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Seasonal runoff from montane uplands is crucial for plant growth in agricultural communities of northern New Mexico. These communities typically employ traditional irrigation systems, called acequias, which rely mainly upon spring snowmelt runoff for irrigation. The trend of the past few decades is an increase in temperature, reduced snow pack, and earlier runoff from snowmelt across much of the western United States. In order to predict the potential impacts of changes in future climate a system dynamics model was constructed to simulate the surface water supplies in a montane upland watershed of a small irrigated community in northern New Mexico through the rest of the 21st century. End-term simulations of representative concentration pathways (RCP) 4.5 and 8.5 suggest that runoff during the months of April to August could be reduced by 22% and 56%, respectively. End-term simulations also displayed a shift in the beginning and peak of snowmelt runoff by up to one month earlier than current conditions. Results suggest that rising temperatures will drive reduced runoff in irrigation season and earlier snowmelt runoff in the dry season towards the end of the 21st century. Modeled results suggest that climate change leads to runoff scheme shift and increased frequency of drought; due to the uncontemporaneous of irrigation season and runoff scheme, water shortage will increase. Potential impacts of climate change scenarios and mitigation strategies should be further investigated to ensure the resilience of traditional agricultural communities in New Mexico and similar regions.
Facing an anticipated shortage declaration on the Colorado River and reductions in surface water for agricultural use, rural stakeholder groups are concerned about how water cutbacks will affect their local economies. Local farm groups and county governments often lack the analytical tools to measure such impacts. While one can learn much from large-scale hydro-economic models, data, cost, and time limitations have been barriers to such model development. This article introduces three basic modeling approaches, using relatively low-cost and accessible data, to examine local economic impacts of water reallocations from agriculture. An empirical application estimates the effect of agricultural water reductions to Pinal County, Arizona, the county that would be most affected by a Colorado River Shortage Declaration. Water cutbacks to agriculture are modeled using two variants of a “rationing” model, which assumes that farmers will fallow their acres that generate the lowest gross returns (Rationing Model I) or the lowest net returns (Rationing Model II) per acre-foot of water. Rationing models have modest data requirements given that crop and region specific data are available. Building off these simpler rationing models, an input-output (I-O) model provides more detailed information about the impacts on different rural stakeholder groups as well as the impacts to non-agricultural sectors and the local tax base. Given imminent water cutbacks, access to low-cost data and information that are easy to interpret is essential for effective community dialogue.
Current and predicted drought and population growth challenge the longevity of irrigation systems of northern New Mexico. Irrigation ditches, also known as acequias, draw runoff directly from rivers without use of storage reservoirs, so it is important to understand the effects of changing river flow on irrigation flow. This study sought to examine river-ditch relationships in an agricultural valley of the region. A first order linear model was used to fit the river-ditch flow relationship on which daily river flow was the explanatory variable and daily ditch flow the response variable. A strong positive relationship between river and ditch flow was observed for all but one of the ditches. Using a statistical model approach that addressed serial autocorrelation, heteroscedasticity, as well as outlier observations, statistical evidence at 5% significance level was found in all ditches but one. The ditch without a positive relationship was at a downstream location, subject to upstream flow diversion that may have influenced river-ditch flow relationships. Results from this study can be used to evaluate the potential effects of changing socioeconomic dynamics and climate change projections in the operations of these irrigation systems to better understand and manage their water resources.
Understanding people’s perceptions of the environment, drinking water issues, and protecting and preserving water resources is of great importance. This study aims to assess and compare the perceptions of the general public (n = 414), post-secondary students (n = 103), and water professionals (n = 104) in Oklahoma on water issues in the state. To address these goals, a 53-item paper questionnaire was first administered to a randomly sampled mailing list of Oklahoma residents. As a follow up to the initial survey, post-secondary students at Oklahoma State University were sampled in addition to Oklahoma water professionals at regional conferences. Respondents ranged from 18 to over 65 years old, with all three demographics agreeing the top water priority to be clean drinking water. The majority were satisfied with their home water supply and felt it was safe to drink, while they were not sure of the quality of ground and/or surface water. Age was a key factor in information delivery and learning preferences as the older participants favored print material versus the younger demographic interest in technology. Data collected via this study provide insight into the perceptions, priorities, and learning preferences of these three populations. Despite our finding that clean water is a priority in Oklahoma, regardless of demographic, results suggest more education and outreach is needed to provide additional information regarding water in Oklahoma.
Maintaining access to sufficient amounts of clean water for human and environmental needs is a global challenge requiring education and community engagement. We developed a curriculum integrating field experiences with online modules focusing on the water cycle, water quality, and human impacts. This year-long curriculum connected nine public high schools in Kentucky with ten private, English-language schools in eastern India. Curriculum design was informed by the Next Generation Science Standards (the new U.S. education standards for science) and utilized freely available, open-access technology. Each instructional module included a narrated slideshow with general information and examples from Kentucky and India, exercises involving online data sets, and guidelines for class projects. Students developed creative products (e.g., posters and dramatic performances) for community outreach on water issues. Class projects involved literature reviews of local water bodies, collection of data using water-quality test kits, and submission of a research proposal, which was evaluated by scientific professionals with a background in hydrology. The highest-rated team from each country traveled to the other country to present their findings at a professional meeting or workshop. Eight of the Indian schools prepared video summaries of their projects, which were reviewed by an undergraduate class at the University of Kentucky. The curriculum and examples of student work are available on a publicly accessible website. Challenges faced during project implementation included difficulty in assessment of student products and, particularly for Kentucky schools, integrating activities into existing curricula. Nonetheless, the proposals, final papers, and other products indicated that students understood hydrologic concepts and were aware of water-quality issues.
Geographers have long played an important role in water resources scholarship; however, academic literature has not focused on the teaching contributions of geographers in this area. To address this gap, we cataloged courses taught and faculty interests for geography departments in the United States with a stated focus on water resources. We identified 129 departments with both courses and faculty having water resources expertise. The majority of water-related courses focused on climatology or climate change, suggesting that students are regularly provided opportunities to learn about water topics primarily through the lens of climatology and water resources. We also summarize a panel organized at the 2017 American Association of Geographers Annual Conference that focused on water resources curriculum in geography programs. The panel discussed curriculum and pedagogical approaches, concluding that a water resources course syllabi repository would be beneficial for creating new and refining existing water resources courses. The panel also recommended that faculty consider incorporating water resources topics into their general education classes to concurrently enhance student learning opportunities and positively impact recruitment and interest in geography programs. Additionally, online education represents a substantial change in higher education that presents new challenges and opportunities for geographers. We hope these data and the summary of the panel session stimulate greater discussions of curricular needs across all disciplines that offer water resource focused courses.
The complex relationship between precipitation and soil moisture plays a critical role in land surface hydrology. Traditionally, the analysis of this relationship is restricted by the spatial coverage of both soil moisture and precipitation data that are collected through in-situ observations at limited locations. In this study, we utilized the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’s remote sensing products of soil moisture (SMAP: Soil Moisture Active Passive) and precipitation (TRMM: Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission), which provide near-global coverage, to investigate the co-variation of precipitation and soil moisture regionally, as a function of ecosystem types and climate regimes. We apply information on land cover and climate regimes to provide insight about correlation strength of soil moisture and precipitation. The results indicate that most of the globe has a moderate to strong positive correlation of SMAP soil moisture and TRMM precipitation data during the study period. In relation to land cover, soil moisture and precipitation have the strongest correlations in regions of limited vegetation, whereas forests and densely vegetated regions have weaker correlations. As for climate regimes, they have the strongest correlations in arid or cold regions, and weaker correlations in humid, temperate locations. While remotely sensed soil moisture data are less reliable in dense vegetation, these results confirm that drier, less vegetated climates show a highly linear relationship between soil moisture and rainfall.
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