i.e. from a situation with two-way interaction to one with a one-way interaction between groundwater and surface water. Including this shift and also analyse the effects of many wells, requires numerical groundwater models that are expensive to setup. Here, we introduce a simple conceptual analytical framework that allows to estimate to what extent groundwater withdrawal affects groundwater heads and streamflow. It allows for a shift in GWSI, calculates at which critical withdrawal rate such a shift is expected and when it is likely to occur after withdrawal commences. It also provides estimates of streamflow depletion and which part of the groundwater withdrawal comes out of groundwater storage and which parts from a reduction in streamflow. The framework is used to provide global maps of critical withdrawal rates and timing, the areas where current withdrawal exceeds critical limits, and maps of groundwater depletion and streamflow depletion rates that result from groundwater withdrawal. The resulting global depletion rates are similar to those obtained from global hydrological models and satellites. The analytical framework is particularly useful for performing first-order sensitivity studies and for supporting hydroeconomic models that require simple relationships between groundwater withdrawal rates and the evolution of pumping costs and environmental externalities.

How to cite: Bierkens, M. F. P., Sutanudjaja, E. H., and Wanders, N.: A conceptual analytical framework to assess the large-scale effects of groundwater withdrawal on groundwater storage and surface water flow, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-684,, 2021.

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