The Total Drainable Water Storage of the Amazon River Basin: A First Estimate Using GRACE

, , und . Water Resources Research (2018)


© 2018. American Geophysical Union. In the Amazon River basin, water stored for months to years in the soils and subsurface provide a persistent resource that regulates local and global climate via teleconnections and provides water to plants in times of little rain. While Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites have provided the hydrological community with large advances in the understanding of large river basin dynamics and for water resources monitoring applications, the relative storage measurements from GRACE satellites have not yet been utilized for the quantification of total available freshwater on landmasses. In this study, we quantify the total drainable water storage (TDWS) in the Amazon basin by characterizing the relationship between the water storage anomaly of a large catchment and its base flow. Previous studies have shown that these two hydrological parameters behave like a linear time-independent system over a catchment like the Amazon dominated by fully humid tropical climate. This linear relationship allows us to determine a zero water storage level, at which the storage-driven discharge becomes zero. We quantify the TDWS of the Amazon basin as 1,766 km 3 and estimate an average 2 month residence time for stored waters. An independent analysis over nine major subbasins confirms our estimate for the entire basin. We show that our estimated TDWS values for individual subbasins, varying between 15 and 654 km 3 , follow two different linear relationships with their mean annual input. Through these relationships we also quantify the storage-driven portion of the streamflow and the total streamflow for Amazon and its subbasins. Furthermore, we estimate surface water storage variation of the Amazon River system by combining the water level time series from satellite altimetry and surface water extent time series from satellite imagery. Our results show that 61\% of total basin water storage variation occurs in the surface water compartment. In addition, we find that 65\% of the TDWS is available in its surface water system.

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