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Project ID: 2003KS33B

Title: A Field Assessment of a Method for Estimation of Ground-Water Consumption By Phreatophytes

Project Type: Research

Focus Categories: Groundwater, Water Use

Keywords: phreatophytes, ground water, evapotranspiration, water balance

Start Date: 03/01/2003

End Date: 02/28/2004

Federal Funds: $24,961

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $44,142

Congressional District: 2nd District

Principal Investigators:
James J. Butler
Kansas Geological Survey

Donald O. Whittemore

Gerard J. Kluitenberg


Low streamflows are an increasing problem in Kansas and other areas of the U.S. Stream-aquifer interactions clearly play an important role in the generation and maintenance of these low flows, with ground-water development often being a major factor responsible for the low-flow periods. Ground-water consumption by phreatophytes is thought to be an important component of the hydrologic cycle in riparian corridors in central and western Kansas and could also be a significant contributor to the low streamflows. However, reliable estimates of the magnitude of ground water consumption by phreatophytes and its impact on stream-aquifer systems have yet to be obtained. There is a critical need to develop methods that will enable the impact of phreatophyte activity on stream-aquifer systems to be quantified. In this proposal, we outline the second year of a research program directed at the development of a practical field method for identifying and quantifying phreatophyte consumption of ground water. This method will utilize water-table fluctuations as a means of quantifying phreatophyte activity. An approach based on water-table fluctuations has many advantages: 1) it provides direct information on ground-water consumption, which is virtually impossible to quantify using other methods; 2) the water-table variations on which it is based are the integrated response to a highly heterogeneous and difficult-to-characterize group of phreatophyte stresses; 3) the approach is generic in nature and not dependent on any particular mix of phreatophytes; 4) the approach can be readily implemented at a relatively low cost; and 5) the approach is also a convenient means of assessing the impact of phreatophyte eradication efforts on plant water use. Methodology development and evaluation will be done at a field site of the Kansas Geological Survey at which a great deal of previous work has been performed, so the proposed work will be carried out under highly controlled conditions. The end product of this research will be a technique of demonstrated effectiveness for both identifying and quantifying phreatophyte activity. Although the technique will be developed at a site with a mix of phreatophytes common in central Kansas, the approach will be equally viable in areas with different mixes of phreatophytes. Projects aimed at quantifying phreatophyte activity in other river basins in central and western Kansas are expected to follow from this work.

Progress/Completion Report PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
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