Skip to main content
ARS Home » Plains Area » Lubbock, Texas » Cropping Systems Research Laboratory » Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #351286

Title: Seasonal water-level perturbations beneath the high plains of the Llano Estacado.

item Stout, John

Submitted to: American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/13/2018
Publication Date: 7/9/2018
Citation: Stout, J.E. 2018. Seasonal water-level perturbations beneath the high plains of the Llano Estacado.. American Water Works Association Annual Conference and Exposition. Presention. Fort Worth, TX, July 9-11, 2018.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The Llano Estacado of North America is a vast elevated plain favorably situated above a large portion of the Ogallala Aquifer.The Ogallala Aquifer provides an essential source of groundwater for a highly productive irrigated agricultural system. Each year, groundwater is pumped from the aquifer to irrigate crops during the growing season, which gradually reduces the remaining volume of stored water in the aquifer. Recorder wells, maintained by the Texas Water Development Board, routinely track these seasonal and long-term changes and provide a wealth of hydrologic data.Here, an attempt has been made to closely examine data collected by recorder wells located at various locations across the Llano Estacado. Of special interest here are seasonal water-level perturbations that are induced by overlapping cones of depression that extend outward from nearby actively pumped wells. Water levels are observed to generally decline during the growing season and gradually recover as irrigation wells are switched off at the end of each growing season. In an attempt to better quantify this process, a method was developed to compute the average or normal perturbation of the water table. Results suggest that perturbation curves tend to follow a similar overall pattern of high water levels during the winter and early spring and low levels during the summer growing season. In areas with limited groundwater, farmers may try to conserve water by shutting off irrigation systems during periods when soil moisture is adequate or when the supply of available water becomes critically low. As a result, one can often detect hydrographic aberrations associated with irrigation breaks, when irrigation systems are shut down and the water table is allowed time to partially recover. Such hydrographic deviations appear to correlate closely with periods of plentiful rainfall, which typically occurs in late May and early June on the Llano Estacado. In areas where groundwater supplies are more plentiful, these late-spring irrigation breaks are less evident. This suggests that farmers with adequate groundwater may be less inclined to shutdown irrigation systems to conserve water despite adequate rainfall, especially in areas with water-intensive crops that require more continuous irrigation. Further analysis of the derived perturbation curves could provide additional insight into the dynamic nature of seasonal withdrawals of groundwater from the Ogallala Aquifer.