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How much water can be captured from flood flows to store in depleted aquifers for mitigating floods and droughts? A case study from Texas, US

Extreme flooding from Hurricane Harvey (~100 km3, ~80 million acre feet, maf of rainfall) in Houston, Texas, US co-located with depleted aquifers raises the question of whether we can capture floodwater to reduce flooding impacts and replenish aquifers for droughts. Here we quantified how much water could be captured from high magnitude flows (HMFs) in 10 major rivers discharging to the Gulf of Mexico for potential storage in depleted aquifers along the Texas Gulf Coast. Results show that HMFs (≥95th percentile) from rivers discharging to the Gulf of Mexico total 37 km3 (30 maf) in 2015–2017, similar in capacity to US Lake Mead (32 km3, 26 maf). These flows are less than modeled unappropriated flows that consider appropriated water rights and limited analysis suggests moderate reduction from environmental flows. Similarity in high flow volumes and modeled groundwater depletion in the Gulf Coast Aquifer system (~25 km3, 20 maf) underscores the potential to partially mitigate flooding using aquifer storage. Interim storage would be required to resolve disconnects between high flood intensities and low aquifer injection rates. Engineering approaches will become increasingly important to manage climate extremes.
Author: Yang, Qian; Scanlon, Bridget R
Language: English
Pubished By: Environmental Research Letters
Pubished date: 2019

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