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ARS Home » Plains Area » El Reno, Oklahoma » Oklahoma and Central Plains Agricultural Research Center » Agroclimate and Hydraulics Research Unit » Research » Research Project #437992

Research Project: Climate-informed Assessment of Water Availability and Adaptive Management for Cropping Systems in the Fort Cobb Reservoir Experimental Watershed

Location: Agroclimate and Hydraulics Research Unit

Project Number: 3070-13000-015-020-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: May 1, 2020
End Date: Apr 30, 2025

The goal of this project is to develop applied research and extension activities focused on better quantitative understanding of the climate risks for agricultural water availability and viable adaptive management strategies in the Southern Great Plains, particularly in the Fort Cobb Reservoir Experimental Watershed (FCREW). More specific objectives include: • Develop a water availability outlook for the FCREW; • Evaluate the resilience of agricultural production to climate-based renewable water variability; • Conduct field scale irrigation monitoring and efficiency analysis; • Improve irrigation simulations in watershed hydrology modeling to inform adaptation planning; • Develop recommendations for producers to enhance water and energy use efficiencies of irrigated cropping in this area; and • Communicate actionable science for climate-informed agricultural water management through stakeholder engagement and outreach efforts.

Quantitative assessments of biophysical indicators of agricultural water stress and associated impacts on crop and livestock production will be conducted in the Fort Cobb Reservoir Experimental Watershed (FCREW). Climate and streamflow records of the FCREW will be used to develop observationally consistent plausible scenarios of future water availability based on temperature and precipitation data products available from global climate models (GCM). The impacts of alternative plausible climate scenarios on hydrology will be evaluated and the results used to develop a water availability outlook for the FCREW as an example agricultural watershed in Central Oklahoma. Historical resilience of irrigated cropping to climate-based renewable water variability will be characterized using the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) watershed hydrology model and available surface water and groundwater withdrawal data. The SWAT model will be calibrated and validated based on multiple data streams including remotely sensed observations and ground-based agro-climatic records with a particular focus on the ability to simulate biophysical and crop productivity indicators during dry and wet periods. A current technical gap is the ability to simulate heavily irrigated agricultural areas due to complications related to modeling irrigation practices and associated impacts on the hydrologic fluxes. The OSU team will collaborate with watershed modelers at ARS to improve irrigation simulation routines for better water budget and irrigation impact assessments, which are essential for sustainable water resource management and adaptation planning. Finally, research findings will be used in bottom-up and top-down stakeholder outreach efforts, focusing on delivering actionable science to producers, regional water suppliers and distributors, and state-level policy/decision makers. Major events for sharing the results with producers and policy makers are the Oklahoma Irrigation Conference and local events and field days, such as the OSU’s Caddo Research Station Field Day. Research results will also be disseminated through presentations at national professional meetings and peer-reviewed journal articles.