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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available September 1, 2023
  2. Frequent droughts, seasonal precipitation, and growing agricultural water demand in the Yakima River Basin (YRB), located in Washington State, increase the challenges of optimizing water provision for agricultural producers. Increasing water storage through managed aquifer recharge (MAR) can potentially relief water stress from single and multi-year droughts. In this study, we developed an aggregated water resources management tool using a System Dynamics (SD) framework for the YRB and evaluated the MAR implementation strategy and the effectiveness of MAR in alleviating drought impacts on irrigation reliability. The SD model allocates available water resources to meet instream target flows, hydropower demands, and irrigation demand, based on system operation rules, irrigation scheduling, water rights, and MAR adoption. Our findings suggest that the adopted infiltration area for MAR is one of the main factors that determines the amount of water withdrawn and infiltrated to the groundwater system. The implementation time frame is also critical in accumulating MAR entitlements for single-year and multi-year droughts mitigation. In addition, adoption behaviors drive a positive feedback that MAR effectiveness on drought mitigation will encourage more MAR adoptions in the long run. MAR serves as a promising option for water storage management and a long-term strategy for MAR implementationmore »can improve system resilience to unexpected droughts.« less
  3. Abstract. Mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreaks in the western United States result inwidespread tree mortality, transforming forest structure within watersheds.While there is evidence that these changes can alter the timing and quantity of streamflow, there is substantial variation in both the magnitude and direction of hydrologic responses, and the climatic and environmental mechanisms driving this variation are not well understood. Herein, we coupled an eco-hydrologic model (RHESSys) with a beetle effects model and applied it to a semiarid watershed, Trail Creek, in the Bigwood River basin in central Idaho, USA, to examine how varying degrees of beetle-caused tree mortality influence water yield. Simulation results show that water yield during the first 15 years after beetle outbreak is controlled by interactions between interannual climate variability, the extent of vegetation mortality, and long-term aridity. During wet years, water yield after a beetle outbreak increased with greater tree mortality; this was driven by mortality-caused decreases in evapotranspiration. During dry years, water yield decreased at low-to-medium mortality but increased at high mortality. The mortality threshold for the direction of change was location specific. The change in water yield also varied spatially along aridity gradients during dry years. In wetter areas of the Trail Creek basin, post-outbreak watermore »yield decreased at low mortality (driven by an increase in ground evaporation) and increased when vegetation mortality was greater than 40 % (driven by a decrease in canopy evaporation and transpiration). In contrast, in more water-limited areas, water yield typically decreased after beetle outbreaks, regardless of mortality level (although the driving mechanisms varied). Our findings highlight the complexity and variability of hydrologic responses and suggest that long-term (i.e., multi-decadal mean) aridity can be a useful indicator for the direction of water yield changes after a disturbance.« less
  4. Abstract

    Extreme wildfires are increasing in frequency globally, prompting new efforts to mitigate risk. The ecological appropriateness of risk mitigation strategies, however, depends on what factors are driving these increases. While regional syntheses attribute increases in fire activity to both climate change and fuel accumulation through fire exclusion, they have not disaggregated causal drivers at scales where land management is implemented. Recent advances in fire regime modeling can help us understand which drivers dominate at management-relevant scales. We conducted fire regime simulations using historical climate and fire exclusion scenarios across two watersheds in the Inland Northwestern U.S., which occur at different positions along an aridity continuum. In one watershed, climate change was the key driver increasing burn probability and the frequency of large fires; in the other, fire exclusion dominated in some locations. We also demonstrate that some areas become more fuel-limited as fire-season aridity increases due to climate change. Thus, even within watersheds, fuel management must be spatially and temporally explicit to optimize effectiveness. To guide management, we show that spatial estimates of soil aridity (or temporally averaged soil moisture) can provide a relatively simple, first-order indicator of where in a watershed fire regime is climate vs. fuel-limited andmore »where fire regimes are most vulnerable to change.

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  5. Abstract

    Irrigated agriculture in snow-dependent regions contributes significantly to global food production. This study quantifies the impacts of climate change on irrigated agriculture in the snow-dependent Yakima River Basin (YRB) in the Pacific Northwest United States. Here we show that increasingly severe droughts and temperature driven reductions in growing season significantly reduces expected annual agricultural productivity. The overall reduction in mean annual productivity also dampens interannual yield variability, limiting yield-driven revenue fluctuations. Our findings show that farmers who adapt to climate change by planting improved crop varieties may potentially increase their expected mean annaul productivity in an altered climate, but remain strongly vulnerable to irrigation water shortages that substantially increase interannual yield variability (i.e., increasing revenue volatility). Our results underscore the importance for crop adaptation strategies to simultaneously capture the biophysical effects of warming as well as the institutional controls on water availability.

  6. Abstract. Water management substantially alters natural regimes ofstreamflow through modifying retention time and water exchanges amongdifferent components of the terrestrial water cycle. Accurate simulation ofwater cycling in intensively managed watersheds, such as the Yakima River basin (YRB) in the Pacific Northwest of the US, faces challenges inreliably characterizing influences of management practices (e.g., reservoiroperation and cropland irrigation) on the watershed hydrology. Using the Soiland Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model, we evaluated streamflow simulationsin the YRB based on different reservoir operation and irrigation schemes.Simulated streamflow with the reservoir operation scheme optimized by theRiverWare model better reproduced measured streamflow than the simulationusing the default SWAT reservoir operation scheme. Scenarios with irrigationpractices demonstrated higher water losses through evapotranspiration (ET)and matched benchmark data better than the scenario that only consideredreservoir operations. Results of this study highlight the importance ofreliably representing reservoir operations and irrigation management forcredible modeling of watershed hydrology. The methods and findings presentedhere hold promise toenhance water resources assessment that can be applied to other intensively managed watersheds.