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Uncertainty in recharge estimation: impact on groundwater vulnerability assessments for the Pearl Harbor Basin, O'ahu, Hawai'i, U.S.A.

Journal of Contaminant Hydrology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/0169-7722(95)00084-4
  • Agricultural Science
  • Chemistry


Abstract In this paper, uncertainty in recharge estimates is investigated relative to its impact on assessments of groundwater contamination vulnerability using a relatively simple pesticide mobility index, attenuation factor (AF). We employ a combination of first-order uncertainty analysis (FOUA) and sensitivity analysis to investigate recharge uncertainties for agricultural land on the island of O'ahu, Hawai'i, that is currently, or has been in the past, under sugarcane or pineapple cultivation. Uncertainty in recharge due to recharge component uncertainties is 49% of the mean for sugarcane and 58% of the mean for pineapple. The components contributing the largest amounts of uncertainty to the recharge estimate are irrigation in the case of sugarcane and precipitation in the case of pineapple. For a suite of pesticides formerly or currently used in the region, the contribution to AF uncertainty of recharge uncertainty was compared with the contributions of other AF components: retardation factor (RF), a measure of the effects of sorption; soil-water content at field capacity ( ΘFC); and pesticide half-life ( t 1 2 ). Depending upon the pesticide, the contribution of recharge to uncertainty ranks second or third among the four AF components tested. The natural temporal variability of recharge is another source of uncertainty in AF, because the index is calculated using the time-averaged recharge rate. Relative to the mean, recharge variability is 10%, 44%, and 176% for the annual, monthly, and daily time scales, respectively, under sugarcane, and 31%, 112%, and 344%, respectively, under pineapple. In general, uncertainty in AF associated with temporal variability in recharge at all time scales exceeds AF. For chemicals such as atrazine or diuron under sugarcane, and atrazine or bromacil under pineapple, the range of AF uncertainty due to temporal variability in recharge encompasses significantly higher levels of leaching potential at some locations than that indicated by the AF estimate.

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