Abstract

The level of groundwater has fallen dramatically in the plain, and several obvious cones of depression in the groundwater surface around waterworks have expanded, because of groundwater over-drafting in Beijing. This condition has led to reductions in available groundwater resources, and has even restricted the economic development of Beijing. However, an opportunity has been provided for groundwater recharge, since considerable storage space has been created by this overexploitation. At the beginning of the South-to-North Water Diversion, more water will be transferred to Beijing, because of the supporting infrastructure that is under construction in other cities. Therefore, the underground reservoir in Miyun, Huairou and Shunyi (MHS) district was taken as the study object, and geological exploration and GIS overlay techniques were used to determine the extent and storage capacity of this underground reservoir. The rivers in MHS district were investigated to identify which ones provide suitable places for recharge. Furthermore, a numerical model was built to forecast the groundwater flow field and water level, and an optimal storage program was proposed. The results of this study provide technical guidance for recharge, as well as the safe storage and rational use of the water provided by the South-to-North Water Diversion.

INTRODUCTION

Artificial groundwater recharge refers to introducing all kinds of surface water into an aquifer through artificial measures. It is the most effective method to directly increase groundwater resources and provides an important way to solve and address some problems involving water source shortages, such as groundwater level decline, seawater intrusion, land subsidence and earthquake disasters (Guo 2000). Therefore, artificial groundwater recharge plays an important strategic role in water resources management schemes in many countries. The earliest instances of artificial groundwater recharge can be traced back to the early nineteenth and the late eighteenth centuries. In 1821, coastal land inundation using dams was used to recharge groundwater in the city of Toulouse in France (Bouri & Dhia 2008). In 1860, the method of artificial groundwater recharge was used to provide water resources in the city of Nottingham in Britain (Yang et al. 1999). Since then, Canada, Japan, Australia, India, China and several other countries have successfully carried out artificial groundwater recharge (Wu et al. 2009; Zhang et al. 2013; Sobowale et al. 2014; Allocca et al. 2015; Hameed et al. 2015; Villeneuve et al. 2015).

Scholars have carried out considerable research on artificial recharge and gained much experience about how to quantify groundwater recharge capacity and evaluate the effect of recharge. Recharge capacity is an important parameter for determining the feasibility of recharge. A simple method involving sand column experiments was used in the laboratory to establish reservoir recharge permeability (Hill & Parlange 1972; Azis 2014), but this method cannot determine real soil properties in the field and cannot obtain the real infiltration coefficient. Thus, field infiltration testing was used to estimate infiltration rates at recharge sites. Abu-Taleb (1999) conducted infiltration tests to estimate the recharge characteristics of recharge sites. The results showed that representative infiltration rates were 0.44 m/d for the Wadi Madoneh site and 0.197 m/d for the Wadi Butum site. Mirlas et al. (2015) found that the maximum rate of artificial groundwater recharge from an infiltration pool can reach 0.2 m/d. Su et al. (2014) carried out infiltration tests using a reclaimed abandoned riverbed in Shijiazhuang city in China. The results showed that the infiltration rate of surface water was 1.5 m/d. However, carrying out infiltration tests at different recharge sites is very time-consuming and difficult work. Therefore, groundwater flow models have been used to provide reliable information for the planning of artificial groundwater recharge under complex hydrogeological conditions. Manuel (2006) proposed a groundwater model for the Tsinkanet catchment using the finite-difference groundwater flow simulator MODFLOW and estimated the effect of a small reservoir located in the catchment on the groundwater recharge. Rezaei & Sargazi (2009) studied the effects of artificial recharge on the aquifer of Goharkooh Plain and specified the best location for the implementation of artificial recharge using the MODFLOW model. Chitsazan & Movahedian (2015) assessed the Abbid-Sarbishe artificial recharge project, which is located in the northern part of Gotland. The results indicated that artificial recharge was effective in the western parts of the project. Händel et al. (2014) used numerical modeling to assess the potential of a new approach that was based on recharge via gravity in small-diameter wells installed with direct-push technology. This new approach appeared to have great potential for recharging good quality water in shallow unconsolidated aquifers. Wang (2011) established a 3D numerical model of the unconfined aquifer in the Beijing plain, and the 3D numerical model was used to determine suitable recharge sites and the effect of recharge. Zhang (2014) evaluated the environmental impact and influential coverage of artificial groundwater recharge by carrying out leaching tests on the riverbed and establishing a numerical model that addresses both the unsaturated zone and the saturated zone in the Miyun, Huairou and Shunyi (MHS) area, based on the South-to-North Water Diversion project.

Much work on artificial groundwater recharge has been carried out in Beijing. Nevertheless, there is still insufficient knowledge about the effects of groundwater recharge, as well as appropriate hydrogeological unit boundaries for use in numerical models of the MHS underground reservoir. To understand the hydrogeological characteristics and the effects of groundwater recharge due to the South-to-North Water Diversion, recharging ability experiments and the development of a regional groundwater model were carried out in this study. The results can provide theoretical support and technical guidance for artificial groundwater recharge.

LOCATION AND HYDROGEOLOGICAL PROFILE OF THE STUDY AREA

MHS underground reservoir boundaries

The MHS underground reservoir is located in the middle and upper part of the alluvial fan of the Chaobai River. Its boundaries are the Xiangyang sluice to the south and the mountain piedmont to the north, and the leading edge of the second terrace represents the boundaries to the east and west. The reservoir covers a total area of 360 km2 (Figure 1). The soil properties of the northeastern, northern, and northwestern borders of the MHS underground reservoir are composed of piedmont alluvial slopes formed of mixed lithologies with poor permeability and storage. Given the poor connectivity to the first terrace, the latitudinal direction boundary that is located in the second terrace in front of the Chaobai River can be regarded as a relatively impermeable border. The borders to the north and south at the Xiangyang sluice and the Maxinzhuang area represent outflows. The northern boundary of the underground reservoir is the bedrock bottom. The southern boundary of the underground reservoir, which contains stable clayey sands with thicknesses greater than 15 m at depths of 90–100 m, is a relatively impermeable border (Zhang 2014).

Figure 1

Boundary of the MHS underground reservoir.

Figure 1

Boundary of the MHS underground reservoir.

The layered structure of the MHS underground reservoir

The thickness of Quaternary sediments varies considerably within the MHS underground reservoir area (Figure 2). The bedrock burial depth is shallow in the northeast and northwest, near Xiaoluo Mountain and the Pingtou reservoir area; in places, the bedrock even crops out at the surface. The thickness of Quaternary sediments gradually increases from 12 m to 335 m from west of Wanghua to Caige village in the Huairou area. The main lithological features of the piedmont–Quaternary aquifer boundary transition gradually from alluvial debris containing silt and gravel to a plain aquifer made up of sand and stone. The thickness of the aquifer layer is approximately 40–90 m, and its water-yield capacity from a single well can reach at least 5,000 m3/d. Two to three layers of soil strata distributed along the Dahuying–Haojiatuan line are made up of sand and gravel with good permeability. On the other hand, multiple layers of sand and gravel with deep bedrock and poor permeability are distributed in the downstream part of the river alluvial fan in Shunyi and Huairou district (Li 2015).

Figure 2

Chart showing the structure of the MHS underground reservoir.

Figure 2

Chart showing the structure of the MHS underground reservoir.

MHS underground reservoir capacity

Underground reservoir capacity refers to the space between the current groundwater level and the maximum historical groundwater level, which means the highest water level that does not create new engineering geology and environmental geology problems, such as water pollution and foundation destruction.

The underground reservoir capacity was calculated as follows:  
formula
(1)
where
  • is the capacity of the storage area (m3);

  • is the difference in the water level (m);

  • is the distribution area of the aquifer (m2); and

  • is the specific yield of the aquifer.

In most areas of the underground reservoir, the difference in the water level is equal to the difference between the level of recoverable groundwater (lower limit of groundwater) and the current groundwater level. The groundwater levels in June 1996 and December 2014 were chosen as the limiting and the current groundwater levels, respectively (Figure 3). The graphical overlay technology of ArcGIS was used to calculate the capacity. Based on this calculation, the storage capacity of the MHS underground reservoir was 1.171 billion m3.

Figure 3

The groundwater-level contour map of the MHS groundwater reservoir in June 1996 (left) and December 2014 (right).

Figure 3

The groundwater-level contour map of the MHS groundwater reservoir in June 1996 (left) and December 2014 (right).

Field experiment

To characterize the infiltration capacity of the MHS underground reservoir, river infiltration and open well recharge experiments were carried out in the channels of the Shahe River and the Mangniu River.

River infiltration experiments

Beitaishang reservoir and Dashuiyu reservoir discharge water into the Yanqi River and the Dasha River during the annual flood season. Therefore, these rivers can be used to carry out river infiltration experiments.

The discharge volume from Dashuiyu reservoir into Dasha River was 705.4 m3 from July 17 to July 28. The water in the Dasha River infiltrated almost completely into the groundwater until August 8.

The depth of Dasha sandpit is 15 m, and it covers an area of 232,800 m3. Therefore, the infiltration capacity of the Dasha River sandpit can be calculated using the following formula:  
formula
(2)

where

  • is the infiltration capacity (m/d);

  • is the total infiltration quantity (m3);

  • is the area of the sandpit (m2); and

  • is the time of infiltration (d).

  • q = 705.4 × 104/(23.28 × 104 × 20) = 1.52 m/d.

The Yanqi River sandpit received water from Beitaishang reservoir between July 17 and July 20. In addition, the surface water infiltrated almost completely into the groundwater at the end of July. The area over which infiltration occurs is 98,000 m2. Accordingly, the infiltration capacity of the Yanqi River channel can be calculated as follows: q = 100 × 104/(9.8 × 104 × 15) = 0.68 m/d.

After the reservoirs discharged water into the channels and sandpit infiltration took place, the groundwater levels generally increased. Groundwater levels near the infiltration area increased at first and then decreased. The trends seen in the groundwater levels far away from the infiltration area involved a slow rise, followed by the gradual achievement of a stable status. The greatest groundwater level increase reached 3.54 m in all of the monitoring wells (Figures 4 and 5).

Figure 4

Master drawing showing groundwater monitoring wells in the infiltration area.

Figure 4

Master drawing showing groundwater monitoring wells in the infiltration area.

Figure 5

Curves showing changes in groundwater levels in the monitoring wells.

Figure 5

Curves showing changes in groundwater levels in the monitoring wells.

Open-well recharge experiment

A 30-m-deep open well in the Mangniu River channel was constructed to provide groundwater recharge. Eight monitoring wells (with depths of 60 m) were constructed downstream of the open well. In combination with 16 nearby, existing monitoring wells, groundwater recharge, water level and water quality changes were monitored to determine how the recharge and rate of recharge varied and to determine the stable infiltration capacity of a single well.

The open-well recharge experiment took place from January 20, 2014, to January 24, 2014, and the recharge rate was 520 m3/h. During the experiment, the groundwater level in the open well gradually became stable. At the end of the experiment, the groundwater level had increased by 11.54 m (Figure 6). Assuming that the relationship between the amount of open-well recharge and the water level increase was linear, when the water level had risen by 1 m, the amount of recharge was increased by 45.1 m3/(h · m) or 1,081.5 m3/(d · m).

Figure 6

The change in groundwater level in the open well during the recharge experiment.

Figure 6

The change in groundwater level in the open well during the recharge experiment.

Importantly, the region upstream of the MHS catchment area displays strong recharge ability. Therefore, it is feasible for the South-to-North Water Diversion to provide recharge to the MHS catchment area through river infiltration and open wells.

MHS underground reservoir model construction

The key elements of the model include the model boundary conditions, the initial flow field, the recharge, the runoff and discharge of the groundwater and the hydrogeological parameters. These basic data are necessary factors that should be considered during model construction.

The boundaries of the model

The MHS groundwater reservoir covers a total area of 335 km2 and can be defined as the study area. It lies in the upper part of the alluvial fan of the Chaobai River. The main sedimentological features of the reservoir transition gradually from a single layer of coarse sand in the north to multiple thin and discontinuous clay layers in the south.

To construct a numerical model of groundwater flow, setting the boundary conditions is very important; however, if the model boundary is confined to the underground reservoir, the scope of its influence cannot be described completely, because the water supplied by the South-to-North Water Diversion is too large. Furthermore, the strong hydrological connection between the northern Shunyi District and groundwater exploration in Miyun and Huairou will lead to substantial impacts on the flow field in the MHS reservoir. Therefore, the boundaries of the study area are extended north of the Miyun and Huairou mountainous border and south, east, and west of Shunyi district. The model domain thus includes three counties along the MHS plain district and covers an area of 1,436 km2 (Figure 7).

Figure 7

The MHS underground water reservoir and the model boundary.

Figure 7

The MHS underground water reservoir and the model boundary.

The lateral supply boundary is the zone where the northern mountains and the plain areas converge. The southeastern edge of the area is described as an unnatural boundary. In addition, part of the border with Hebei province is designated as a lateral inflow boundary. The boundary between the southwest and Shunyi is defined as the outflow boundary. The bottom of the Quaternary aquifer is defined as an impervious boundary. At the upper boundary, atmospheric precipitation and agricultural irrigation recharge infiltrate into the phreatic aquifers. Since the groundwater level is far from the surface, the effect of evaporation on the groundwater is assumed to be negligible.

GROUNDWATER RECHARGE, RUNOFF AND DISCHARGE

Recharge runoff and discharge conditions

First, atmospheric precipitation and infiltration from the Chaobai River are the major sources of the groundwater in the study area. Second, lateral recharge from the mountain boundary and the infiltration of farmland irrigation water and surface water are also key recharge sources within the study area. However, the Chaobai River contains almost no surface water because of continuous drainage throughout the year. The loss of groundwater occurs mainly by artificial mining, followed by discharge through the plains area of Hebei province. The reason is that there are many water sources in the study area, including the Huairou emergency waterworks, the Shunyi fifth waterworks, the eighth waterworks, and the Chaobai water source.

Initial flow field

According to the measured groundwater levels, the initial groundwater level contours of the study area have been drawn (Figure 8). The flow of groundwater is mainly from the north to the south. However, due to excessive groundwater pumping, the groundwater flow field has changed, forming a huge cone of depression. The groundwater flows from south to north across the southern boundary.

Figure 8

Initial flow field of groundwater in the MHS district.

Figure 8

Initial flow field of groundwater in the MHS district.

Hydrogeological parameters

The hydrological parameters of the study area include the specific yield, the rainfall infiltration coefficient, the hydrologic infiltration coefficient, the elastic water storage rate and the permeability coefficient. Initial hydrogeological parameters were determined using existing data from previous pumping experiments and relevant literature that addresses the study area and were finally entered into the groundwater flow model.

The source and sink terms

Based on analyses of the monitoring data, which assesses groundwater levels and the groundwater balance of the MHS plain area, the recharge of the groundwater is less than its discharge, which consumes large quantities of stored groundwater resources. According to the conditions of groundwater recharge and discharge in the study area, the amount of groundwater recharge is 4.45 billion m3, and the groundwater discharge is 6.29 billion m3; thus, the amount of groundwater lost is 1.84 billion m3. Therefore, the study area is not in steady state but is under the state of negative equilibrium (Table 1).

Table 1

Source and sink terms

RechargeAmount (billion m3)DischargeAmount (billion m3)
Infiltration of rainfall 2.80 Diving evaporation Excluded 
Infiltration of irrigation 0.27 Groundwater exploitation 5.95 
Lateral runoff recharge 1.06 Lateral groundwater discharge 0.35 
River recharge 0.32   
Total 4.45  6.29 
Amount of groundwater lost: 1.84 billion m3 
RechargeAmount (billion m3)DischargeAmount (billion m3)
Infiltration of rainfall 2.80 Diving evaporation Excluded 
Infiltration of irrigation 0.27 Groundwater exploitation 5.95 
Lateral runoff recharge 1.06 Lateral groundwater discharge 0.35 
River recharge 0.32   
Total 4.45  6.29 
Amount of groundwater lost: 1.84 billion m3 

Model calibration

Model calibration involves adjustment and refinement of the hydraulic parameters of the aquifer to match the measured and simulated groundwater levels. Groundwater levels measured during 2005–2010 were used for calibration, and data from 2011–2012 were used for validation. The determination of hydraulic parameters was performed using a conventional trial-and-error method to fit the limits of the simulated and observed data. The observed and simulated data displays a good correlation (80%) in 30 groundwater monitoring wells. As shown in Figure 9, the calculated water levels and the measured data show the same trend, and the differences in water level were less than 2 m.

Figure 9

Curves showing measured and calculated groundwater levels.

Figure 9

Curves showing measured and calculated groundwater levels.

Based on information on hydrogeological conditions, as well as data on the strata and lithologies revealed by drilling and the initial groundwater flow field, the aquifer was refined and divided into 21 areas with differing hydrogeological parameters, and the range was from 4.3 to 103.7 m/d (Figure 10).

Figure 10

Division of hydrogeological parameters.

Figure 10

Division of hydrogeological parameters.

Analysis and evaluation of regulation program

To relieve the ongoing decrease in groundwater levels and limit the spread of the cones of depression, the groundwater and the South-to-North Water Diversion need to be regulated together. Using the calibrated model and taking into account the requirements of future water demands, for example, the eighth waterworks will decrease exploitation by 50 million m3/a. Four scenarios were proposed to predict and evaluate the groundwater level changes.

Scenario design

Scenario I involves maintaining the current exploitation state in a normal year, which means that there is no reduction plan and no addition of water from the south, and the rainfall is an average value in 1980–2014.

Scenario II assumes that, in a normal year, a reduction in exploitation occurs in the eighth waterworks. The water from the south is added to the Chaobai River to promote groundwater recharge by natural infiltration with a flux of 10 m3/s.

Scenario III assumes that, in a normal year, a reduction in exploitation occurs in the eighth waterworks. The water from the south is added to the Mangniu River to promote groundwater recharge by natural infiltration with a flux of 10 m3/s.

Scenario IV assumes that, in a normal year, a reduction in exploitation occurs in the eighth waterworks. The water from the south is added to the Mangniu River and the Chaobai River to recharge groundwater by natural infiltration and through an open well with fluxes of 5 m3/s, respectively.

Comparison and evaluation of scenarios

The groundwater monitoring well near the eighth waterworks was selected to evaluate groundwater level changes in the four scenarios. In scenario I, due to the lack of addition of external water resources and continued pumping of local groundwater, the groundwater level continues to decline, and its annual rate of decrease is 1.49 m. If the current condition persists for 20 years, the groundwater level will fall to minus 42.84 m. In scenario II, due to the addition of water from the South-to-North Water Diversion as recharge into groundwater through the Chaobai River near the eighth waterworks, the groundwater level rises to 35.2 m after 20 years and its rate of increase is 2.41 m per year. In scenario III, the groundwater level rises to 5.42 m after 20 years, and its rate of increase is 0.92 m per year, which is slower than that in scenario II. The main reason is perhaps that the recharge site is far from the eighth waterworks, and its multi-layer geological condition restricts groundwater flow. In scenario IV, the groundwater level rises to 20.16 m after 20 years, and its rate of increase is 1.66 m per year. Importantly, based on the recharge effect of each scenario, scenario II represents the best plan for increasing stored groundwater resources and relieving the degree of groundwater over-pumping (Table 2 and Figure 11).

Table 2

The water level changes associated with the four scenarios over different recharge times

Recharge timeGroundwater level (m)
Scenario IScenario IIScenario IIIScenario IV
The initial time to recharge (at the end of 2014) −13 −13 −13 −13 
After 10 years of recharge (at the end of 2024) −30.16 26.43 −3.98 11.09 
After 20 years of recharge (at the end of 2034) −42.84 35.20 5.42 20.16 
Rise in the water level (+)/The total range of decreases (−) −29.84 48.20 18.42 33.16 
Rise in the water level (+)/The total range of decreases (−) −1.49 2.41 0.92 1.66 
Recharge timeGroundwater level (m)
Scenario IScenario IIScenario IIIScenario IV
The initial time to recharge (at the end of 2014) −13 −13 −13 −13 
After 10 years of recharge (at the end of 2024) −30.16 26.43 −3.98 11.09 
After 20 years of recharge (at the end of 2034) −42.84 35.20 5.42 20.16 
Rise in the water level (+)/The total range of decreases (−) −29.84 48.20 18.42 33.16 
Rise in the water level (+)/The total range of decreases (−) −1.49 2.41 0.92 1.66 
Figure 11

Changes in the water level near the water source of the core under the four scenarios.

Figure 11

Changes in the water level near the water source of the core under the four scenarios.

To determine the trend in groundwater changes in the MHS plain, the spatial distribution of the groundwater flow was analyzed by plotting the groundwater level contours (Figure 12).

Figure 12

The spatial distribution of groundwater level contours in the four scenarios: (a) Scenario I (after 20 years of the current conditions); (b) Scenario II (after 20 years of recharge); (c) Scenario III (after 20 years of recharge); (d) Scenario IV (after 20 years of recharge).

Figure 12

The spatial distribution of groundwater level contours in the four scenarios: (a) Scenario I (after 20 years of the current conditions); (b) Scenario II (after 20 years of recharge); (c) Scenario III (after 20 years of recharge); (d) Scenario IV (after 20 years of recharge).

In scenario I, the groundwater flow direction is from the piedmont to the plain area; however, due to the continuing exploitation of groundwater in the MHS plain, the groundwater depth dropped significantly, by approximately 30 m in 20 years, and a huge cone of depression formed around the eighth waterworks. Therefore, the groundwater flow direction changes from south to north, due to the concentrated excessive exploitation. In scenario II, the groundwater still flows from the mountain area to the plain area. However, the groundwater level is clearly higher, and a water dome has formed around the eighth waterworks, because of the addition of water from the south to the Chaobai River. Therefore, the groundwater level near the eighth waterworks is higher than in the surrounding regions and the groundwater flows to the south and north. In scenario III, the groundwater flow direction shows no change, and the groundwater level goes up in the upstream parts of the Chaobai River. Moreover, the cone of depression located around the eighth waterworks has disappeared because of the addition of water from the south, but the effect it has is less than in scenario II. For example, groundwater depth increases to 18.2 m centered on the eighth waterworks, but this quantity is 40.2 m in scenario II. In scenario IV, the groundwater level goes up over the entire MHS plain because of the addition of water from the South-to-North Water Diversion to two locations, which are the Chaobai River and the Mangniu River. The groundwater flow direction and flow field in scenario IV are similar to those of scenario II. Although the cone of depression has disappeared, the range of increases in the groundwater level at the eighth waterworks is less than that of scenario II. Based on the discussion above, in consideration of the range of increases in the groundwater level and the recovery effect of the cone of depression, the approach represented by scenario II is the best for addressing the groundwater source problem. Therefore, by rational selection of the recharge location for the water from the south, groundwater exploitation, groundwater level and the cone of depression can be recovered. Thus, more water is needed in Beijing from the South-to-North Water Diversion to recharge groundwater in appropriate places, as well as for drinking.

CONCLUSIONS

Geophysical exploration and drilling technology were used to accurately definite the boundaries of the MHS underground reservoir and the bottom bedrock surface and identify the distribution of Quaternary strata, as well as their lithological structure and thickness. The area of the underground reservoir is 355 km2, and the current situation, in terms of its storage capacity, is 11.71 billion m3.

The natural river infiltration test and the open well recharge test were carried out to determine the infiltration capacity. The infiltration intensities are 1.52 m/d and 0.68 m/d for the Dasha River and the Yanqi River, respectively. The recharge capacity of the open well is 1,081.5 m3/d.

The numerical groundwater model was constructed to predict groundwater levels and changes in the flow field under the four scenarios involving storage of the water from the South-to-North Water Diversion. A comparison of the results shows that scenario II, which uses the water from the South-to-North Water Diversion to recharge groundwater through natural infiltration in the Chaobai River, represents the best strategy for changing the current water resource status.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This research was funded by the Beijing Science and Technology Commission project ‘The research and demonstration on the key technology of groundwater reserve in the western suburbs of Beijing’ (Z141100003614060) and a Beijing outstanding talent support project (2014765000432G190).

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