Terrestrial water load and groundwater fluctuation in the Bengal Basin

W.G. Burgess*, M. Shamsudduha, R.G. Taylor, A. Zahid, K.M. Ahmed, A. Mukherjee, D.J. Lapworth, V.F. Bense

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Groundwater-level fluctuations represent hydraulic responses to changes in groundwater storage due to aquifer recharge and drainage as well as to changes in stress that include water mass loading and unloading above the aquifer surface. The latter 'poroelastic' response of confined aquifers is a well-established phenomenon which has been demonstrated in diverse hydrogeological environments but is frequently ignored in assessments of groundwater resources. Here we present high-frequency groundwater measurements over a twelve-month period from the tropical, fluvio-deltaic Bengal Aquifer System (BAS), the largest aquifer in south Asia. The groundwater level fluctuations are dominated by the aquifer poroelastic response to changes in terrestrial water loading by processes acting over periods ranging from hours to months; the effects of groundwater flow are subordinate. Our measurements represent the first direct, quantitative identification of loading effects on groundwater levels in the BAS. Our analysis highlights the potential limitations of hydrogeological analyses which ignore loading effects in this environment. We also demonstrate the potential for employing poroelastic responses in the BAS and across other tropical fluvio-deltaic regions as a direct, in-situ measure of changes in terrestrial water storage to complement analyses from the Gravity and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission but at much higher resolution.

Original languageEnglish
Article number3872
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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