Implications of 3 alternative management policies on groundwater levels in the Texas High Plains

Jairo E. Hernandez, Prasanna H. Gowda, Thomas H. Marek, Terry A. Howell, Wonsook Ha


Groundwater supply in the Ogallala Aquifer is diminishing at an unsustainable rate, which is affecting the crop and animal production in the region. The desired future condition adopted by the North Plains Groundwater Conservation District states that at least 40% of the volume of groundwater should remain in the Ogallala Aquifer after 50 years in Dallam, Sherman, Hartley, and Moore counties. The main objective of this study is to evaluate the effects of 3 proposed groundwater management policies on future groundwater levels using a calibrated MODFLOW model. The 3 groundwater management policies considered are permanent conversion of 10% of the total irrigated area to dryland production, temporary conversion of 10% of the total irrigated area to dryland production for the first 15 years, and adoption of advances in biotechnology that allow groundwater use reductions at a rate of 1% per year during the next 50 years. Results indicated that if future average groundwater pumping rates are kept at 2010 withdrawal rates, then 50% of groundwater in the Ogallala Aquifer would remain in 50 years, thus meeting the groundwater district's desired future condition in Dallam, Sherman, Hartley and Moore counties. The most favorable impact on diminishing depletion was obtained with the adoption of advances in biotechnology, which would leave 60% of groundwater remaining in 50 years in the study area. Similar results can be obtained if 1% of irrigated cropland is retired per year. 


groundwater modeling; irrigation; MODFLOW; Ogallala Aquifer; water management

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Texas Water Journal

The Texas Water Journal is an online, peer-reviewed journal devoted to the timely consideration of Texas water resources management, research, and policy issues from a multidisciplinary perspective that integrates science, engineering, law, planning, and other disciplines. It also provides updates on key state legislation and policy changes by Texas administrative agencies.

ISSN 2160-5319
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