Impact of land-surface elevation and riparian evapotranspiration seasonality on groundwater budget in MODFLOW models

Hoori Ajami, Thomas Meixner, Thomas Maddock, James F. Hogan, D. Phillip Guertin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Riparian groundwater evapotranspiration (ETg) constitutes a major component of the water balance especially in many arid and semi-arid environments. Although spatial and temporal variability of riparian ETg are controlled by climate, vegetation and subsurface characteristics, depth to water table (DTWT) is often considered the major controlling factor. Relationships between ETg rates and DTWT, referred to as ETg curves, are implemented in MODFLOW ETg packages (EVT, ETS1 and RIP-ET) with different functional forms. Here, the sensitivity of the groundwater budget in MODFLOW groundwater models to ETg parameters (including ETg curves, land-surface elevation and ETg seasonality) are investigated. A MODFLOW model of the hypothetical Dry Alkaline Valley in the Southwestern USA is used to show how spatial representation of riparian vegetation and digital elevation model (DEM) processing methods impact the water budget when RIPGIS-NET (a GIS-based ETg program) is used with MODFLOW's RIP-ET package, and results are compared with the EVT and ETS1 packages. Results show considerable impact on ETg and other groundwater budget components caused by spatial representation of riparian vegetation, vegetation type, fractional coverage areas and land-surface elevation. RIPGIS-NET enhances ETg estimation in MODFLOW by incorporating vegetation and land-surface parameters, providing a tool for ecohydrology studies, riparian ecosystem management and stream restoration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1181-1188
Number of pages8
JournalHydrogeology Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2011


  • Ecohydrology
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Groundwater budget
  • Riparian groundwater evapotranspiration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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