The Role of Groundwater Withdrawals on River Regulation: Example From the Columbia River Basin

Hisham Eldardiry, Tian Zhou, Maoyi Huang, Oriana S. Chegwidden

Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: Yes, MultiSector Dynamics Program



The Columbia River Basin (CRB) is heavily regulated by more than 250 dams on its river system while depending significantly on groundwater withdrawals in certain sub-basins. Neglecting groundwater withdrawals in hydrologic models of the basin could result in inaccurate predictions of its water budget and thus mislead water management decisions in the basin. This study aims to understand the impacts of groundwater pumping on the spatiotemporal patterns of modeling regulated streamflow in the CRB using a modified version of the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model integrated with a water management component that accounts for groundwater withdrawals, irrigation demands, and reservoir operation (VIC-GIRR). The VIC-GIRR simulations showed that considering additional groundwater withdrawals would alleviate the stress of irrigation water deficit in the Snake River Basin with an average reduction of 10 km3/year. Such a reduction in water deficit resulted in slight streamflow increase over the CRB with maximum increase up to 40% during dry period in certain locations. We also note that the implementation of groundwater withdrawal does not, however, improve the overall model performance in long-term averaged streamflow and storage predictions. Our results highlight the efforts needed to examine additional important processes in representing the interactions between water withdrawals and reservoir operations. Such efforts will aid in better simulation of multi-reservoir system and improve effectiveness for agricultural productivity, power generation, flood control, and navigation purposes.

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