Groundwater level trends and recharge event characterization using historical observed data in semi-arid Chile

Groundwater is an important resource in semi-arid Chile to meet local social, economic and environmental water demands. Historical ground water level (GWL) data (1986–2014) in the Coquimbo Region were analysed to characterize short and long-term alluvial aquifer dynamics. Long-term trends were assessed using a seasonal Mann-Kendall trend test, which indicated that more than 80% of the time series exhibit a negative trend. Short-term analysis using cross-correlation provided information on recharge origin and its spatial pattern. Runoff and GWL are highly correlated depending on elevation, signifying that stream to aquifer flow is an important recharge process at higher altitudes. Long-term recharge behaviour was characterized using time-frequency wavelet power spectra. The results show significant amplitude of the 5-year recharge period for GWL, which is driven by a 5-year El Niño index periodicity. Such results provide key information of the spatiotemporal functioning of aquifers.