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Changes in projected spatial and seasonal groundwater recharge in the upper Colorado River Basin

August 12, 2017

The Colorado River is an important source of water in the western United States, supplying the needs of more than 38 million people in the United States and Mexico. Groundwater discharge to streams has been shown to be a critical component of streamflow in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB), particularly during low-flow periods. Understanding impacts on groundwater in the basin from projected climate change will assist water managers in the region in planning for potential changes in the river and groundwater system. A previous study on changes in basin-wide groundwater recharge in the UCRB under projected climate change found substantial increases in temperature, moderate increases in precipitation, and mostly periods of stable or slight increases in simulated groundwater recharge through 2099. This study quantifies projected spatial and seasonal changes in groundwater recharge within the UCRB from recent historical (1950 to 2015) through future (2016 to 2099) time periods, using a distributed-parameter groundwater recharge model with downscaled climate data from 97 Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) climate projections. Simulation results indicate that projected increases in basin-wide recharge of up to 15% are not distributed uniformly within the basin or throughout the year. Northernmost subregions within the UCRB are projected an increase in groundwater recharge, while recharge in other mainly southern subregions will decline. Seasonal changes in recharge also are projected within the UCRB, with decreases of 50% or more in summer months and increases of 50% or more in winter months for all subregions, and increases of 10% or more in spring months for many subregions.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Changes in projected spatial and seasonal groundwater recharge in the upper Colorado River Basin
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12507
Authors Fred D. Tillman, Subhrendu Gangopadhyay, Tom Pruitt
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Index ID 70190109
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Arizona Water Science Center