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Estimating Groundwater Evapotranspiration for Tamarisk-Dominated Riparian Communities through Satellite Imaging, Virgin and Muddy Rivers, Nevada
AuthorDunkerly, Christian W.
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Southern Nevada features very high water demands and very low water availability. Tamarisk is a significant user of surface and groundwater supplies but uses significantly less water when it is defoliated by the northern tamarisk beetle. Because the ability to account for the water conserved by tamarisk defoliation would be helpful to water managers, I attempted to measure the difference in evapotranspiration rates before and after defoliation using remote sensing. Estimations of annual groundwater evapotranspiration rates were made using remote-sensing data from the Landsat 5 satellite for the Virgin and Muddy River systems in Southern Nevada for the years of 2007 through 2011 at various points in the northern tamarisk beetle’s diapause cycle. Comparisons were then made between the evapotranspiration rates of tamarisk groves that had or had not been defoliated to estimate the water total water saved. Results suggest that for the year 2011, the reduced transpiration rate of tamarisk due to defoliation saved an estimated 2,205 ac-ft of water.