Modeling the Effects of Groundwater-Fed Irrigation on Terrestrial Hydrology over the Conterminous United States Academic Article uri icon


  • Human alteration of the land surface hydrologic cycle is substantial. Recent studies suggest that local water management practices including groundwater pumping and irrigation could significantly alter the quantity and distribution of water in the terrestrial system, with potential impacts on weather and climate through land- atmosphere feedbacks. In this study, the authors incorporated a groundwater withdrawal scheme into the Community Land Model, version 4 (CLM4). To simulate the impact of irrigation realistically, they calibrated the CLM4 simulated irrigation amount against observations from agriculture censuses at the county scale over the conterminous United States. The water used for irrigation was then removed from the surface runoff and groundwater aquifer according to a ratio determined from the county-level agricultural census data. On the basis of the simulations, the impact of groundwater withdrawals for irrigation on land surface and subsurface fluxes were investigated. The results suggest that the impacts of irrigation on latent heat flux and potential recharge when water is withdrawn from surface water alone or from both surface and groundwater are comparable and local to the irrigation areas. However, when water is withdrawn from groundwater for irrigation, greater effects on the subsurface water balance are found, leading to significant depletion of groundwater storage in regions with low recharge rate and high groundwater exploitation rate. The results underscore the importance of local hydrologic feedbacks in governing hydrologic response to anthropogenic change in CLM4 and the need to more realistically simulate the two-way interactions among surface water, groundwater, and atmosphere to better understand the impacts of groundwater pumping on irrigation efficiency and climate. © 2014 American Meteorological Society.

altmetric score

  • 7.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Leng, G., Huang, M., Tang, Q., Gao, H., & Leung, L. R.

citation count

  • 92

complete list of authors

  • Leng, Guoyong||Huang, Maoyi||Tang, Qiuhong||Gao, Huilin||Leung, L Ruby

publication date

  • June 2014