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Design of Managed Aquifer Recharge for Agricultural and Ecological Water Supply Assessed Through Numerical Modeling Public Deposited

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  • The Walla Walla Basin, in Eastern Oregon and Washington, USA, faces challenges in sustaining an agricultural water supply while maintaining sufficient flow in the Walla Walla River for endangered fish populations. Minimum summer river flow of 0.71 m³/s is required, forcing irrigators to substitute groundwater from a declining aquifer for lost surface water diversion. Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) was initiated in 2004 attempting to restore groundwater levels and improve agricultural viability. The Integrated Water Flow Model (IWFM) was used to compute surface and shallow groundwater conditions in the basin under water management scenarios with varying water use, MAR, and allowable minimum river flow. A mean increase of 1.5 m of groundwater elevation, or 1.5 % of total aquifer storage, was predicted over the model area when comparing maximum MAR and no MAR scenarios where minimum river flow was increased from current level. When comparing these scenarios a 53 % greater summer flow in springs was predicted with the use of MAR. Results indicate MAR can supplement irrigation supply while stabilizing groundwater levels and increasing summer streamflow. Potential increase in long-term groundwater storage is limited by the high transmissivity of the aquifer material. Increased MAR caused increased groundwater discharge through springs and stream beds, benefiting aquatic habitat rather than building long-term aquifer storage. Judicious siting of recharge basins may be a means of increasing the effectiveness of MAR in the basin.
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  • Scherberg, J., Baker, T., Selker, J. S., & Henry, R. (2014). Design of Managed Aquifer Recharge for Agricultural and Ecological Water Supply Assessed Through Numerical Modeling. Water Resources Management, 28(14), 4971-4984. doi:10.1007/s11269-014-0780-2
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  • The authors would like to acknowledge the generous support received from the Walla Walla Basin Watershed Council, Bob Bower, Richard Cuenca, IWFM developer Can Dogrul, Aristides Petrides, the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, the Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, the Oregon Department of Water Resources, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Ecology.
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