Feedbacks between managed irrigation and water availability: Diagnosing temporal and spatial patterns using an integrated hydrologic model

Laura E. Condon, Reed M. Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Groundwater-fed irrigation has been shown to deplete groundwater storage, decrease surface water runoff, and increase evapotranspiration. Here we simulate soil moisture-dependent groundwater-fed irrigation with an integrated hydrologic model. This allows for direct consideration of feedbacks between irrigation demand and groundwater depth. Special attention is paid to system dynamics in order to characterized spatial variability in irrigation demand and response to increased irrigation stress. A total of 80 years of simulation are completed for the Little Washita Basin in Southwestern Oklahoma, USA spanning a range of agricultural development scenarios and management practices. Results show regionally aggregated irrigation impacts consistent with other studies. However, here a spectral analysis reveals that groundwater-fed irrigation also amplifies the annual streamflow cycle while dampening longer-term cyclical behavior with increased irrigation during climatological dry periods. Feedbacks between the managed and natural system are clearly observed with respect to both irrigation demand and utilization when water table depths are within a critical range. Although the model domain is heterogeneous with respect to both surface and subsurface parameters, relationships between irrigation demand, water table depth, and irrigation utilization are consistent across space and between scenarios. Still, significant local heterogeneities are observed both with respect to transient behavior and response to stress. Spatial analysis of transient behavior shows that farms with groundwater depths within a critical depth range are most sensitive to management changes. Differences in behavior highlight the importance of groundwater's role in system dynamics in addition to water availability.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2600-2616
Number of pages17
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Water Science and Technology


  • groundwater/surface water interaction
  • irrigation
  • modeling
  • water management
  • water/energy interactions


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