Remotely Sensed Estimates of Evapotranspiration in Agricultural Areas of Northwestern Nevada: Drought, Reliance, and Water Transfers
AuthorBromley, Matthew R.
AdvisorAlbright, Thomas P
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The arid landscape of northwestern Nevada is punctuated by agricultural communities that rely on water primarily supplied by the diversion of surface waters and secondarily by groundwater resources. Annual precipitation in the form of winter snowfall largely determines the amount of surface water that is available for irrigation for the following agricultural growing season. During years of insufficient surface water supplies, particular basins can use groundwater in order to meet irrigation needs. The amount of water used to irrigate agricultural land is influenced by land use changes, such as fallowing, and water right transfers from irrigation to municipal use. To evaluate agricultural water consumption with respect to variations in weather, water supply, and land use changes, monthly estimates of evapotranspiration (ET) were derived from Landsat multispectral optical and thermal imagery over a eleven-year period (2001 to 2011) and compared to variations in weather, water supply, and land use across four hydrographic areas in northwestern Nevada. Monthly ET was estimated using a land surface energy balance model, Mapping EvapoTranspiration at high Resolution with Internalized Calibration (METRIC), using Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 imagery combined with local atmospheric water demand estimates. Estimates of net ET were created by subtracting monthly precipitation from METRIC-derived ET, and seasonal estimates were generated by combining monthly ET for April-October (the regional agricultural growing season). Results highlight that a range of geographic, climatic, hydrographic, and anthropogenic factors influence ET. Hydrographic areas such as Mason Valley have the ability to mitigate deficiencies in surface water supplies by pumping supplemental groundwater, thereby resulting in low annual variability in ET. Conversely, the community of Lovelock has access to limited upstream surface water storage and is restricted by groundwater that is saline and unsuitable for irrigation use. These factors result in Lovelock being extremely susceptible to instances of prolonged drought, and exhibiting large fluctuations in annual ET. This work clearly illustrates that agricultural consumptive use is a function of water supply, weather, and land use change, which is useful in distinguishing how prolonged droughts and changing climate will potentially affect different hydrographic areas and agricultural communities in the future.