Accurate quantification of the rate of groundwater (GW) recharge, a pre-requisite for the sustainable management of GW resources, needs to capture complex processes, such as the upward flow of water under shallow GW conditions, which are often disregarded when estimating recharge at a larger scale. This paper provides (1) a method to determine GW recharge at the field level, (2) a consequent procedure for up-scaling these findings from field to irrigation scheme level and (3) an assessment of the impacts of improved irrigation efficiency on the rate of GW recharge. The study is based on field data from the 2007 growing season in a Water Users Association (WUA Shomakhulum) in Khorezm district of Uzbekistan, Central Asia, an arid region that is characterized by a predominance of cotton, wheat and rice under irrigation. Previous qualitative studies in the region reported irrigation water supplies far above the crop water requirements, which cause GW recharge. A field water balance model was adapted to the local irrigation scheme; recharge was considered to be a fraction of the irrigation water losses, determined as the difference between net and gross irrigation requirements. Capillary rise contribution from shallow GW levels was determined with the HYDRUS-1D model. Six hydrological response units (HRUs) were created based on GW levels and soil texture using GIS and remote sensing techniques. Recharge calculated at the field level was up-scaled first to these HRUs and then to the whole WUA. To quantify the impact of improved irrigation efficiency on recharge rates, four improved irrigation efficiency scenarios were developed. The area under cotton had the second highest recharge (895 mm) in the peak irrigation period, after rice with 2,514 mm. But with a low area share of rice in the WUA of <1 %, rice impacted the total recharge only marginally. Due to the higher recharge rates of cotton, which is grown on about 40 % of the cropped area, HRUs with a higher share of cotton showed higher recharge (9.6 mm day-1 during August) than those with a lower share of cotton (4.4 mm day-1). The high recharge rates in the cotton fields were caused by its water requirements and the special treatment given to this crop by water management planners due to its strategic importance in the country. The scenario simulations showed that seasonal recharge under improved irrigation efficiency could potentially be reduced from 4 mm day-1 (business-as-usual scenario) to 1.4 mm day-1 (scenario with maximum achievable efficiency). The combination of field-level modeling/monitoring and GIS approaches improved recharge estimates because spatial variability was accounted for, which can assist water managers to assess the impact of improved irrigation efficiencies on groundwater recharge. This impact assessment enables managers to identify options for a recharge policy, which is an important component of integrated management of surface and groundwater resources.
Topic: agriculture,water management,sustainability,climate change,pollution
Publication Year: 2013
Source: Irrigation Science 31(4): 793-806