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 JWARP  Vol.9 No.7 , June 2017
The Modeled Effects of Rice Field Idling on Groundwater Storage in California’s Sacramento Valley
Abstract: Rice farmers occupy a potentially important intersection between economics and hydrology in Northern California. While drought makes water an increasingly precious commodity across California, the monetary worth of water is not uniform across different localities and uses. As a result, circumstances have given many Sacramento Valley rice farmers the option to sell their water to users elsewhere, in lieu of using it themselves. Because the sold water is typically surface water that would normally help recharge local aquifers when applied to a field; it is reasonable to suspect that transferring that water elsewhere could adversely affect local aquifers since that recharge would be reduced. This study performs numerical experiments using the United States Geological Survey’s Central Valley Hydrologic Model (CVHM) to better understand the temporal effects of a set of land idling scenarios. CVHM is capable of modeling the entire Central Valley, which encompasses the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, and of representing rice field idling on a large scale. These experiments were executed using historical data to contrast recently typical amounts of rice field idling with scenarios reflecting varying degrees of hypothetical, increased idling. In doing so, this study aims to characterize the nature and potential magnitude of idling rice fields on groundwater storage in the Sacramento Valley. The impact of these scenarios on groundwater storage was quantified relative to an unaltered baseline model scenario. The results of this research show rice field idling will reduce recharge and groundwater storage levels; these results may provide useful information for future policy decisions and provide a basis for future study.
Cite this paper: Anderson, K. , Houk, E. , Mehl, S. and Brown, D. (2017) The Modeled Effects of Rice Field Idling on Groundwater Storage in California’s Sacramento Valley. Journal of Water Resource and Protection, 9, 786-798. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2017.97052.
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