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Development of a method to identify complex wells and assess the accuracy of basin withdrawals in Utah

September 16, 2020

Power consumption coefficients (PCCs) and dedicated flowmeter records for irrigation wells in three Utah groundwater basins were analyzed to develop a method to better characterize the accuracy of annual groundwater withdrawal estimates. The PCC method has been used by the U.S. Geological Survey in Utah since 1963 as a way to estimate groundwater withdrawal. As a result, most irrigation wells in Utah have historic records consisting of multiple PCCs. Over time, numerous wells have been retrofitted with dedicated flowmeters to more accurately describe groundwater use for irrigation. The combination of historical PCCs and flowmeter data was examined to classify wells as simple, complex, or borderline. The PCCs for each well were statistically analyzed for each period of record to determine the PCC coefficient of variation (CV). Variance, standard deviation, and CV also were calculated for each well, yielding similar results. The CV was selected as the best statistical method for classifying wells. Through field verification and examination of records, CV thresholds were established, allowing wells to be classified as simple, complex, or borderline. This well classification provides information on the uncertainty and best methods for quantifying annual groundwater withdrawals from irrigation wells in a basin. 

Annual irrigation groundwater withdrawals in Tooele, Parowan, and Goshen Valleys were calculated by using various combinations of historical PCC records and data from dedicated flowmeters. Differences between annual groundwater withdrawal using the most recent measurements, and historic minimum, maximum, mean, and median PCCs were compared. The smallest percent difference between annual groundwater withdrawal calculated using the most recently measured PCCs, which is the current method for calculating withdrawal in most basins, in Tooele and Parowan Valleys, was 7 and 9 percent respectively, using historical median and mean. 

In Goshen Valley, most wells have dedicated flowmeters, and there is a subset of wells that have 2016 power usage data, historical PCC records, and 2016 reported dedicated flowmeter withdrawal. Using this subset of irrigation wells, the smallest percent different between withdrawal from dedicated flowmeters and withdrawal calculated by using other methods was 5 percent (using withdrawal calculated with historical mean PCCs for each well). Annual groundwater withdrawal calculated using the most recently measured PCCs was 9-percent less than dedicated flowmeter reported withdrawal. So, if withdrawal from dedicated flowmeters is as close to reality as possible, then in the case of Goshen Valley, using historical mean PCCs to calculate withdrawal is closer to reality than using the most recently measured PCCs to calculate withdrawal.

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