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Creators/Authors contains: "Dahlke, Helen E."

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  1. Abstract

    The Mississippi Embayment aquifer is one of the largest alluvial groundwater aquifers in the United States. It is being excessively used, located along the lower Mississippi River covering approximately 202,019 km2(78,000 square miles). Annual average groundwater depletion in the aquifer has been estimated at 5.18 billion cubic meters (Gm3) (4.2 million acre‐feet) in 1981–2000. However, since 2000, annual groundwater depletion has increased abruptly to 8 Gm3(2001–2008). In recent years, multi‐state efforts have been initiated to improve the Mississippi Embayment aquifer sustainability. One management strategy of interest for preserving groundwater resources is managed aquifer recharge (MAR). In this study, we evaluate the impact of different MAR scenarios on land and water use decisions and the overall groundwater system using an economic model able to assess profitability of crop and land use decisions coupled to the Mississippi Embayment Regional Aquifer Study (MERAS) hydrogeologic model. We run the coupled model for 60 years by considering the hydrologic conditions from the MERAS model for the years 2002–2007 and repeating them 10 times. We find MAR is not economically attractive when the water cost is greater than $0.05/m3. Groundwater storage is unlikely to improve when relying solely on MAR as groundwater management strategy but rather should be implemented jointly with other groundwater conservation policies.

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  2. Abstract

    Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) can provide long‐term storage of excess surface water for later use. While decades of research have focused on the physical processes of MAR and identifying suitable MAR locations, very little research has been done on how to consider competing factors and tradeoffs in siting MAR facilities. This study proposes the use of a simulation‐optimization (SO) framework to map out a cost‐effectiveness frontier for MAR by combining an evolutionary algorithm with two objective functions that seek to maximize groundwater storage gains while minimizing MAR cost. We present the theoretical framework along with a real‐world application to California's Central Valley. The result of the SO framework is a Pareto front that allows identifying suitable MAR locations for different levels of groundwater storage gain and associated MAR project costs, so stakeholders can evaluate different choices based on cost, benefits, and tradeoffs of MAR sites. Application of the SO framework to the Central Valley shows groundwater can be recharged from high‐magnitude (95th percentile) flows at a marginal cost of $57 to $110 million per km3. If the 10 percent largest flows are recharged the total groundwater storage gain would double and the marginal costs would drop to between $30 and $50 million per km3. If recharge water is sourced from outside local basins (e.g., the Sacramento‐San Joaquin Delta), groundwater storage gain is approximately 25%–80% greater than can be achieved by recharging local flows, but the total cost is about 10%–15% higher because of additional lift cost.

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  5. Abstract

    Intensive groundwater withdrawals in California have resulted in depletion of streams and aquifers in some regions. Agricultural managed aquifer recharge (Ag‐MAR) initiatives have recently been piloted in California to mitigate the effects of unsustainable groundwater withdrawals. These initiatives rely on capturing wet‐year water and spreading it on large areas of irrigated agricultural lands to enhance recharge to aquifers. While recharge studies typically consider local effects on aquifer storage, few studies have investigated Ag‐MAR benefits and challenges at a regional scale. Here we used the Integrated Water Flow Model, to evaluate how Ag‐MAR projects can affect streamflows, diversions, pumping, and unsaturated zone flows in the southern Central Valley, California. We further tested the sensitivity of three different spatial patterns of Ag‐MAR, each chosen based on different thresholds of soil suitability, on the hydrologic system. This study investigates how the distribution of Ag‐MAR lands benefit the regional groundwater system and other water balance components. The results suggest that Ag‐MAR benefits vary as a function of the location of Ag‐MAR lands. Stream‐aquifer interactions play a crucial factor in determining the ability to increase groundwater storage in overdrafted basins. The results also indicate that Ag‐MAR projects conducted during the November–April recharge season have implications for water rights outside of the Ag‐MAR season. If not properly monitored, Ag‐MAR can cause a rise of groundwater table into the root zone, negatively impacting sensitive crops. Our work also highlights the benefits of using an integrated hydrologic and management model to evaluate Ag‐MAR at a regional scale.

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  6. Abstract

    Floods, with their inherent spatiotemporal variability, drive floodplain physical and ecological processes. This research identifies a flood regime typology and approach for flood regime characterization, using unsupervised cluster analysis of flood events defined by ecologically meaningful metrics, including magnitude, timing, duration, and rate of change as applied to the unregulated lowland alluvial Cosumnes River of California, United States. Flood events, isolated from the 107‐year daily flow record, account for approximately two‐thirds of the annual flow volume. Our analysis suggests six flood types best capture the range of flood event variability. Two types are distinguished primarily by high peak flows, another by later season timing and long duration, two by small magnitudes separated by timing, and the last by later peak flow within the flood event. The flood regime was also evaluated through inter‐ and intra‐annual frequency of the identified flood types, their relationship to water year conditions, and their long‐term trends. This revealed, for example, year‐to‐year variability in flood types, associations between wet years and high peak magnitude types and between dry years and the low magnitude, late season flood type, and increasing and decreasing contribution to total annual flow in the highest two peak magnitude classes, respectively. This research focuses needed attention on floodplains, flood hydrology, ecological implications, and the utility of extending flow regime classification typically used for environmental flow targets. The approach is broadly applicable and extensible to other systems, where findings can be used to understand physical processes, assess change, and improve management strategies.

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