Comparing streamflow depletion estimation approaches in a heavily-stressed, conjunctively-managed aquifer


Estimating reductions in streamflow caused by groundwater pumping (‘streamflow depletion’) is critical for conjunctive groundwater-surface water management. Streamflow depletion can be quantified using analytical models, which have low data requirements but many simplifying assumptions, or numerical models, which represent physical processes more realistically but have high data, effort, and expertise requirements. Analytical depletion functions are a new tool that address some of the limitations of analytical models, but to date have only been evaluated in limited hydrogeological settings. Here, we compare eight different analytical depletion functions to streamflow depletion estimates from a calibrated MODFLOW numerical model used for conjunctive water management in the heavily-stressed Republican River region of the High Plains Aquifer (USA). We find mostly strong agreement between the analytical depletion functions and the numerical model, though analytical depletion function estimates of depletion are lower for wells close to surface water features in high transmissivity settings. Compared to previous work, there is little variability among the eight analytical depletion functions, indicating that function formulation plays a minor role in this domain. Agreement between the modeling approaches is strongly influenced by hydrostratigraphic parameters (i.e., aquifer storage and transmissivity), suggesting accurate subsurface data are essential to estimating streamflow depletion regardless of modeling approach. Additionally, agreement between the two approaches is insensitive to pumping rate, confirming a key assumption of analytical models. Overall, analytical depletion functions provide comparable estimates of streamflow depletion to numerical models at a fraction of the time and data requirements.

Water Resources Research
Sam Zipper
HEAL@KGS PI; Assistant Scientist

I specialize in ecohydrology and hydrogeology of agricultural and urban landscapes.