Everyone knows that climate affects our water supply, but new research from North Carolina State University (NC State) gives scientists and water-resource managers an unprecedented level of detail on how climate and precipitation influence ground water and surface water levels in the Southeast.
found that the ground water, primarily from unconfined aquifers, available in
any given month is directly influenced by the amount of precipitation that fell
in that watershed three months earlier. For example, ground water levels in
April are affected by precipitation that fell in January.
streamflow – the amount of water in rivers, streams and other surface waters –
is influenced by overall ground water levels over the previous three months
combined. So streamflow in April is influenced by ground water levels in
January, February and March.
is the first time we've had this specific understanding of how climate and
precipitation influence ground water and streamflow in the Southeast,"
says Dr. Sankar Arumugam, co-author of a paper describing the study and an
associate professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering at NC
State. The researchers looked at the Southeast region of the United States, stretching from Virginia
to Florida and westward to include Alabama.
findings give water-resource managers significantly more information they can
use to make planning and policy decisions to better prepare for water shortages
or drought by developing management plans that account for both streamflow and
ground water," Arumugam says.
researchers evaluated 20 years to 30 years of data from 20 watersheds
throughout the Southeast, as well as climate data from the El Nino Southern
Oscillation – which denotes hot (El Nino) or cold (La Nina) sea-surface
temperature conditions in the tropical Pacific.