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Deschutes River Watershed (Or.) -- Environmental conditions, Deschutes River Watershed (Or.) -- Effect of climatic changes on, Groundwater recharge


Effects of climate change in the Cascade Range will likely include more rain, less snow, and earlier snowmelt in the Cascade Range as compared to present conditions. These changes, in turn, will affect the timing of runoff, groundwater recharge, and groundwater discharge to spring-fed streams. This hydrologic response needs to be examined and understood due to implications for water management. In this study, a water- and energy-balance model was used to explore 21st century changes in the water budget in the upper Deschutes Basin, and a groundwater model was used to evaluate the response of the groundwater system to those changes. A Deep Percolation Model (DPM) developed for the basin in the 1990s uses spatially distributed climate data to calculate a daily mass balance for the major components of the hydrologic budget. For this work, we drove the DPM using ensemble means of eight downscaled global climate models with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change?s A1B and B1 emission scenarios. Although similar for both scenarios, greater changes in the timing of runoff and recharge as well as higher reductions in snowpack occur using the A1B scenario. Considering both scenarios, diminished snowpack results in reductions in spring runoff ranging from 40% to 63% and recharge from 21% to 37%. These reductions are offset by late fall and winter increases. Also, spatial changes in the mean annual ratio of recharge to runoff occur due to changes in soil infiltration rates. The modeled response of the groundwater system to changes in the time and amount of recharge varies spatially. Short flow-path systems in the upper part of the basin are most sensitive to change in seasonality of recharge. At regional scales, diffusion along groundwater flow paths partially attenuates the effects of changes in recharge timing. Furthermore, slight increases in total annual groundwater discharge to smaller streams in the upper portion of the basin, and slight decreases in discharge to larger stream systems in the north-central portion of the basin are projected.


Presented at The Oregon Water Conference, May 24-25, 2011, Corvallis, OR.

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