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Tracer hydrology of the data-scarce and heterogeneous Central American Isthmus
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  • Ricardo Sanchez-Murillo,
  • Germain Esquivel-Hernández,
  • José Corrales-Salazar,
  • Laura Castro-Chacón,
  • Ana Durán-Quesada,
  • Manuel Guerrero-Hernández,
  • Valeria Delgado,
  • Javier Barberena,
  • Katia Montenegro-Rayo,
  • Heyddy Calderon,
  • Carlos Chévez,
  • Tania Peña-Paz,
  • Saúl Santos-García,
  • Pedro Ortiz-Roque,
  • Yaneth Alvardo-Callejas,
  • Laura Benegas,
  • Arturo Hernández,
  • Marcela Matamoros,
  • Lucia Ortega,
  • Stefan Terzer
Ricardo Sanchez-Murillo
Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica
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Germain Esquivel-Hernández
Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica
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José Corrales-Salazar
Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica
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Laura Castro-Chacón
Empresa de Servicios Públicos de Heredia
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Ana Durán-Quesada
Universidad de Costa Rica
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Manuel Guerrero-Hernández
Fundación para el Desarrollo de la Cordillera Volcánica Central
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Valeria Delgado
Centro para la Investigación en Recursos Acuáticos de Nicaragua
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Javier Barberena
Centro para la Investigación en Recursos Acuáticos de Nicaragua
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Katia Montenegro-Rayo
Centro para la Investigación en Recursos Acuáticos de Nicaragua
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Heyddy Calderon
Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Nicaragua
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Carlos Chévez
Nicaraguan Institute of Territorial Studies
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Tania Peña-Paz
Instituto Hondureño de Ciencias de la Tierra
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Saúl Santos-García
Instituto Hondureño de Ciencias de la Tierra
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Pedro Ortiz-Roque
Servicio Autónomo Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados
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Yaneth Alvardo-Callejas
CATIE
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Laura Benegas
CATIE
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Arturo Hernández
Servicios de Investigación Científica y Técnica SC
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Marcela Matamoros
Instituto Hondureño de Ciencias de la Tierra
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Lucia Ortega
IAEA
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Stefan Terzer
IAEA
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Abstract

Numerous socio-economic activities depend on the seasonal rainfall and groundwater recharge cycle across the Central American Isthmus. Population growth and unregulated land use changes resulted in extensive surface water pollution and a large dependency on groundwater resources. This work combines stable isotope variations in rainfall, surface water, and groundwater of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Honduras to develop a regionalized rainfall isoscape, isotopic lapse rates, spatial-temporal isotopic variations, and air mass back trajectories determining potential mean recharge elevations, moisture circulation patterns, and surface water-groundwater interactions. Intra-seasonal rainfall modes resulted in two isotopically depleted incursions (W-shaped isotopic pattern) during the wet season and two enriched pulses during the Mid-Summer Drought and the months of the strongest trade winds. Notable isotopic sub-cloud fractionation and near-surface secondary evaporation were identified as common denominators within the Central American Dry Corridor. Groundwater and surface water isotope ratios depicted the strong orographic separation into the Caribbean and Pacific domains, mainly induced by the governing moisture transport from the Caribbean Sea, complex rainfall producing systems across the N-S mountain range, and the subsequent mixing with local evapotranspiration, and, to a lesser degree, the eastern Pacific Ocean fluxes. Groundwater recharge was characterized by a) depleted recharge in highland areas (72.3%), b) rapid recharge via preferential flow paths (13.1%), and enriched recharge due to near-surface secondary fractionation (14.6%). Median recharge elevation ranged from 1,104 to 1,979 m asl. These results are intended to enhance forest conservation practices, inform water protection regulations, and facilitate water security and sustainability planning in the Central American Isthmus.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

01 Dec 2019Submitted to Hydrological Processes
02 Dec 2019Submission Checks Completed
02 Dec 2019Assigned to Editor
02 Dec 2019Reviewer(s) Assigned
08 Feb 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
20 Feb 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
06 Mar 20201st Revision Received
07 Mar 2020Submission Checks Completed
07 Mar 2020Assigned to Editor
07 Mar 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
25 Mar 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
25 Mar 2020Editorial Decision: Accept