Conceptual water budget model for screening analysis of supplemental water supply projects

Project ID: 5289
Principal Investigator: Stanley Parrott
Research Topic: Agriculture Water Supplies
Funded Fiscal Years: 2015
Keywords: conceptual model, groundwater, water supply, sustainable yield, conjunctive use

Research Question

Fundamental to the analysis of new water supply alternatives throughout Reclamation's service area is the development of a water budgets. Water budgets are merely a structured way of looking at all of the inflows and outflows to a three dimensional representation of the area (volume) of interest. The skill required to develop these budgets first involves determining the areal extent and depth of the 3-dimensional polygon that represents the project area in such a manner that it facilitates the collection of data. The establishment of reasonable boundary conditions and the estimation of major hydrologic inputs such as recharge, seepage and evapotranspiration follows. Where data aren't readily available past experience can help in the selection of numbers that are reasonable. The end result is a steady-state conceptual model which can be used to provide a screening level analysis of the potential impacts of a new water acquisition project, whether the project is sustainable and whether other stakeholders might be impacted by exploitation of the new water supply opportunity.

Research questions are as follows :

1. Does suitable software exist for conceptual model development of supplemental groundwater supply and conjunctive use projects?
2. Can a conceptual model development framework be developed suitable for use by project managers and analysts unskilled in groundwater modeling that empowers their capability relying on minimal oversight by hydrogeology professionals?
3. Can this framework be effectively applied to current supplemental water supply project proposals and investor-initiated schemes to ensure return to investment for Reclamation? Will the framework help to avoid potential well interference and other conflicts from landowners and other stakeholders proximate to the project footprint.

Need and Benefit

The objective of this research proposal is to develop a simple computer-aided methodology to allow Reclamation analysts to perform screening level analysis of various groundwater conjunctive use and pumping proposals. The work product will be scientifically valid and defensible with graphical output that will support stakeholder interaction and meetings with project proponents as well as enhance the quality of the discourse. When facts replace conjecture negotiating parties can sometimes be propelled to faster resolution.

In California's San Joaquin Valley Reclamation is being inundated with a large number of groundwater conjunctive use and supplemental pumping proposals. The specifics on many of these proposals are often vague and the claims for project yield are often highly exaggerated. Reclamation project managers who do not have a technical background in groundwater often don't know the pertinent questions to ask the project proponents to evaluate proposals even at the most rudimentary level. A more typical approach is to engage a consultant to review and advise on the project proposal. However, this can take significant time and is costly.

Hence a conceptual model development tool could not only save Reclamation time and money, but also develop the technical expertise of project managers by helping them perform the first round of analysis to help select the most worthy projects. These would be projects capable of providing a sustainable water source without impacting the production wells of adjacent stakeholders or creating other secondary environmental impacts. Such a screening tool would been helpful for evaluating the siting of water production wells for the ARRA projects back in 2009-2010.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Bureau of Reclamation Review

The following documents were reviewed by experts in fields relating to this project's study and findings. The results were determined to be achieved using valid means.

Conceptual water budget model for screening analysis of supplemental water supply projects (final, PDF, 6.4MB)
By Stanley Parrott / Nigel Quinn
Publication completed on March 01, 2016

Project examines the role of the conceptual model for analysis of complex water management decision making. The report is divided into 4 sections. The first section provides a detailed background of the hydrogeology of the region which is a necessary first step for conceptual model development. The second section describes the various types of models that can be applied to the problem - building any one of these model types is preceded by a conceptual model. The third section builds a conceptual model using the visualization capabilities of the Aquaveo GMS software. It walks the reader through the steps suggested by Aquaveo in the development of a conceptual groundwater flow model. The last section compares the results of two models that have different underlying conceptual models. The results highlight the importance of spending time to develop a realistic initial conceptual model.


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Last Updated: 4/4/17