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Hydrology 2016, 3(3), 31; doi:10.3390/hydrology3030031

Trends in Playa Inundation and Water Storage in the Ogallala Aquifer on the Texas High Plains

1
Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research Unit, Cropping Systems Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, 3810 4th Street, Lubbock 79415, TX, USA
2
Soil and Water Management Research Unit, Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS, 2300 Experiment Station Drive, PO Drawer 10, Bushland 79012, TX, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Jai Vaze
Received: 1 July 2016 / Revised: 9 August 2016 / Accepted: 15 August 2016 / Published: 26 August 2016
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Abstract

The Ogallala Aquifer is an important source of irrigation water on the Texas High plains; however, significant decreases in saturated thickness threaten its future use for irrigation. A better understanding of the roles of playas, ephemeral surface ponds, in aquifer recharge is needed to establish levels of withdrawals that will meet either established desired future conditions or sustainability. In this study, data regarding playa inundation, depth to groundwater, precipitation and land cover from 2001 to 2011 were collected and analyzed to ascertain associations between these characteristics for four study areas on the Texas High plains. Each area covered 40,000–70,000 ha. Three of the study areas in Hockley, Floyd and Swisher counties were chosen because their center contained a playa instrumented to measure weather and depth of inundation. There were 20 distinct inundation events at the three instrumented playas between 2006 and 2010. For each of these inundations, water loss exceeded rates of potential evapotranspiration (ET) by a factor of 1.6–15.7 times, implying that infiltration was occurring. Playa inundation in all four study areas was also assessed by analyzing images from the National Agricultural Imaginary program. Data on depth to groundwater were analyzed from 2000 to 2010 to determine annual changes of stored water. Annual changes in groundwater were weakly associated with surface area of inundated playas in late summer, but was strongly associated with annual rainfall. Rates of infiltration based on playa water loss versus potential ET, and volume of water in playas was more than sufficient to account for annual changes in groundwater. Land use adjoining the playas had less of influence on playa inundation than annual rainfall. These results strengthen the argument that water storage in playas on the Texas High Plains is an important source of water for aquifer recharge. View Full-Text
Keywords: surface water; recharge; infiltration; water budget surface water; recharge; infiltration; water budget
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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Gitz, D.; Brauer, D. Trends in Playa Inundation and Water Storage in the Ogallala Aquifer on the Texas High Plains. Hydrology 2016, 3, 31.

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