Prediction of Future Agricultural Water Needs in Mississippi Delta and Blackland Prairie under Surface Water Supply and Groundwater Pumping Scenarios

Author(s): Feng, G.; Ouyang, Y.; Reginelli, D.; Jenkins, J.

The total area of Mississippi is approximately 30 million acre, grain crops take 4.6 million acre lands. Mississippi western Delta (5 million acre in total) and eastern Blackland Prairie (total 3 million acre) are two major agricultural regions where 80% of the MS croplands are planted. The Delta region accounts for 67% of the state croplands, over 90% of irrigation water is pumped from groundwater. The ongoing irrigation depletion of groundwater which has already declined to the alarming level in the Delta threaten agricultural productivity and sustainability. Enhancement of surface water supply is the solution to reduction of groundwater usage in the state which is rich with rainfall and surface. Sustainable conjunctive use of surface and ground water resources for irrigation requires knowledge of crop water requirement and deficit as well as prediction of future agricultural water needs. Soybean, corn and cotton are planted on 65% of croplands in Mississippi. Therefore, irrigation water needs of the three dominant crops were predicted. Patterns and trends of rainfall, reference evapotranspiration (ETo), water deficit and irrigation requirement in Delta (1915-2015) and Blackland Prairie (1894-2014) were analyzed using time series statistical models for annual, seasonal, and monthly periods. An AutoRegressive, Integrated, and Moving Average (ARIMA) approach was used to develop monthly and annual models for rainfall and ETo prediction. The ARIMA models forecasted 1319 mm of mean annual rainfall and 1203 mm of mean annual ETo in the two regions from 2016 to 2024. Those models predicted that soybean, corn and cotton need irrigation of 7.1, 6.6 and 6.9 inch yr-1. In 2014, there are 283,535 and 31,654 ac of cotton, 382,935 and 71,428 ac of corn, 1,595,363 and 217,640 ac of soybean in the Delta and Blackland Prairie, respectively. Totally, the three major row crops need 1.3 million acre feet of water in Delta and 0.2 million acre feet in the Blackland Prairie for irrigation each year. Surface water as an alternative option must be taken to place irrigation agriculture on a sustainable path. Our STELLA pond hydrological process model predicted that the ratio of pond size to irrigated crop land is 1:18. There are approximately 251,983 and 77,186 acre of surface water in the Delta and Blackland Prairie. If 19% and 16% of those surface water is used for irrigation in the two regions, at least 37% (481,155 acre feet) and 100% (185,837 acre feet) of groundwater could be saved in the MS Delta and Blackland Prairie, respectively.

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