Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014MT286B

Student Fellowship: The Impact of Irrigation on the Hydrologic Cycle under Low Water Availability

Institute: Montana
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $2,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $880

Principal Investigators: Douglas Brugger

Abstract: In regions with limited precipitation, irrigation is crucial for successful agriculture. Irrigation alters the hydrologic cycle due to water diversion, increased evapotranspiration by crops, and subsequently decreased streamflow. Its possible that as global temperatures increase, snowpack-driven watersheds will trend toward less water availability, but localized impacts of global climate change are difficult to predict with confidence. This study will help improve the adaptability of both irrigators and water managers to low-water scenarios by quantifying the impacts of specific policies (e.g. water markets), which have been demonstrated to mitigate the effects of severe droughts on both the hydrologic cycle and agricultural revenues. The feedbacks between farming practices, climate, and institutional and policy constraints need to be coupled in a comprehensive model in order to understand how streamflow will change in the future under possible adverse climate scenarios. This research will produce a coupled hydroeconomic model that can be used to evaluate the impacts of irrigation regulations with respect to both streamflow and the economic consequences for irrigators at scales appropriate to inform management.