Future Water Supply and Demand in Response to Climate Change and Agricultural Expansion in Texas

Thursday, December 15, 2016 - 13:40
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With ongoing global environmental change and an increasing population, it is challenging (to say the least) to understand the complex interactions of irrigation and reservoir systems. Irrigation is critical to agricultural production and food security, and is a vital component of Texas’ agricultural economy. Agricultural irrigation currently accounts for about 60% of total water demand in Texas, and recent occurrences of severe droughts has brought attention to the availability and use of water in the future. In this study, we aim to assess future agricultural irrigation water demand, and to estimate how changes in the fraction of crop irrigated land will affect future water availability in Texas, which has the largest farm area and the highest value of livestock production in the United States. The Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model, which has been calibrated and validated over major Texas river basins during the historical period, is employed for this study. The VIC model, coupling with an irrigation scheme and a reservoir module, is adopted to simulate the water management and regulations. The evolution on agricultural land is also considered in the model as a changing fraction of crop for each grid cell. The reservoir module is calibrated and validated based on the historical (1915-2011) storage records of major reservoirs in Texas. The model is driven by statistically downscaled climate projections from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) model ensembles at a spatial resolution of 1/8°. The lowest (RCP 2.6) and highest (RC P8.5) greenhouse-gas concentration scenarios are adopted for future projections to provide an estimate of uncertainty bounds. We expect that our results will be helpful to assist decision making related to reservoir operations and agricultural water planning for Texas under future climate and environmental changes.

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