Oklahoma Water Resources Center

2014 Funded Projects


Click on the title to view this year's project report.


Estimating Groundwater Recharge Using the Oklahoma Mesonet
Principle Investigators:
Tyson Ochsner, Chris Fiebrich, and Chris Neel

Oklahoma water resource managers need accurate information on groundwater recharge rates to allow more effective water management and planning and to reduce groundwater related conflicts, but no functional recharge monitoring network exists in Oklahoma, or anywhere else to our knowledge. The statewide Oklahoma Mesonet provides a uniquely rich set of long-term data on hydro-meteorological variables which are relevant for recharge estimation, most notably soil moisture. When soil moisture, hydraulic conductivity, and hydraulic gradient are known, drainage from the soil profile can be calculated based on unsaturated flow theory (Nolan et al., 2007). Groundwater withdrawals that exceed the rate of drainage from the soil profile are not sustainable in the long term, unless the aquifer receives inflows from adjacent aquifers or surface water bodies.

Comparison of Grain Sorghum and Corn Productivity under Limited Irrigation with Subsurface Drip
Principle Investigators:
Jason G. Warren, Rick Kochenower, Jody Campiche, Rodney Jones, and Art Stoecker

Various sources can be cited to demonstrate the lower irrigation requirement for optimum grain sorghum production compared to corn.  For example, a study conducted at Garden City, KS showed that sorghum irrigated with 7 or 2 inches of water produced average yields of 122 to 117 bu, respectively, during the 4 year study. In contrast, irrigation of corn at rates ranging from 12 to 3 inches produced yields ranging from 205 to 119 bushels (Klocke and Curri, 2009). This data demonstrates the lower water requirement for grain sorghum under the given environment. However, these studies do not provide representation of yield potential using recently developed sorghum genetics and management practices.  Recent analysis of sorghum variety trial data from the OSU Panhandle Research and Extension Center shows that between 2009-2012 average sorghum yields of 145 bu/acre were achieved with 10 inches of in season irrigation. This along with declining well capacities and concerns about future restrictions on water availability require that a detailed analysis of the yield potential for irrigated sorghum and its economics relative to corn be conducted.

Increasing water yield and quality through redcedar removal and establishment of herbaceous biofuel feedstock production systems: Effect of vegetation on groundwater recharge in upland ecosystems
Principle Investigators:
Chris Zou, Rod Will, Garey Fox, and Todd Halihan

Most studies of land conversion to bioenergy production have focused solely on surface water and not groundwater. Changes in land use and vegetation cover can directly alter groundwater recharge processes, especially in water limited semi-arid and subhumid regions. Vegetation reduces groundwater recharge by either extracting groundwater from the saturated zone or reducing rainfall reaching the groundwater table. Research so far has focused mainly on the riparian zone where connectivity between the surface and the alluvial aquifer is intuitive and the interaction can be rapid. However, over 90% of land surface is upland, and the effect on groundwater of changes in upland vegetation cover such as conversion from redcedar woodland to herbaceous biofuel feedstock production is poorly understood.

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