Impacts of Climate Change on Groundwater Recharge and Streamflow in Headwater Catchments in the Yakima River Basin

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Tung T Nguyen, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, United States
Headwater catchments are important sources of surface water supply, groundwater recharge and, thus, groundwater supply for agricultural activities in the Yakima River Basin (YRB, one of the most important agricultural basins in the western U.S). These catchments are, however, vulnerable to projected climate change in future decades, particularly if their runoff is dominated by snowmelt. The goal of this study is to assess the potential impacts of climate change on the temporal and spatial distributions of groundwater recharge and streamflow in three headwater catchments in the YRB. A Regional Hydro-Ecologic Simulation System (RHESSys) is calibrated and evaluated with a global optimization tool (Covariance Matrix Adaptation Evolution Strategy - CMA-ES) using 27 years of observation data from 1979 to 2005. Statistically downscaled climate projections for the 2050s from four global climate models driven by two different representative concentration pathways, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5 are used to predict future hydrologic changes. Our preliminary results show an increase in annual recharge between 2% and 13%, as well as in streamflow between 1% and 17%. Seasonal changes of recharge and streamflow are more pronounced with an increase up to 210% in winters and a decrease as high as 60% in summers in the 2050s. Both recharge and streamflow projections indicate timing shifts in all three catchments. The outcome from this study will be an integral part of a future study which investigates the impacts of climate change on surface water vulnerability due to supplemental pumping, potential recharge changes and related surface-groundwater interactions in the YRB using an integrated modeling approach that consists of three models: RHESSys, a groundwater model (MODFLOW) and a river and reservoir management model (RiverWare).