Coffee Hour: Tess Russo "Groundwater Depletion in the United States ..."

Friday, September 5, 2014 - 3:30pm to 5:50pm
Refreshments are offered in 319 Walker Building at 3:30 p.m. The lecture begins in 112 Walker Building at 4:00 p.m.

Groundwater Depletion in the United States: Mapping, Modeling, and Restoration


About the talk

Groundwater constitutes a critical component of our water resources, especially during dry seasons and droughts, and in regions lacking reliable access to surface water. This seminar will cover the results of groundwater studies at two scales: the continental-scale study reveals groundwater depletion trends and the basin-scale study explores a new method for identifying groundwater restoration project sites.


Analysis of historical groundwater level records indicates groundwater levels declined between 1949 and 2009 throughout much of the continental United States. Most notably, groundwater level declines in the southern and eastern U.S. are comparable to declines in areas of the often-discussed water stressed areas of the Ogallala and southwest U.S. The causes of groundwater level change are multifaceted, varying in time and space across the U.S. Climate is a clear controlling factor on groundwater levels, with changes in groundwater level correlating well with long-term climate patterns including the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. Correlations between pumping rate and groundwater level were observed in a majority of counties.


In areas with over-pumping, groundwater depletion can be mitigated by improved management of available surface water supplies. Managed aquifer recharge (MAR) is increasingly used to enhance groundwater supplies by capturing and storing water during the wet season. A major challenge in developing successful MAR projects is identification of sites having suitable surface and subsurface conditions. We present a novel GIS-based spatial data integration method to map relative suitability for MAR projects. The results of the mapping assessment guide subsequent numerical modeling, used to determine how hypothetical MAR projects will influence groundwater conditions going forward.



About the speaker

Tess RussoTess Russo is a hydrologist who focuses on quantifying hydrologic system responses to environmental change with the objective of informing management and restoration decisions. Tess received her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and was an Earth Institute Postdoctoral Fellow at Columbia University before joining the Geosciences Department at Penn State as an assistant professor in August 2014. Her research interests include riparian flow and solute dynamics, managed aquifer recharge, and agricultural water management, including quantification of both regional-scale water availability and field-scale transport of agrochemicals. Tess currently has projects in India, Kenya, Tanzania, Papua New Guinea, and the United States.


Angela Rogers