Quantifying components of soil water balance in farmland of the middle reaches of Heihe River Basin is essential for efficiently scheduling and allocating limited water resources for irrigation in this arid region. A soil water balance model based on empirical assumptions in the vadose zone of farmland was developed and simulation results were compared/validated with results by the numerical model HYDRUS-1D. Results showed a good coherence between the simulated results of the water balance models and the HYDRUS-1D model in soil water storage, evapotranspiration, deep percolation and groundwater recharge, which indicated that the water balance model was suitable for simulating soil water movement in the study area. Considering the spatial distribution of cropping patterns, groundwater depth and agricultural management, ArcGIS was applied for the pre-/post-processing of the water balance model to quantify the spatial distribution of components of soil water balance in the major cropland in middle reaches of Heihe River Basin. Then, distributions of components of soil water balance in the major cropland under different water-saving irrigation practices during the growing season were predicted and discussed. Simulation results demonstrated that evapotranspiration of the main crops would be more prominently influenced by irrigation quota under deep groundwater depth than that under shallow groundwater depth. Groundwater recharge would increase with the increase of irrigation quota and decrease with the increase of groundwater depth. In general, when groundwater depth reached 3 m, groundwater recharge from root zone was negligible for spring wheat. While when it reached 6 m, groundwater recharge was negligible for maize. Water-saving irrigation practices would help to reduce groundwater recharge with a slight decrease of crop water consumption.
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