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Title: Evapotranspiration Dynamics and Effects on Groundwater Recharge and Discharge at the Tuba City, Arizona, Disposal Site

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management is evaluating groundwater flow and contaminant transport at a former uranium mill site near Tuba City, Arizona. We estimated effects of temporal and spatial variability in evapotranspiration (ET) on recharge and discharge within a groundwater model domain (GMD) as part of this evaluation. We used remote sensing algorithms and precipitation (PPT) data to estimate ET and the ET/PPT ratios within the 3531 hectare GMD. For the period from 2000 to 2012, ET and PPT were nearly balanced (129 millimeters per year [mm yr-1] and 130 mm yr-1, respectively; ET/PPT = 0.99). However, seasonal and annual variability in ET and PPT were out of phase, and spatial variability in vegetation differentiated discharge and recharge areas within the GMD. Half of ET occurred during spring and early summer when PPT was low, and about 70% of PPT arriving in fall and winter was discharged as plant transpiration in the spring and summer period. Vegetation type and health had a significant effect on the site water balance. Plant cover and ET were significantly higher (1) during years of lighter compared to years of heavier grazing pressure, and (2) on rangeland protected from grazing comparedmore » to rangeland grazed by livestock. Heavy grazing increased groundwater recharge (PPT > ET over the 13-year period). Groundwater discharge (ET > PPT over the 13-year period) was highest in riparian phreatophyte communities but insignificant in desert phreatophyte communities impacted by heavy grazing. Grazing management in desert upland and phreatophyte communities may result in reduced groundwater recharge, increased groundwater discharge, and could be used to influence local groundwater flow.« less
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Program Document
Navarro Research and Engineering, Inc.2597 Legacy WayGrand Junction, CO 81503(970) 248-6000
Research Org:
US Department of Energy/Office of Legacy Management
Sponsoring Org:
USDOE Office of Legacy Management (LM), Office of Site Operations (LM-20)
Country of Publication:
United States