Biological Systems Engineering


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47:2 (April 2011), pp. 424–431 Paper No. JAWRA-10-0085-P; doi: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00524.x


Copyright © 2011 American Water Resources Association. Used by permission.


We compared two approaches to administration of groundwater law on a hydrologic model of the North Canadian River, an alluvial aquifer in northwestern Oklahoma. Oklahoma limits pumping rates to retain 50% aquifer saturated thickness after 20 years of groundwater use. The Texas Panhandle Groundwater Conservation District’s (GCD) rules limit pumping to a rate that consumes no more than 50% of saturated thickness in 50 years, with reevaluation and readjustment of permits every 5 years. Using a hydrologic model (MODFLOW), we simulated river-groundwater interaction and aquifer dynamics under increasing levels of ‘‘development’’ (i.e., increasing groundwater withdrawals). Oklahoma’s approach initially would limit groundwater extraction more than the GCD approach, but the GCD approach would be more protective in the long run. Under Oklahoma rules more than half of aquifer storage would be depleted when development reaches 65%. Reevaluation of permits under the Texas Panhandle GCD approach would severely limit pumping as the 50% level is approached. Both Oklahoma and Texas Panhandle GCD approaches would deplete alluvial base flow at approximately 10% development. Results suggest periodic review of permits could protect aquifer storage and river base flow. Modeling total aquifer storage is more sensitive to recharge rate and aquifer hydraulic conductivity than to specific yield, while river leakage is most sensitive to aquifer hydraulic conductivity followed by specific yield.