Managed aquifer recharge through off-season irrigation in agricultural regions

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Abstract

Options for increasing reservoir storage in developed regions are limited and prohibitively expensive. Projected increases in demand call for new long-term water storage to help sustain agriculture, municipalities, industry, and ecological services. Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is becoming an integral component of water resources around the world. However, MAR faces challenges, including infrastructure costs, difficulty in enhancing recharge, water quality issues, and lack of available water supplies. Here we examine, through simulation modeling of a hypothetical agricultural subbasin in the western U.S., the potential of agricultural managed aquifer recharge (Ag-MAR) via canal seepage and off-season field irrigation. Weather phenomenon in many regions around the world exhibit decadal and other multiyear cycles of extreme precipitation. An ongoing challenge is to develop approaches to store greater amounts of water during these events. Simulations presented herein incorporate Ag-MAR programs and demonstrate that there is potential to enhance regional recharge by 7–13%, increase crop consumptive use by 9–12%, and increase natural vegetation consumption by 20–30%, where larger relative increases occur for lower aquifer hydraulic conductivity and higher specific yield values. Annual increases in groundwater levels were 7 m, and sustained levels following several years of drought were greater than 2 m. Results demonstrate that Ag-MAR has great potential to enhance long-term sustainability of water resources in agricultural basins.

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Niswonger, R. G., Morway, E. D., Triana, E., & Huntington, J. L. (2017). Managed aquifer recharge through off-season irrigation in agricultural regions. Water Resources Research, 53(8), 6970–6992. https://doi.org/10.1002/2017WR020458

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