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Assessment of Alternative Agricultural Land Use Options for Extending the Availability of the Ogallala Aquifer in the Northern High Plains of Texas

1
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, 2138 TAMU, College Station, TX 77845, USA
2
USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research Laboratory, 2300 Experiment Station Rd., P.O. Drawer 10, Bushland, TX 79012, USA
3
Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, 6500 Amarillo Blvd W, Amarillo, TX 79106, USA
4
Forage and Livestock Production Unit, USDA-ARS Grazinglands Research Laboratory, 7207 West Cheyenne Street, El Reno, OK 73036, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Hydrology 2018, 5(4), 53; https://doi.org/10.3390/hydrology5040053
Received: 11 September 2018 / Revised: 23 September 2018 / Accepted: 25 September 2018 / Published: 26 September 2018
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PDF [2821 KB, uploaded 26 September 2018]
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Abstract

The Ogallala Aquifer has experienced a continuous decline in water levels due to decades of irrigation pumping with minimal recharge. Corn is one of the major irrigated crops in the semi-arid Northern High Plains (NHP) of Texas. Selection of less water-intensive crops may provide opportunities for groundwater conservation. Modeling the long-term hydrologic impacts of alternative crops can be a time-saving and cost-effective alternative to field-based experiments. A newly developed management allowed depletion (MAD) irrigation scheduling algorithm for Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used in this study. The impacts of irrigated farming, dryland farming, and continuous fallow on water conservation were evaluated. Results indicated that simulated irrigation, evapotranspiration, and crop yield were representative of the measured data. Approximately 19%, 21%, and 32% reductions in annual groundwater uses were associated with irrigated soybean, sunflower, and sorghum, respectively, as compared to irrigated corn. On average, annual soil water depletion was more than 52 mm for dryland farming scenarios. In contrast, only 18 mm of soil water was lost to evaporation annually, for the long-term continuous fallow simulation. The fallow scenario also showed 31 mm of percolation for aquifer recharge. View Full-Text
Keywords: SWAT; evapotranspiration; irrigation; soil water content; groundwater recharge; crop yield; lysimeter; management allowed depletion SWAT; evapotranspiration; irrigation; soil water content; groundwater recharge; crop yield; lysimeter; management allowed depletion
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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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Chen, Y.; Marek, G.W.; Marek, T.H.; Moorhead, J.E.; Heflin, K.R.; Brauer, D.K.; Gowda, P.H.; Srinivasan, R. Assessment of Alternative Agricultural Land Use Options for Extending the Availability of the Ogallala Aquifer in the Northern High Plains of Texas. Hydrology 2018, 5, 53.

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