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Impact of Climate on Water Availability for the Edwards Aquifer San Antonio, Texas Progress Report--January 12, 1998

by Kris Martinez

This report serves as the second installment in a series of progress reports written to describe the work that has been done in conjunction with this project. This study focuses on the effects of climate change on the availability of water from the Edwards Aquifer. Groundwater dynamics will be simulated using a computer program developed under a previous study (Watkins 1997). This program is hereafter referred to as the groundwater simulation model. With a mechanism in place to predict water distribution between the surface and subsurface, the logical next step is to develop a way of estimating stream flows

given available climate data. This report details the development of a Geographic Information Systems (GIS) based interface to calculate average climate values for catchment areas in the Edwards region and use this information to predict reliable estimates for runoff, evaporation, and changes in soil moisture. Since the last progress report was completed in October 1997, additional progress has been made in the areas of base map development, interpolation of climate data, and predictive relationships for stream flows. For the base map, an improved representation of the Edwards Aquifer drainage basins was achieved by using a burning-in process to force the GIS-delineated streams to agree with a map of streams that was digitized from aerial photographs. It is important to have accurate boundaries for the drainage basins because a procedure has been developed to calculate an areal average of climate data that is analogous to the Thiessen Method. Using this method, a historical record of precipitation data was compiled for each of the sub-basins. These data were plotted against inflow data to determine if any direct relationships existed between rainfall and runoff. After the correlations were found to be weak, another method was investigated that considered soil moisture, temperature, and net radiation, in addition to rainfall, in the prediction of stream flows. These tasks are explained in more detail below, followed by a discussion of what the next steps will be and issues that need to be resolved. Base Map Development Continued work on the watershed delineation of the Edwards Aquifer region has resulted in a new coverage of the drainage basins. The boundaries of these drainage basins define the extent of the nine discrete tanks for which aquifer dynamics are simulated. Using the basins coverage, precipitation data from VEMAP has been interpolated to obtain a historical record of average monthly rainfall for each tank. ArcView will be used to display the precipitation data, along with other types of climatological information. Aquifer conditions like water levels and spring flows will also be shown. The data will be overlaid on the base map by retrieving requested data from attribute tables. All of the data will be collected and interpolated for each tank, as defined by the boundaries of the basins coverage. Interpolation methods are discussed in the next section. Since climate data is areally averaged, it is important that the boundaries of the drainage basins be accurate. In addition, inflows to the groundwater simulation model are calculated based on gauged stream flows for a tank. Predicting the stream flows using a rainfallrunoff model requires that average climatological parameters be representative of the tank. Consequently, to improve the validity of the drainage basins coverage, a watershed delineation was performed in which the area contributing stream flows to a gauging station was determined. The contributing area is based on the various flow paths that converge on the basin outlet at the stream gage. The movement of water through space must be reproduced. Since water flows towards the lowest point in a watershed, a digital elevation model (DEM) was used to determine the stream network. Geographic coordinates of gauging stations in the study region were also obtained. The location of the outlet stream gages were used to determine the pour point of the stream network for each drainage basin.

A watershed delineation was performed for the Edwards Aquifer using a 1:250,000 scale DEM and the point locations of gauging stations that were defined as sub-basin outlets in previous studies (Puente 1978 and Wanakule 1993). Both of these coverages were compiled using standard USGS data sets that were downloaded off the Internet. A GRID coverage of the stream network was generated using the DEM. This coverage was checked to see if it intersected the stream gage locations and if it agreed with River Reach File 1 (RF1) coverages of stream networks provided by the US EPA. The locations of most of the gauging stations were well away from the GRID-generated stream network. In addition, the coverage indicated many branches and junctions that were not reflected in the RF1 coverage that was digitized from aerial photographs. The discontinuity between the generated streams and actual natural and man-made land features raised the concern that the resulting watershed boundaries would be inaccurate and adversely affect the areal average calculations that followed. In order to improve the reliability of the watershed coverage, an additional procedure was performed to force the GRID stream network to agree more closely with the RF1 coverage. The process of burning-in streams from an RF1 coverage into a DEM has been used successfully to ensure that the resulting watershed coverage conforms with reality. In this process, all of the elevations except for those coinciding with digitized streams are artificially raised by an equal amount. Because the elevations in the burned-in streams remain the same, the flow of water is forced to follow the actual stream network after it "falls off" the artificially elevated land surface. After the burning-in process is completed, the traditional watershed delineation methodology is followed. The areas of the resulting drainage basins were compared to those cited in other references to evaluate the validity of the delineated watershed coverage. The areas of the delineated sub-basins were found to closely approximate data from other sources. Drainage areas for each of the sub-basins are provided in Table 1. Table 1. Drainage Basin Areas from Different Sources

The data cited from the USGS were obtained from the Internet and indicate the contributing area above a specified gauging station. In his report, Puente provided data only for drainage basins in which the area was used to calculate recharge. Climate Interpolation In order to link climate factors to the groundwater simulation model, average values of relevant climate parameters, such as rainfall, must be determined for each sub-basin. A gridded data set of historical precipitation and temperature in the Edwards Aquifer region was developed under the Vegetation/Ecosystem Modeling and Analysis Project (VEMAP). These data were used to develop a method of deriving an average monthly climate value for each sub-basin over an extended period of time. Precipitation data was used since it has the strongest affect on stream flows, and in turn, the strongest affect on water availability from the Edwards Aquifer. This is a result of the aquifer receiving water primarily from streams and rivers originating from the catchment areas on the Edwards Plateau (Wanakule 1993). Average monthly precipitation values for the period from January 1975 to December 1990 were calculated for each of the nine drainage basins using a procedure analogous to the Thiessen Method for determining areal average rainfall. For each sub-basin, it is assumed that the rainfall at a given point is the same as that at the nearest data point on the VEMAP climate grid (Chow, Maidment, Mays 1988). Using the Thiessen Method, the average precipitation is,

where A is area, N is the total number of data points, and P is precipitation. The areal average calculation is performed in a slightly different manner using Avenue. Each drainage basin is considered a zone and the entire coverage becomes the zone theme. A GRID theme of precipitation data is created consisting of 100m x 100m cells assigned the same value as the 0.5 x 0.5 degree VEMAP cell in which they are contained. This grid is called the value theme. Using GIS, the zonal function generates a GRID coverage in which the cells have values that are the average of rainfall data in the value (VEMAP) theme. Averages are calculated for different zones, which are identified by the zone (basins) theme. In other words, the zonal function averages the precipitation for all of the cells in the value theme on a zone-by-zone basis. The combined area of all of the value theme cells in a zone closely approximates the area of the sub-basin. Consequently, the calculated average precipitation is essentially the same as that determined using the Thiessen Method. The figure at the beginning of this report shows a precipitation value theme that has been clipped according to the basins zone theme. Predictive Relationships for Inflows

The primary objective of this project is to gain a better understanding of the relationships that exist between climatological conditions and water availability from the Edwards Aquifer. There are a number of parameters that have an influence on the exchange of water between the different elements of the hydrologic cycle. Different factors drive the exchange of water between the atmosphere and the land surface and between the surface and the subsurface. The existing groundwater simulation program predicts recharge to the Edwards Aquifer given stream flow data. Since these associations have been established, the task becomes developing reliable predictive relationships for stream flows given observed climate data. Rainfall-runoff models vary widely in complexity. To date, two different methods of predicting inflows have been examined. As a preliminary approach, an attempt was made to establish an empirical relationship between rainfall and stream flows. Using the Thiessen Method, average monthly precipitation data was calculated for each of the nine drainage basins. This data was plotted against a set of monthly stream flow data that was compiled as part of another project (Wanakule 1993). An attempt was made to establish a linear equation to calculate stream flow from average precipitation but the correlation was unsatisfactory. As a second method, work from another study investigating climate and surface water was reviewed (Reed, Maidment, and Patoux 1997). Rather than using just precipitation, soil-water balance calculations also accounted for net radiation and soil-water holding capacity. In this method, rainfall is partitioned between surplus water (runoff), evaporation to the atmosphere, and changes in the amount of moisture contained in the soil near the surface. The two methods are described in more detail below. Empirical Rainfall-Runoff Function An attempt to establish a simple function that directly related rainfall to runoff was determined to be too general for the Edwards Aquifer region. It was evident that a significant amount of rainfall fails to become stream flow. This observation should be considered in light of the fact that the aquifer receives the majority of its recharge from channel losses in the streams. If the rainfall is not becoming runoff, and also not becoming recharge through percolation, a large amount of water must be lost to evaporation and changes in near-surface soil moisture. Examining plots of precipitation versus inflow revealed some trends indicating that these other factors must be taken into account when developing a rainfall-runoff relationship. Similar patterns were observed between the different sub-basins. A graph of precipitation versus inflow for the Nueces River Basin is provided as Figure 1. Figure 1. Precipitation versus inflow for the Nueces River Basin

One of the drawbacks of using monthly precipitation data to predict stream flow is that is does not consider that rainfall is a periodic event. Looking at Figure 1, there are no months where there was zero precipitation. However, examining the daily precipitation data collected at several gauging stations revealed many instances where significant rainfall occurred after an extended number of days where zero precipitation was recorded. A large cluster of data points are observed in which increased monthly rainfall did not result in increased monthly inflows. One explanation for this could be that previous dry periods had left the soil moisture low and the intensity of rainfall during the month failed to exceed the soil's infiltration capacity. Another explanation could be that warmer temperatures and drier conditions caused greater losses of precipitation to evaporation. Regardless of these hypotheses, the low R-squared value indicates that there is only a weak correlation between monthly precipitation and monthly inflows. In order to provide a different perspective, graphs of precipitation and inflows plotted over time are provided as Attachments 1, 2, and 3. Soil-water Balance Model In order to improve upon the performance of the empirical rainfall-runoff function, other climate variables must be considered. A simple soil-water balance model has been

developed that uses monthly precipitation, temperature, and net radiation data to partition water between runoff, evaporation, and changes in soil moisture. In addition to climate data, the soil-water holding capacity is taken into account. The model uses relationships developed in a previous study to predict evaporation using the Bowen ratio and net radiation and to predict runoff using soil moisture estimates. For a more detailed explanation of the model and its conceptual framework, refer to the online document, CRWR Online Report 97-1, Spatial Water Balance of Texas on the Internet at http://www.ce.utexas.edu/prof/maidment/gishyd97/library/wbtexas/wbtexas.htm. A transient soil-water balance will be performed using precipitation data and calculated evaporation and runoff, as described below. Soil-water balance models of varying complexities have been used in numerous studies to partition water among the atmosphere, surface, and subsurface. The program to be used in this study is part of a class of models referred to as simple "bucket" models. These models are used to estimate runoff and evaporation for large areas when data regarding soil properties, humidity, leaf area indexes, and other types of information are not available. A mass balance is used to account for the water entering and leaving a "bucket." In the following equation, water is introduced into the system by precipitation (P) and transfers water through changes in soil moisture (w), evaporation (E), and runoff (S),

Since this is a transient calculation, the soil is assumed to be saturated for the initial guess. In this case, the soil moisture is equal to the soil-water holding capacity (w*). The soil moisture for each step is calculated using the following equation,

where i is the current time step and alpha is a runoff extraction function. The runoff extraction function automatically diverts a portion of the precipitation away from the soil to account for rainfall events where the precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate. In addition, if soil moisture exceeds the soil-water holding capacity, the surplus is added to the predicted runoff. Soil moisture is assumed to be conserved, in order to close the mass balance. Consequently, given a year's worth of data, the soil moisture level at the end of the time period must again be equal to w*. Calculations are repeated until this requirement is met. Several issues must be considered when implementing the soil-water balance model. Traditionally, "bucket" models are run using climate data on a daily basis. Available data for this project are on a monthly basis. Using a historical record of monthly rainfall will result in a predicted runoff that is significantly lower than observed runoff. The runoff extraction function, alpha, has been included to compensate for this effect. The value of alpha is calculated based on an empirical soil-moisture relationship where alpha increases as soil moisture increases. Evaporation is also calculated based on soil moisture, in addition

to monthly net radiation data. Evaporation is typically calculated using air pressure and temperature data and leaf area indexes, along with soil-water content. Another aspect of the model is that the horizontal movement of water is not considered, in that no river routing is performed. The influence of these simplifications will be evaluated by comparing the runoff predicted by the model with observed stream flows. Future Work Over the next couple of months, efforts will be focused on optimizing the soil-water balance model and linking it to the groundwater simulation model in ArcView. As written, the soil-water balance model does not have a calibration mechanism. Additional coding will be developed to calibrate the model so that predicted runoff agrees with observed runoff. Available data sets for net radiation and soil-water holding capacity must be areally averaged for each of the sub-basins. The GIS interface will be developed to run the FORTRAN-based rainfall-runoff model and groundwater simulation model from ArcView. The user will have the ability to alter climate input using a scaling factor. The impact of the climate changes will be displayed on the base map. By working together, the various elements of the GIS interface will be able to predict runoff, aquifer water levels, and spring flows for the Edwards region. Attachment 1

Attachment 2

Attachment 3