American Society of Civil Engineers

Quantifying Rainfall and Flooding Impacts on Groundwater Levels in Irrigation Areas: GIS Approach

by Shahbaz Khan, (Prof. of Hydro., Charles Sturt Univ., Program Leader, Cooperative Res. Centre for Irrigation Futures, and Sr. Prin. Scientist, CSIRO Land and Water, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia. E-mail:, Aftab Ahmad, (Res. Assoc. — Hydro., Charles Sturt Univ., and Proj. Leader, Cooperative Res. Centre for Irrigation Futures, Locked Bag 588, Wagga Wagga, NSW 2678, Australia. E-mail:, and Butian Wang, (Hydro., CSIRO Land and Water, Griffith Lab., Griffith, NSW 2680, Australia. E-mail:

Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering, Vol. 133, No. 4, July/August 2007, pp. 359-367, (doi:

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Document type: Journal Paper
Abstract: Landscapes continuously irrigated without proper drainage for a long period of time frequently experience a rise in water-table levels. Waterlogging and salinization of irrigated areas are immediate impacts of this situation in arid areas, especially when groundwater salinity is high. Flooding and heavy rainfall further recharge groundwater and accelerate these impacts. An understanding of regional groundwater dynamics is required to implement land and water management strategies. The purpose of this study is to quantify the impact of flood and rain events on spatial scales using a geographic information system (GIS). This paper presents a case study of shallow water-table levels and salinity problems in the Wakool irrigation district located in the Murray irrigation area with groundwater average electrical conductivity greater than 25,000 μS/cm. This area has experienced several large flood events during the past several decades. Piezometric data are interpolated to generate a water-table surface for each event by applying the Kriging method of spatial interpolation using the linear variogram model. Spatial and temporal analysis of major flood events over the last four decades is conducted using calculated water-table surfaces to quantify the change in groundwater storage and shallow water-table levels. The drainage impact of a subsurface drainage scheme partially covering the area has also been quantified in this paper. The results show that flooding and local rainfall have a significant impact on shallow groundwater. The study also found that postflood climatic conditions (evaporation and rainfall) play a significant role in the groundwater dynamics of the area. The spatial net average groundwater recharge during the flooding events ranges from 0.19 to 0.52 ML/ha. The GIS-based techniques described in this paper can be used for net recharge estimation in semiarid regions where it is important to quantify net recharge impacts of regional flooding and local rainfall. The spatial visualization of the net recharge in a GIS environment can help prioritize management actions by local communities.

ASCE Subject Headings:
Subsurface drainage
Spatial analysis
Geographic information systems