Optimizing Safe Yield Policy Implementation

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Water Resources Management





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The presented method enhances groundwater-mandated safe yield management. It is useful for settings that prevent sustained yield or integrated management. To protect hydraulically connected surface water rights, the Utah government’s Cache Valley groundwater management plan proposes that total pumping increase not exceed 84,431 m3/day. To determine how best to spatially distribute additional allowable pumping, stakeholders quantified limits defining acceptable impacts on selected water resource indicators. A new simulation–optimization (S–O) algorithm used these limits while computing optimal spatially distributed perennial yield or safe yield groundwater pumping extraction strategies. The limits prevent unacceptable decreases in: head and net flow between aquifer and surface waters (rivers, surface/subsurface drains, springs, lakes). The optimization objective function maximizes weighted pumping to provide water for 18 growing municipalities. For 16 perennial yield scenarios, computed optimal pumping increases differ in protectiveness toward senior water rights, and range from 16% to 103% of the state plan-proposed increase. Implementing a protective strategy would achieve 90% of the storage changes needed to reach equilibrium within 23 years. Indicator potentiometric heads would reach equilibrium within 10–40 years. At equilibrium, an optimal Cache Valley perennial yield strategy acceptably minimizes net annual non-pumping discharges. By comparison, multi-period 20-year transient groundwater mining optimizations allow more pumping in early years. Pumping then must decline to satisfy seepage and head constraints through year 20. Adverse seepage impact would increase for years thereafter. For situations governed by safe or perennial yield policy, equilibrium-based (steady-state) optimization is very useful. It effectively develops optimal perennial yield strategies.

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