The Multi‐Scale Dynamics of Groundwater Depletion

Sahu, R.K. ORCID: & McLaughlin, D.B. (2021). The Multi‐Scale Dynamics of Groundwater Depletion. Water Resources Research 57 (12) e2020WR029402. 10.1029/2020WR029402.

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Unsustainable depletion of aquifer storage and diversion of groundwater from downstream users continue to be serious problems, even though their adverse effects are widely recognized. Groundwater depletion involves interactions between economically motivated pumping decisions and physical constraints. Here, we investigate these interactions by using optimal control techniques to describe the pumping decisions of economic agents who share an aquifer. Our approach relies on a multi-scale description of unconfined groundwater flow, applied to a computational experiment that illustrates some important impacts of aquifer development. We show that cooperative groundwater management can provide higher economic benefits, with less storage depletion, than an uncooperative alternative. However, demand for water still drives pumping decisions, even when users cooperate. In many aquifers the benefits of pumping are necessarily accompanied by a reduction in aquifer outflow and by depletion of the groundwater reserve, for both cooperative and uncooperative management. These benefits decrease significantly when pumping is limited by well yield constraints or when the diversion of aquifer outflow is restricted. Our overall analysis emphasizes the importance of viewing aquifer management as part of a larger resource allocation problem that considers the conflicting needs of well operators, downstream users, and future consumers of the resource.

Item Type: Article
Research Programs: Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR)
Biodiversity and Natural Resources (BNR) > Water Security (WAT)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 03 Feb 2022 09:32
Last Modified: 03 Feb 2022 09:32

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