Semi-arid aquifer responses to forest restoration treatments and climate change

Clinton J.W. Wyatt, Frances C. O'Donnell, Abraham E. Springer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to develop an interpretive groundwater-flow model to assess the impacts that planned forest restoration treatments and anticipated climate change will have on large regional, deep (>400m), semi-arid aquifers. Simulations were conducted to examine how tree basal area reductions impact groundwater recharge from historic conditions to 2099. Novel spatial analyses were conducted to determine areas and rates of potential increases in groundwater recharge. Changes in recharge were applied to the model by identifying zones of basal area reduction from planned forest restoration treatments and applying recharge-change factors to these zones. Over a 10-year period of forest restoration treatment, a 2.8% increase in recharge to one adjacent groundwater basin (the Verde Valley sub-basin) was estimated, compared to conditions that existed from 2000 to 2005. However, this increase in recharge was assumed to quickly decline after treatment due to regrowth of vegetation and forest underbrush and their associated increased evapotranspiration. Furthermore, simulated increases in groundwater recharge were masked by decreases in water levels, stream baseflow, and groundwater storage resulting from surface water diversions and groundwater pumping. These results indicate that there is an imbalance between water supply and demand in this regional, semi-arid aquifer. Current water management practices may not be sustainable into the far future and comprehensive action should be taken to minimize this water budget imbalance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)207-216
Number of pages10
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Computers in Earth Sciences


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