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Rice yield and groundwater level as affected by irrigation management in Mississippi Delta
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference

Year: 2020 Authors: Wang M., Feng G., Li Y., Wang Y.

Traditional irrigation of rice, consume as high as 3.0 feet/acre, seriously threatens the sustainability of rice production and attributes to declining of groundwater level in the Big Sunflower River Watershed (BSRW). Non-traditional irrigation management, conjunctive use of surface water (in streams and ponds) and groundwater, potentially ensure the rice yield and the sustainable availability of groundwater. Nevertheless, the potential impact of non-traditional irrigation on rice yield and groundwater level were rarely reported. In this study, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT model) was calibrated using 15 years (2000-2015) field data and was validated by 3 years (2015-2018) field data, then applied to simulate the future change trends of rice yield and groundwater level under conventional and non-conventional irrigation scheme, among which the non-traditional irrigation presented different ratios of surface water and groundwater for irrigation (setting up six scenarios: 0% (in entire planting season), 40% (in May), 20% (in June), 30% (in July), and 100% (in August) reductions in weekly pumping replaced by surface water, and a combination of the last four replacement). The results showed that traditional irrigation (0% replacement in entire planting season) would decrease groundwater level by 140-300 mm yr-1 and make rice yield drop by 5%-20% during 2019 to 2030. Compared with traditional irrigation, the combination of 40% (in May), 20% (in June), 30% (in July), and 100% (in August) reductions in weekly pumping replaced by surface water would more effectively mitigate the significant decrease of groundwater level and rice yield than the replacement in a given month. Additionally, rainfall in planting season was taken account into the demand of rice irrigation, since the results implied that the storage capacity of ponds has a distinct impact on the groundwater level. Overall, this study suggested that the non-traditional irrigation of combing surface water and groundwater could be a more sustainable way for future to continuously grow rice than the traditional irrigation of single groundwater resource in the Mississippi Delta.

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