Babocomari - Managed Aquifer Recharge

Science Center Objects

We are working to investigate the most cost-efficient way to recharge the Sierra Vista sub-basin aquifer using rainwater harvesting in the tributaries of the San Pedro River using low-technology methods. Research is being conducted on the Babacomari Ranch, property of the Brophy family. The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) is supporting our research with partners, Borderlands Restoration (BR), Cuenca los Ojos(CLO), and Lacher Hydrological Consulting, to couple models to predict and closely monitor the impact of water harvesting structures on groundwater recharge.

We are working to investigate the most cost-efficient way to recharge the Sierra Vista sub-basin aquifer using rainwater harvesting in the tributaries of the San Pedro River using low-technology methods. Research is being conducted on the Babacomari Ranch, property of the Brophy family. The Walton Family Foundation (WFF) is supporting our research with partners, Borderlands Restoration (BR), Cuenca los Ojos(CLO), and Lacher Hydrological Consulting, to couple models to predict and closely monitor the impact of water harvesting structures on groundwater recharge (Fig. 1).

monitoring structures

Figure 1b. Photograph of monitoring structues, from left to right back: Natalie Wilson (USGS), Chloe Fandel (UA), and Bethany Brandt (BR) and front, Laura Norman (USGS).

(Public domain.)

The USGS study proposes a methodology to delineate artificial recharge zones as well as to identify favorable artificial recharge sites using integrated remote sensing (RS), geographical information system (GIS) and multi-criteria decision making techniques for augmenting groundwater resources.  We used the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) to model the watershed (Arnold et al. 1998). Model outputs are estimates of the local water budget (storage, stream flow, runoff, infiltration, interception, and evapotranspiration) that allow us to understand geospatially, where the best location to install RDS is (Figure 2; arrows represent hot spot areas). We will also simulate them using detention ponds protocol in the software to simulate loads, etc. (Waidler et al. 2011). 

Maps describing preliminary SWAT model results

Figure 2. Maps describing preliminary SWAT model results for the watershed (Norman 2013).

(Public domain.)

We have surveyed channels using Real Time Kinematic (RTK) Global Positioning System (GPS) and a terrestrial laser scanner where rock detention structures are being installed (Fig. 3) to develop accurate baseline conditions for monitoring change.

LiDAR survey of a gabion

Figure 3. LiDAR survey of a gabion (surveyed by Brandon Forbes, USGS).

(Public domain.)

FY15-16 Chloe Fandel’s M.S. Thesis project

  • Instrument new gabion w/ temperature sensors and wildlife cameras
  • Using HYDRUS 1D software, model downward h2o movement through soil to calculate infiltration volumes…

Estimated 1 gabion increased by 60 to 380% upstream of structure & 5 gabions over a 1.5 km length of channel would increase infiltration volume by 2 to 13% (Fig. 4)

Chloe Fandel’s Master Thesis

Figure 4. Chloe Fandel’s Master Thesis

(Public domain.)

The map (Fig. 5) portrays where the USGS is monitoring related to structures installed at Vaughn Canyon. Data points describe both the structure installed by BR and the vegetation plots, EM transects, temperature ibuttons, and most recently, terrestrial-lidar collected by the USGS (Natalie Wilson, James Callegary, Fletcher Brinkerhoff, and Brandon Forbes) and our recent MS graduate from the UA (Chloe Fandel).

Location map

Figure 5. Location map.

(Public domain.)

We now have some data from which we can extract impacts of structures on vegetation, soil-moisture/recharge, sedimentation, and streamflow. This will be used to calibrate our watershed model, and used to extrapolate (with confidence) throughout the watershed to identify areas where structures could make bigger impacts in the future and the overall impact restoration could have for increasing recharge. 

In the meantime, our partners are putting in new structures (these are post weirs) for us to consider (Fig. 6)

Post weirs

Figure 6. Post weirs installed by BR, with Laura Norman, Natalie Wilson, and James Callegary (USGS) in the field.

(Public domain.)