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The importance of groundwater surface water interaction - a case study on Rio Grande water supplies

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Presented by Ronald T. Green, Ph.D., P.G., F. Paul Bertetti, P.G., and Marques Miller …

Presented by Ronald T. Green, Ph.D., P.G., F. Paul Bertetti, P.G., and Marques Miller
at the Texas Water Conservation Association Conference in The Woodlands, Texas - March 2014


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  • 1. Page 1 Texas Water Conservation Association 70th Annual Convention The Importance of Groundwater/Surface Water Interaction: A Case Study on Rio Grande Water Supplies March 6, 2014 by Ronald T. Green, Ph.D., P.G., F. Paul Bertetti, P.G., and Marques Miller Geosciences and Engineering Division Southwest Research Institute®
  • 2. Page 2 Groundwater vs Surface Water in Texas Surface water belongs to the state of Texas. It can be used by a landowner only with the state's permission. Generally, groundwater belongs to the landowner. Groundwater is governed by the rule of capture. There are exceptions… "Underground water" means the water existing below the earth's surface, …does not include defined subterranean streams or the underflow of rivers (Texas Water Code)
  • 3. Page 3 A Case Study on Rio Grande Water Supplies: Devils River Basin, Texas
  • 4. Page 4 Groundwater Recharge of the Lower Rio Grande What is groundwater’s importance to the Lower Rio Grande? Conveyance of groundwater/surface water in Devils River watershed Importance of permeability architecture in Devils River to Rio Grande
  • 5. Page 5 Amistad Reservoir Water Budget Lake Amistad Devils River Pecos River Rio Grande at Langtry San Felipe Creek Rio Grande below Amistad Dam Cienegas Creek Gauging Station Goodenough Spring
  • 6. Page 6 Amistad Reservoir Water Budget (acre-ft/yr) Lake Amistad Devils River 263,000 Pecos River 195,000 Rio Grande at Langtry 1,071,000 San Felipe Creek 65,000 Rio Grande below Amistad Dam 1,659,000 Rio Grande at Del Rio 1,659,000 Cienegas Creek 8,700 Gauging Station Goodenough Spring 103,000 Lower Rio Grande gets 1/3 of its water from Val Verde County
  • 7. Page 7 How is Water Conveyed through the Devil’s River Watershed? Sutton County - Standen A. and P. Kirby, 2009 Crockett County - Inglehart, H.H. 1967 Val Verde County - Reeves, R.D. and T.A. Small. 1973.
  • 8. Page 8 Where are the High Capacity Wells in the Devils River Watershed? TWDB well driller reports: 752 wells with measured capacity High capacity water wells are only located near river channels
  • 9. Page 9 0 500 1,000 1,500 2,000 2,500 3,000 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16 WellPumpRate(gpm) Distance from Closest River Channel (mi) Distance from River Channel versus Well Capacity Virtually all wells with capacity of 500 gpm are within 1.5 miles of a river
  • 10. Page 10 Development of Karst Conduits in Edwards-Trinity Aquifer Slightly acidic rain water funneled into existing river channels as the Edwards Plateau was raised. This mechanism resulted in development of preferential flow paths (i.e., conduits) in river channels. In contrast, conduit development in the Edwards Aquifer was pervasive because it was not exhumed (raised) similar to the Edwards Plateau. Woodruff and Abbott, 1979, 1986 What this means is that you cannot assume you have high capacity wells everywhere in the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer just because you happen to have a high-capacity well that’s near a river channel
  • 11. Page 11 Refined Characterization of Devils River Watershed Hydrogeology Water is conveyed through Devils River watershed as both groundwater (particularly in the upper reaches) and as surface water (in the lower reaches). Texas water law struggles with groundwater/surface water relationship, but reality insists it be recognized. Dye tracer tests in Sonora confirm the presence of conduits in Devils River channel
  • 12. Page 12 How is Groundwater Flow Currently Characterized?
  • 13. Page 13 Permeability Structure of the Edwards-Trinity Aquifer
  • 14. Page 14 Refinement of Hydrogeology of Devils River Watershed Mapped geology of Devils River watershed TWDB GAM of Devils River watershed hydrogeology Refined characterization of Devils River watershed hydrogeology The 2010 TWDB Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) does not characterize groundwater flow associated with the river channels as subterranean streams or river underflow
  • 15. Page 15 Reclassification of Groundwater Conveyance in the Devils River Watershed If groundwater conveyance in the Devils River watershed is classified as “subterranean streams or the underflow of rivers”, then groundwater conveyance could be governed as surface water and not by the rule of capture.
  • 16. Page 16 What Are the Consequences if Devils River Watershed Groundwater is Governed by the Rule of Capture?
  • 17. Page 17 Amistad Reservoir Water Budget Lake Amistad Devils River Pecos River Rio Grande at Langtry San Felipe Creek Rio Grande below Amistad Dam Rio Grande at Del Rio Cienegas Creek Gauging Station Goodenough Spring
  • 18. Page 18 Amistad Reservoir Water Budget (acre-ft/yr) Lake Amistad Devils River 263,000 Pecos River 195,000 Rio Grande at Langtry 1,071,000 San Felipe Creek 65,000 Rio Grande below Amistad Dam 1,659,000 Rio Grande at Del Rio 1,659,000 Cienegas Creek 8,700 Gauging Station Goodenough Spring 103,000
  • 19. Page 19 Experience of Historical Groundwater Exploitation
  • 20. Page 20 Amistad Reservoir Water-Budget Analysis (acre-ft/yr) Groundwater Discharge Amistad Reservoir (1961-1967) Pecos River 32,000 Goodenough Spring 89,000 Devils River 240,000 San Felipe Springs 58,000 Minor springs on the Rio Grande 2,000 Unmeasured springs on the Rio Grande 81,000 Total 502,000 Reeves, R.D. and T.A. Small. 1973. Groundwater Resources of Val Verde County, Texas. Report 172. Texas Water Development Board. Groundwater Discharge Amistad Reservoir (1961-2000) Pecos River 194,000 Goodenough Spring 103,000 Devils River 264,000 San Felipe Springs 65,000 Cienegas Creek 8,700 Unmeasured springs Rio Grande - Total 634,000 Data from IBWC website 1961-2000
  • 21. Page 21 Amistad Reservoir Water Budget (acre-ft/yr) (1961-2000) Lake Amistad Devils River 263,000 Pecos River 195,000 Rio Grande at Langtry 1,071,000 San Felipe Creek 65,000 Rio Grande below Amistad Dam 1,659,000 Rio Grande at Del Rio 1,659,000 Cienegas Creek 8,700 Gauging Station Goodenough Spring 103,000
  • 22. Page 22 Lake Amistad Devils River 263,000 Pecos River 195,000 -? 32,000 Rio Grande at Langtry 1,071,000 San Felipe Creek 65,000 Rio Grande below Amistad Dam 1,659,000 1,496,000 Rio Grande at Del Rio 1,659,000 1,496,000 Cienegas Creek 8,700 Historical Impact of Pumping on Amistad Reservoir Water Budget (acre-ft/yr) Pecos River Discharge (1961-1967) Gauging Station Goodenough Spring 103,000
  • 23. Page 23 Potential Impact of Pumping on Amistad Reservoir Water Budget (acre-ft/yr) from Three Proposed Projects 150,000 acre-ft/yr 49,000 acre-ft/yr 93,826 acre-ft/yr
  • 24. Page 24 Potential Impact of Pumping on Amistad Reservoir Water Budget (acre-ft/yr) from Three Proposed Projects Lake Amistad Devils River 263,000 -150,000 83,000 Pecos River 195,000 -49,000 146,000 Rio Grande at Langtry 1,071,000 San Felipe Creek 65,000 Rio Grande below Amistad Dam 1,659,000 1,460,000 Rio Grande at Del Rio 1,659,000 1,460,000 Cienegas Creek 8,700 Gauging Station Goodenough Spring 103,000 Sycamore Creek -93,826 ? 1,460,000 1,366,000
  • 25. Page 25 Recharge/groundwater/surface water are intrinsically linked in a watershed that recharges Amistad Reservoir Conveyance of water through Devils River watershed is facilitated by development of conduits coincident with river channels Other Edwards Plateau watersheds show similar characteristics Can this conduit system be defined as subterranean streams or the underflow of rivers? This presentation provides a clear example of how a technical study can be used to frame regulatory governance of a water resource Summary
  • 26. Page 26 Acknowledgement Funding for water resource assessment of Devils River watershed provided by the Coypu Foundation
  • 27. Page 27 Contact Information Ronald T. Green, Ph.D., P.G. Institute Scientist Geosciences and Engineering Division Southwest Research Institute 6220 Culebra San Antonio, Texas 78238 1.210.522.5305 (office) 1.210.522.5184 (fax) 1.210.316.9242 (cell) rgreen@swri.edu

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