Date of this Version
2018 by the authors.
The Ogallala Aquifer has experienced a continuous decline in water levels due to decades of irrigation pumping with minimal recharge. Corn is one of the major irrigated crops in the semi-arid Northern High Plains (NHP) of Texas. Selection of less water-intensive crops may provide opportunities for groundwater conservation. Modeling the long-term hydrologic impacts of alternative crops can be a time-saving and cost-effective alternative to field-based experiments. A newly developed management allowed depletion (MAD) irrigation scheduling algorithm for Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used in this study. The impacts of irrigated farming, dryland farming, and continuous fallow on water conservation were evaluated. Results indicated that simulated irrigation, evapotranspiration, and crop yield were representative of the measured data. Approximately 19%, 21%, and 32% reductions in annual groundwater uses were associated with irrigated soybean, sunflower, and sorghum, respectively, as compared to irrigated corn. On average, annual soil water depletion was more than 52 mm for dryland farming scenarios. In contrast, only 18 mm of soil water was lost to evaporation annually, for the long-term continuous fallow simulation. The fallow scenario also showed 31 mm of percolation for aquifer recharge.