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Depletion mapping and constrained optimization to support managing groundwater extraction

June 7, 2017

Groundwater models often serve as management tools to evaluate competing water uses including ecosystems, irrigated agriculture, industry, municipal supply, and others. Depletion potential mapping—showing the model-calculated potential impacts that wells have on stream baseflow—can form the basis for multiple potential management approaches in an oversubscribed basin. Specific management approaches can include scenarios proposed by stakeholders, systematic changes in well pumping based on depletion potential, and formal constrained optimization, which can be used to quantify the tradeoff between water use and stream baseflow. Variables such as the maximum amount of reduction allowed in each well and various groupings of wells using, for example, K-means clustering considering spatial proximity and depletion potential are considered. These approaches provide a potential starting point and guidance for resource managers and stakeholders to make decisions about groundwater management in a basin, spreading responsibility in different ways. We illustrate these approaches in the Little Plover River basin in central Wisconsin, United States—home to a rich agricultural tradition, with farmland and urban areas both in close proximity to a groundwater-dependent trout stream. Groundwater withdrawals have reduced baseflow supplying the Little Plover River below a legally established minimum. The techniques in this work were developed in response to engaged stakeholders with various interests and goals for the basin. They sought to develop a collaborative management plan at a watershed scale that restores the flow rate in the river in a manner that incorporates principles of shared governance and results in effective and minimally disruptive changes in groundwater extraction practices.

Publication Year 2018
Title Depletion mapping and constrained optimization to support managing groundwater extraction
DOI 10.1111/gwat.12536
Authors Michael N. Fienen, Kenneth R. Bradbury, Maribeth Kniffin, Paul M. Barlow
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Groundwater
Index ID 70188383
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wisconsin Water Science Center