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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ADAPTING SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION TO MEET THE CHALLENGES OF A CHANGING CLIMATE

Location: Great Plains Agroclimate and Natural Resources Research Unit

Title: Sustainable utilization of the Calera Aquifer, Zacatecas, Mexico

Authors
item Garbrecht, Jurgen
item Mojarro, Francisco -
item Echavarria-Chairez, Francisco -
item Bautista-Capetillo, Carlos -
item Brauer, David
item Steiner, Jean

Submitted to: Applied Engineering in Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 2, 2012
Publication Date: March 4, 2013
Citation: Garbrecht, J.D., Mojarro, F., Echavarria-Chairez, F.G., Bautista-Capetillo, C.F., Brauer, D.K., Steiner, J.L. 2013. Sustainable utilization of the Calera Aquifer, Zacatecas, Mexico. Applied Engineering in Agriculture. 29(1):67-75.

Interpretive Summary: Groundwater extraction from the Calera Aquifer in the State of Zacatecas, Mexico, for irrigation, urban, and industrial uses has increased over recent decades to unsustainable levels. The concern is that rapidly diminishing groundwater supplies would severely curtail future agricultural and industrial production, which in turn would affect the standard of living and economic prosperity of the region. An annual, watershed-scale water budget analysis was conducted to evaluate alternative water management and conservation scenarios and determine their effectiveness at slowing the rate of groundwater depletion. The most restrictive scenario called for a 10% reduction in industrial and urban water use and a 50% reduction in irrigation water in the first decade after year 2015, and an additional 10% reduction in irrigation water every decade after year 2025. The 50% reduction in irrigation water was achieved by upgrading inefficient furrow irrigation to sprinkler and drip irrigation; converting under-performing crops (oats, corn, maize) to rain fed cropland; switching 30% of the dry bean crop to canola, a more water efficient crop; and, taking 15% of onion, garlic, and red pepper crops out of irrigated production. Additional cropland will have to be taken out of irrigation to meet water use targets set for 2035 and 2045. This water management scenario would extend the useful life of the aquifer and represents a great improvement over current unsustainable groundwater extraction. No matter what choices are made, it will be difficult to reduce the annual groundwater deficit below 40 [106 m3/yr] without major disruptions to the established and productive economy of the region.

Technical Abstract: Groundwater extraction from the Calera Aquifer in the State of Zacatecas, Mexico, for irrigation, urban, and industrial uses has increased over recent decades to unsustainable levels. By 2015, irrigated agriculture was projected to use about 84% of total extracted groundwater, urban 10%, and industry 6%. The annual groundwater deficit was estimated to be 172.5 [106 m3/yr] and groundwater table elevation to drop by 1.15 [m] per year. An annual, watershed-scale water budget analysis was conducted to evaluate alternative water management and conservation scenarios and determine their effectiveness at slowing the rate of groundwater depletion. The most restrictive scenario called for a 10% reduction in industrial and urban water use and a 50% reduction in irrigation water in the first decade after year 2015, and an additional 10% reduction in irrigation water every decade after year 2025. According to this latter scenario, annual groundwater deficit would drop to 45.5 [106 m3/yr] by year 2045, groundwater table would be 18.1 [m] lower than that in year 2015, and groundwater table elevation would drop 0.3 [m] per year. The 50% reduction in irrigation water was achieved by upgrading inefficient furrow irrigation to sprinkler and drip irrigation; converting under-performing crops (oats, corn, maize) to rain fed cropland; switching 30% of the dry bean crop to canola, a more water efficient crop; and, taking 15% of onion, garlic, and red pepper crops out of irrigated production. Additional cropland will have to be taken out of irrigation to meet water use targets set for 2035 and 2045. This water management scenario would extend the useful life of the aquifer and represents a great improvement over current unsustainable groundwater extraction. However, curtailing irrigated agriculture beyond increasing irrigation efficiency may not be acceptable from a political and socio-economic stand point because it would impact the region’s agricultural economy.

Last Modified: 12/22/2014
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