Simulating the effects of reduced precipitation on ground water and streamflow in the Nebraska sand hills

Xunhong Chen, Xi Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


The Nebraska Sand Hills have a unique hydrologic system with very little runoff and thick aquifers that constantly supply water to rivers, lakes, and wetlands. A ground water flow model was developed to determine the interactions between ground water and streamflow and to simulate the changes in ground water systems by reduced precipitation. The numerical modeling method includes a water balance model for the vadose zone and MOD-FLOW for the saturated zone. The modeling results indicated that, between 1979 and 1990, 13 percent of the annual precipitation recharged to the aquifer and annual ground water loss by evapotranspiration (ET) was only about one-fourth of this recharge. Ground water discharge to rivers accounts for about 96 percent of the streamflow in the Dismal and Middle Loup rivers. When precipitation decreased by half the average amount of the 1979 to 1990 period, the average decline of water table over the study area was 0.89 m, and the streamflow was about 87 percent of the present rate. This decline of the water table results in significant reductions in ET directly from ground water and so a significant portion of the streamflow is maintained by capture of the salvaged ET.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)419-430
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Evapotranspiration
  • Ground water modeling
  • High Plains Aquifer
  • Nebraska Sand Hills
  • Precipitation
  • Recharge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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