Groundwater depletion in the North China Plain from GRACE

Evaluation of groundwater depletion in North China using the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) data and ground-based measurements


Changes in regional groundwater storage in North China were estimated from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites data and ground-based measurements collected from 2003-2010. The study area (~370,000 km^2) included the Beijing and Tianjin municipality, the Hebei and Shanxi province, which is one of the largest irrigation areas in the world and is subjected to intensive groundwater-based irrigation. Groundwater depletion in North China was estimated by removing the simulated soil moisture changes from the GRACE-derived terrestrial water storage changes. The rate of groundwater depletion in North China based on GRACE was 2.2 +/- cm/yr from 2003-2010, which is equivalent to a volume of 8.3 +/- 1.1 km^3/yr. The groundwater depletion rate estimated from monitoring well stations during the same time period was between 2.0 and 2.8 cm/yr, which is consistent with the GRACE-based result. However, the estimated groundwater depletion rate in shallow plain aquifers according to the Groundwater Bulletin of China Northern Plains (GBCNP) for the same time period was only approximately 2.5 km^3/yr. The difference in the groundwater depletion rates estimated from GRACE and GBCNP data indicates the important contribution of groundwater depletion from deep aquifers in the plain and piedmont regions of North China.

Water Resources Research