How Might Recharge Change Under Projected Climate Change in Western US?

Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Rewati Niraula1, Thomas Meixner2, Matthew Rodell3, Hoori Ajami4, David J Gochis5 and Christopher L Castro1, (1)University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, United States, (2)University of Arizona, Dept Hydrology and Water Resources, Tucson, AZ, United States, (3)NASA/GSFC, Greenbelt, MD, United States, (4)University of New South Wales, School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Sydney, NSW, Australia, (5)National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, United States
Although ground water is a major source of water in the western US, little research has been done on the impacts of climate change on western groundwater storage and recharge. Here we assess the impact of projected changes in precipitation and temperature on groundwater recharge across the western US by dividing the domain into five major regions (viz. Northern Rockies and Plains, South, Southwest, Northwest and West). Hydrologic outputs from the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model based on Bias-Correction and Spatial Disaggregation (BCSD) Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) climate projections from 11 Global Circulation Models (GCMs) for Representative Concentration pathway 6.0 (RCP 6.0) scenarios were selected for projecting changes in recharge. Projections are made for near future (2020-2050) and far future (2070-2100) relative to the historical period (1970-2000). Averaged over the domain, half of the GCMs caused VIC to increase recharge across the region while the remaining half resulted in decreased recharge for both the near (-10.1% to 5.8%) and far (-9.7% to 17%) future. A majority (9 out of 11 GCMs) of the VIC simulations projected increased recharge in the Northern Rockies and Plains for both the near and far future. A majority of the simulations agreed on reduced recharge in other regions for the near future. For the far future, a majority of the simulations agreed on decreased recharge in the South (9 out of 11 GCMs) and Southwest (7 out of 11 GCMs) regions. The change is projected to be largest for the South region which could see recharged reduced by as much as 50%. Changes in recharge in the Northwest region are predicted to be small (within 10% of historical recharge). Despite the large variability in projected recharge across the GCMs, recharge projections from this study will help water managers with long term water management planning.