Agricultural Water Conservation in the High Plains Aquifer and Arikaree River Basin

DOI: 10.4236/jwarp.2013.57076   PDF   HTML     3,434 Downloads   5,226 Views   Citations


Yuma County is the top crop producing County in Colorado that is dependent on groundwater supplies from the High Plains aquifer for irrigation. The Arikaree River, a tributary of the Republican River in eastern Colorado, is supplied with water from the High Plains aquifer. The Arikaree River alluvium is also a habitat for many terrestrial invertebrates and the threatened Hybognathus hankinsoni (Brassy Minnow). The constant demand on the High Plains aquifer has created declining water levels at the linear rate of 0.183 m/year with the deepest pool in the Arikaree River drying up in 8 to 12 years. In addition to the demands for habitats, the surrounding irrigated agricultural lands require water for crop production. These challenges are currently confronting farmers in eastern Colorado and this research presents possible alternatives to meet these demands. This research presents a combination water balance model, water conservation model, and water conservation survey results from farmers in eastern Colorado to identify alternatives to extend the life of the Arikaree River. The first alternative was to examine the reduction in irrigation water from removing the 18 alluvial irrigation wells that could extend the Arikaree River pools from drying up for 30 years. The other scenario found that water conservation practices with participation of 43%, 57%, and 62% of farmers would extend the drying time to 20, 30, and 40 years, respectively. The final alternative studied was the required participation in conservation practices to stop the decline of the High Plains Aquifer. The analysis found that 77% participation of farmers in all conservation alternatives or reducing pumping by 62.9% would be necessary to stabilize the High Plains Aquifer.

Share and Cite:

A. Prior, R. Oad and K. Kinzli, "Agricultural Water Conservation in the High Plains Aquifer and Arikaree River Basin," Journal of Water Resource and Protection, Vol. 5 No. 7, 2013, pp. 747-759. doi: 10.4236/jwarp.2013.57076.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


[1] S. B. Rood, J. H. Braatne and F. M. R. Hughes, “Ecophysiology of Riparian Cottonwoods: Stream Flow Dependency, Water Relations and Restoration,” Tree Physiology, Vol. 23, No. 16, 2003, pp. 1113-1124. doi:10.1093/treephys/23.16.1113
[2] W. G. Weist, “Geology and Ground-Water Resources of Yuma County, Colorado, USGS Water-Supply Paper 15-39-J,” United States Government Printing Office, Washington DC, 1964, pp. 1-52.
[3] E. Wachob, “Irrigation Pumping, Riparian Evapotranspiration, and the Arikaree River, Yuma County, Colorado,” MS Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2006.
[4] J. A. Scheurer, K. D. Fausch and K. R. Bestgen, “Multiscale Processes Regulate Brassy Minnow Persistence in a Great Plains River,” Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, Vol. 132, No. 5, 2003, pp. 840-855. doi:10.1577/T02-037
[5] US Geological Survey, “High Plains Regional Ground Water Study,” 2008.
[6] D. E. Kromm and S. E. White, “Groundwater Exploitation in the High Plains,” University Press of Kansas, Lawrence.
[7] K. D. Fausch and K. R. Bestgen, “Global Biodiversity in a Changing Environment: Ecology of Fishes Indigenous to the Central and Southwestern Great Plains,” Springer-Verlag, New York, 1997.
[8] A. Squires, “Groundwater Response Functions and Water Balances for Parameter Estimation and Stream Habitat Modeling,” MS Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2007.
[9] M. P. Schaubs, “Ground Water Levels in the Northern High Plains Designed Ground Water Basins 2007,” Colorado Division of Water Resources, Denver, 2007.
[10] G. VanSlyke and J. Stevens, “Depletion to the Ogallala Aquifer, Northern High Plains Designated Ground Water Basin,” State Engineers Office, Colorado, 1990.
[11] Colorado Division of Water Resources, “Ground Water Levels, Northern High Plains Designated Ground Water Basin,” State Engineers Office, Denver, 2002.
[12] US Geological Survey. “USGS Water Data for the Nation,” 2010.,00060
[13] T. Davis and S. Richrath, “Republican River Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program,” Colorado Division of Wildlife and Colorado Division of Water Resources, State of Colorado, 2005.
[14] Food and Agriculture Organization, “Conservation in Arid and Semi-Arid Zones,” Conservation Guide 3, Rome, 1976.
[15] N. L. Klocke, R. S. Currie and T. J. Dumler, “Water Saving from Crop Residue Management,” Proceedings of Central Plains Irrigation Short Course and Exposition, Greeley, 19-20 February 2008, pp. 71-79.
[16] D. C. Nielsen, “Crop Residue and Soil Water” Central Plains Irrigation Conference & Exposition Proceedings, Sterling, 16-17 February 2005, pp. 80-83.
[17] R. N. Klein, “Improving Your Success in No-Till. In Cover Your Acres Proceedings,” Kansas State Research and Extension, Oberlin, 22-23 January 2008, pp. 22-26.
[18] N. L. Klocke, R. S. Currie and T. J. Dumler, “Effect of Crop Residue on Sprinkler Irrigation Management,” Central Plains Irrigation Conference & Exposition Proceedings, Colby, 21-22 February 2006, pp. 115-121.
[19] R. Oad, L. Garcia, K. Kinzli, D. Patterson and N. Shafike, “Decision Support Systems for Efficient Irrigation in the Middle Rio Grande Valley,” Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, Vol. 135, No. 2, 2009, pp. 177-185. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9437(2009)135:2(177)
[20] R. Oad, and K. Kinzli, “SCADA Employed in Middle Rio Grande Valley to Help deliver Water Efficiently,” Colorado Water-Newsletter of the Water Center of Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2006.
[21] R. Oad and R. Kullman, “Managing Irrigated Agriculture for Better River Ecosystems: A Case Study of the Middle Rio Grande,” Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, Vol. 132, No. 6, 2006, pp. 579-586. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)0733-9437(2006)132:6(579)
[22] R. Barta, I. Broner, J. Schneekloth and R. Waskom, “Colorado High Plains Irrigation Practices Guide: Water Saving Options for Irrigators in Eastern Colorado,” Colorado Water Resources Research Institute, Special Report No. 14, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2004.
[23] United States Department of Agriculture, “2007 Census of Agriculture: Yuma County Profile,” 2010.,_Chapter_2_County_Level
[24] W. M. Frasier, R. M. Waskom, D. L. Hoag and T. A. Bauder, “Irrigation Management in Colorado: Survey Data Findings” Water Center at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 1999.
[25] L. New, A. Knutson and G. Fipps, “Chemigation with LEPA Center Pivots,” American Society of Agricultural Engineers Publication 04-90, 1990, pp. 453-458.
[26] K. Hill, E. Segarra, R. T. Ervin and W. Lyle, “Low Energy Precision Application Irrigation for Cotton Production in the Texas Southern High Plains,” Texas Journal of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Vol. 4, 1990, pp. 39-41.
[27] A. D. Schneider, “Efficiency and Uniformity of the LEPA and Spray Sprinkler Methods,” Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Vol. 43, No. 4, 2000, pp. 937-944.
[28] F. R. Lamm and H. L. Manges, “Partitioning of Sprinkler Irrigation Water by a Corn Canopy,” Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers, Vol. 4, No. 4, 2000, pp. 909-918.
[29] M. Tollenaar, “Genetic Improvement in Grain Yield of Commercial Hybrids Grown in Ontario from 1959 to 1988,” Crop Science, Vol. 29, No. 6, 1989, pp. 1365-1371. doi:10.2135/cropsci1989.0011183X002900060007x
[30] M. Tollenaar and J. Wu, “Yield Improvement in Temperate Maize in Attributable to Greater Stress Tolerance,” Crop Science, Vol. 39, No. 6, 1999, pp. 1597-1604. doi:10.2135/cropsci1999.3961597x
[31] P. M. O’Neill, J. F. Shanahan, J. S. Schepers and B. C. Caldwell, “Agronomic Responses of Corn Hybrids from Different Eras to Deficit and Adequate Levels of Water and Nitrogen,” Agronomy Journal, Vol. 96, No. 6, 2004, pp. 1660-1667. doi:10.2134/agronj2004.1660
[32] K. Ledbetter, “AgriLife Research Breeder Develops Drought-Tolerant Corn,” 2008.
[33] W. Xu and R. Lascano, “New Stress Tolerant Corn Germplasm for Higher Water Use Efficiency and Water Conservation,” 2010.
[34] G. W. Hergert, G. Stone, D. Yonts and J. Schild, “Limited Irrigation Cropping Systems for Conserving Water Resources in the Pumpkin Creek Watershed,” Central Plains Irrigation Conference & Exposition Proceedings, Greeley, 19-20 February 2008, pp. 46-52.
[35] D. D. Adelman, “A Successful Water Conservation Program in a Semiarid Region of Nebraska,” Journal of American Water Resources Association, Vol. 39, No. 5, 2003, pp. 1079-1092. doi:10.1111/j.1752-1688.2003.tb03694.x
[36] R. G. Borman, J. B. Linder, S. M. Bryn and J. Rutledge, “The Ogallala Aquifer in the Northern High Plains of Colorado-Saturated Thickness in 1980; Saturated Thickness Changes, Predevelopment to 1980; Hydraulic Conductivity; Specific Yield; and Predevelopment and 1980 Probable Well Yields, Hydrologic Investigation Atlas HA-671,” U.S. Geological Survey, 1983.
[37] L. Riley, “Finding the Balance: A Case Study of Irrigation, Riparian Evapotranspiration, and Hydrology of the Arikaree River Basin,” M.S. Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2009.
[38] R. J. Hanks, H. R. Gardner and R. L. Florian, “Evapotranspiration-Climate Relations for Several Crops in the Central Great Plains,” Soil and Water Conservation Research Division, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Fort Collins and Akron, 1968.
[39] Willard Owens Consultants, “Ground Water Resources of the San Arroyo Creek Basin, Volume I Hydrogeology, Computer Modeling, Conclusions and Recommendations,” Prepared for Morgan County Quality Water District, 1988.
[40] D. L. Reddell, “Distribution of Groundwater Recharge, Technical Report AER66-67DLR9,” Agricultural Engineering Department, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 1967, p. 132.
[41] M. Sophocleous, “Groundwater Recharge Estimation and Regionalization: The Great Bend Prairie of Central Kansas and its Recharge Statistics,” Journal of Hydrology, Vol. 137, No. 1-4, 1992, pp. 113-140. doi:10.1016/0022-1694(92)90051-V
[42] L. Fardal, “Effects of Groundwater Pumping for Irrigation on Stream Properties of the Arikaree River on the Colorado Plains,” M.S. Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2003.
[43] S. Griffin, “Effect of Irrigation Practices on Stream Depletion in the Arikaree River, Eastern Colorado,” M.S. Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2004.
[44] D. B. McWhorter and D. K. Sunada, “Ground-Water Hydrology and Hydraulics,” Water Resources Publications, Highlands Ranch, Colorado, 1977.
[45] R. H. McCuen, Z. Knight and A. G. Cutter, “Evaluation of the Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency Index,” Journal of Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 11, No. 6, 2006, pp. 596-602. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1084-0699(2006)11:6(597)
[46] C. W. Downer and F. L. Ogden, “GSSHA: Model to Simulate Diverse Stream Flow Producing Processes,” Journal Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2004, pp. 161-174. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1084-0699(2004)9:3(161)
[47] S. Birikundavyi, R. Labib, H. T. Trung and J. Rousselle, “Performance of Neural Networks in Daily Streamflow Forecasting,” Journal Hydrologic Engineering, Vol. 7, No. 5, 2002, pp. 392-398. doi:10.1061/(ASCE)1084-0699(2002)7:5(392)
[48] Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network, “About CoAgMet,” 2010.
[49] J. A. Falke, “Effects of Groundwater Withdrawal and Drought on Native Fishes and Their Habitats in the Arikaree River, Colorado,” Ph.D. Thesis, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, 2009.
[50] J. A. Scheurer, K. R. Bestgen and K. D. Fausch, “Resolving Taxonomy and Historic Distribution for Conservation of Rare Great Plains Fishes: Hybognathus (Teleostei: Cyprinidae) in Eastern Colorado Basins,” Copeia, Vol. 1, 2003, pp. 1-12. doi:10.1643/0045-8511(2003)003[0001:RTAHDF]2.0.CO;2

comments powered by Disqus

Copyright © 2020 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.