US Geological Survey


Date of this Version



Published in the Journal of Hydrology (2007) 334, 231– 249.


Regional ground-water recharge estimates for Minnesota were compared to estimates made on the basis of four local- and basin-scale methods. Three local-scale methods (unsaturated-zone water balance, water-table fluctuations (WTF) using three approaches, and age dating of ground water) yielded point estimates of recharge that represent spatial scales from about 1 to about 1000 m2. A fourth method (RORA, a basin-scale analysis of streamflow records using a recession-curve-displacement technique) yielded recharge estimates at a scale of 10–1000s of km2. The RORA basin-scale recharge estimates were regionalized to estimate recharge for the entire State of Minnesota on the basis of a regional regression recharge (RRR) model that also incorporated soil and climate data. Recharge rates estimated by the RRR model compared favorably to the local and basin-scale recharge estimates. RRR estimates at study locations were about 41% less on average than the unsaturated-zone water-balance estimates, ranged from 44% greater to 12% less than estimates that were based on the three WTF approaches, were about 4% less than the age dating of ground-water estimates, and were about 5% greater than the RORA estimates. Of the methods used in this study, the WTF method is the simplest and easiest to apply. Recharge estimates made on the basis of the UZWB method were inconsistent with the results from the other methods. Recharge estimates using the RRR model could be a good source of input for regional ground-water flow models; RRR model results currently are being applied for this purpose in USGS studies elsewhere.