State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008NV134B
Title: Soil Heterogeneity and Moisture Distribution Due to Rainfall Events in Vegetated Desert Areas: Potential Impact on Soil Recharge and Ecosystems
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District: Nevada 01
Focus Categories: Hydrology, Geomorphological Processes, Drought
Keywords: spatial variability, groundwater recharge, soil hydraulic properties, soil recharge, ecosystems, soils development, plant water availability
Principal Investigators: Young, Young (Desert Research Inst.); Chen, Li
Federal Funds: $ 10,746
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 21,491
Abstract: Water resources in arid environments are becoming increasingly important in both human and ecological contexts. As populations expand in these regions, scarce resources are progressively strained. Unprecedented growth in the southwestern U.S. combined with a persistent drought has forced regulators and land managers to make decisions that could have serious impacts on local desert ecosystems. An increased understanding of soil-water dynamics across the landscape would aid in producing scientifically sound and ecologically sustainable water resource policies and decisions for Nevada as well as the region.

The availability of water for plants and the ability of water to migrate past the root zone for potential recharge of alluvial aquifers are highly dependent on the soil hydraulic properties. Previous research has shown that soil hydraulic properties are highly correlated with surface age in certain alluvial fan environments. Additionally, the presence of plants can greatly alter the hydraulic properties of soils, increasing the permeability around them and affecting the recharge potential. In this context, we view soil-plant-water relationships as essential to the movement of water across arid landscapes. Recognizing the interdependence of the natural systems (i.e., water, soil, and plants), and developing integrated approaches to characterize them are critical for understanding arid ecosystems and thus local water resources. Moreover, it is essential to train young scientists and engineers to think of these important water issues in a multifaceted manner that incorporates multiple disciplines.

Progress/Completion Report, 2008, PDF
Final Report, 2009, PDF

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