Mountain block recharge is the least well quantified owing to the lack of a thorough understanding of mountain block hydrological processes. Observations of spatio-temporal variations of groundwater were employed to clarify hydrologic processes in a semi-arid mountainous watershed of northern China. Results showed that the annual feeding rate of precipitation changed between 21% and 40%. However, infiltration of precipitation was mainly drained as interflow on slopes and recharged into the mountain valley as focused recharge. As a result, the mean correlation coefficient between precipitation and groundwater level was only 0.20 and seasonal variations were reduced. Mountain slope is essentially impermeable with no bedrock percolation under arid circumstances. Only a bedrock percolation event occurred after multiple closely-spaced heavy rains during the four-year observation, which induced a local rapid ascending of the water table and an enhanced lateral recharge from upgradient watersheds. The influence of the enhanced lateral recharge lasted three years, suggesting a huge groundwater catchment overcoming local watershed divides in mountain blocks. The average of the gradual recession of the water table was 5.1 mm/d with a maximum of 11.4 mm/d in the beginning stage. Both interflow and bedrock percolation are important. Our results highlight the changeability of hydrologic processes in mountain watersheds.

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