Groundwater Hydrology

Poster Abstract

The Response of Groundwater to Agricultural Water Demands in the United States

Wednesday, January 4
10:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Location: ChuLv Hall

Groundwater from non-surficial wells are a significant source of water for agriculture in the Conterminous United States. Expansions of irrigated agriculture in the United States in the late 20th and 21st century was accompanied by increased pumping of groundwater that occurred in conjunction with improved pumping technologies and inappropriate groundwater governance. However, records of water use in the United States are surveyed only once every five years and identifying the sectors driving groundwater depletion is therefore difficult to quantify. Here, we use a Demand Sensitive Drought Index (DSDI) to characterize agricultural water demands and determine the deficit in water demand that is not met by regional precipitation during the growing season. We modelled variations in groundwater well measurements using a multivariate linear regression with covariates of lagged groundwater levels, DSDI, and winter precipitation not captured by the DSDI. We find that groundwater depletions in the High Plains aquifer and the Mississippi River Valley are likely driven by groundwater withdrawals used to augment sparse surface water resources and to meet agricultural demands. However, the reduction of agricultural demands have not necessarily led to the recovery of groundwater levels due to increased demand in other sectors such as increased urban demand and small-scale farming and horticulture.

Michelle Ho

Postdoctoral research scientist
Columbia University

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