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Identification of recharge zones in the Lower Mississippi River alluvial aquifer using high-resolution precipitation estimates

Jamie Dyer, Andrew Mercer, James R. Rigby, Alexandria Grimes
Journal of hydrology 2015 v.531 pp. 360-369
aquifers, groundwater, groundwater recharge, growing season, managers, principal component analysis, rain, river deltas, water table, watersheds, Mississippi River
Water resources in the lower Mississippi River alluvial valley play a critical role in agricultural productivity due to the widespread use of irrigation during the growing season. However, the unknown specifics of surface–atmosphere feedbacks in the region, along with diminishing groundwater availability and the non-sustainable trend in irrigation draws from the alluvial aquifer, makes it difficult for water resource managers to make sound decisions for future water sustainability. As a result, it is crucial to identify spatial and temporal associations between local rainfall patterns and groundwater levels to determine the influence of precipitation on regional aquifer recharge. Specifically, it is critical to define the recharge zones of the aquifer so that rainfall distribution can be used to assess potential groundwater recovery. This project addresses the issue of defining areas of recharge in the lower Mississippi River alluvial aquifer (LMRAA) through an assessment of historical precipitation variability using high-resolution radar-derived precipitation estimates. A rotated principal component analysis (RPCA) of both groundwater and precipitation data from October through April is used to define locations where aquifer levels show the greatest variability, with a stepwise regression approach used to define areas where rainfall and groundwater levels show the strongest association. Results show that the greatest recharge through direct rainfall is along the Tallahatchie River basin in the northeastern Mississippi Delta, with recharge along the periphery of the LMRAA likely a result of direct water flux from surface hydrologic features.