Spatial and temporal distribution of groundwater-surface water interaction in the Netherlands

Dimmie Hendriks1, Hans Peter Broers1, Remco van Ek1, Jacco Hoogewoud1, Bernhard Becker1
1 Deltares

P 6.19 in Grundwasser-, Boden- und Oberflächenwasser-Interaktionen

The Netherlands, in the delta of Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt, is characterised as a low-lying flat country and has a temperate sea climate. The western and northern low-lying parts of the Netherlands consist of clay and peat soils with high groundwater tables, dense drainage, and a water supply system of ditches. The eastern and southern parts of the country mainly consist of free draining sandy catchments.


The National Hydrological Modelling Instrument of the Netherlands (NHI) simulates the hydrological processes of the Netherlands. Surface water flow is modelled with a water balance model, groundwater flow with MODFLOW, and vadose zone flow with MetaSWAP. This paper focusses on the spatial and temporal dynamics of water exchange between these domains. With the NHI the following water exchange processes are modelled:

- Infiltration and exfiltration of water from and into surface water bodies;

- Groundwater exfiltration through drainage systems;

- Groundwater exfiltration through saturated overland flow.


We present the groundwater-surface water interchange simulated with NHI for three years, selected based on their meteorological characteristics: the very wet year 1998 with 1238 mm precipitation and 492 mm evapotranspiration; the average meteorological year 2004 with 860 mm precipitation and 568 mm; the very dry year 2003 with only 614 mm precipitation and 635 mm evapotranspiration. Beside monthly maps of the spatial distribution of groundwater-surface water exchange, we present the water exchange in 2003 for five characteristic water systems in detail:

- low lying polders, continuously drained with pumps;

- peat meadow areas;

- areas bordering large rivers;

- free draining areas with a thin unconfined aquifer (2-10 m) and intensive agriculture;

- free draining areas with a thick unconfined aquifer (10-20 m) and extensively used.


The NHI simulation results showed that groundwater-surface water interaction plays an important role in the whole study area and give a better understanding of the hydrological processes. During the year the amount and type of water exchange varies strongly. Also, the difference between the three years with different meteorological conditions is large: in 1998 (wet year) the exfiltration period lasted eight to ten months in the major part of the study area, whereas in 2003 (dry year) the exfiltration period was only two to seven months. Spatial analyses of the model results show that in particular in areas where a constant water level is maintained (peat meadows and areas bordering rivers) surface waters feed the groundwater in dry periods. In free draining areas, no infiltration of surface water takes place, however dry stream beds occur during summer. In the extensively used areas with thick aquifers groundwater exfiltration is significantly stronger than in the intensively used areas with thin aquifers. Low lying polder areas showed a continuous flux of groundwater to surface water, mainly via the intensive drainage systems.

Kartierung der Dauer der Exfiltrationsperiode für das Jahr 2003 (die Exfiltrationsperiode ist die Periode, in Wasser aus dem Untergrund ins Oberflächengewässer fließt
Kartierung der Dauer der Exfiltrationsperiode für das Jahr 2003 (die Exfiltrationsperiode ist die Periode, in Wasser aus dem Untergrund ins Oberflächengewässer fließt

Hendriks, D. M. D., de Louw; P., van Ek, R.: Effecten van drainage, beregening en klimaatverandering op basisafvoer van beken. In: H2O – tijdschrift voor watervoorziening en waterbeheer (2010), Nr. 6, S. 40-43.

Prinsen, G. F.; Becker, B. P. J.: Application of Sobek hydraulic surface water models in the Netherlands Hydrological Modelling Instrument. In: Irrigation and Drainage 60 (2011), Suppl. 1, S. 35-40.

Rozemeijer, J.; Broers, H. P.: The groundwater contribution to surface water contamination in a region with intensive agricultural land use (Noord-Brabant, The Netherlands). In: Environmental Pollution 148 (2007), Nr. 3, S. 695-706.


Letzte Änderung 01.11.2013