Estimation of groundwater evaportranspiration using diurnal water table fluctuations in the Mu Us Desert, northern China

Dong hui Cheng, Ying Li, Xunhong Chen, Wen ke Wang, Guang cai Hou, Cun liang Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Groundwater evapotranspiration (ETg) is a significant component of water balance analysis in desert areas. Estimation of ETg using diurnal water table fluctuations, i.e. the White method, is considered simple and straightforward, but it was seldom applied in desert areas. In this study, long-term and high-resolution groundwater level data were used to estimate ETg rate at two sites covered by typical desert plants Salix psammophila and Artemisia ordosica, respectively, in the Mu Us Desert in northern China. The specific yield (Sy) was derived from a drainage experiment in laboratory. The results showed that the water demand of S. psammophila could result in a weak but identifiable diurnal fluctuation of water table that was 2.35m below the land surface, reasonable estimates of ETg could be derived from the White method, and the level of the ETg corresponded with the plant growth stages. However, the water table data from the area covered by A. ordosica did not show diurnal fluctuation during the growing season. The White method is good for the desert areas where groundwater use by other processes is negligible, and evapotranspiration is the main process for groundwater consumption. In addition, the information about diurnal water table fluctuations is useful for identification of groundwater-dependence of vegetation. A. ordosica is groundwater-independent, whereas S. psammophila is groundwater-dependent.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-113
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - May 20 2013


  • Desert area
  • Diurnal water table fluctuation
  • Groundwater evapotranspiration
  • Specific yield
  • White method

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology

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