Water Resources Institute

The Rolling Hills Study Group: Solving an Agricultural Water Balance Problem

The Rolling Hills study group from the University of Lethbridge has been working on a project for the Eastern Irrigation District. The Rolling Hills area is located in Southern Alberta, south of Brooks. The overlying objective for the project is to use water within the Eastern Irrigation District as efficiently as possible. This can be determined by numerical and visual tools to assess water demand, use, and allocation. A model has been made to predict runoff with climate and growing conditions as parameters. The final objective is to produce a system which maps estimated soil moisture conditions over the entire district. This system would be utilized for water allocation strategies as well as being available to farmers over the net.

This project was designed for a senior level hydrology class (Geography 4012) at the University of Lethbridge taught by Dr. James Byrne. Four students at the end of the Spring semester are now continuing this project. These students all have interests in hydrology and water resource issues. They all are in their last year of study in BSc Geography. Two of the students are planning to start Master Degrees, one in snow accumulation modeling in alpine areas, and the other in Urban Groundwater.

This page will outline the work that the Rolling Hills Study Group has accomplished over the last few months. We examined data including soil type, crop type, irrigation equipment, and climate. From this data our objective was to determine the rates of natural runoff that occur after a large precipitation event. A major runoff event was determined using our data set, Julian date 215 (August 3rd, 1995). Crop and soil types that contributed the greatest portion of this runoff were also identified. Our study group used a daily water balance model to track the movement of water into and out of the soil.

Our water balance model predicted large volumes of runoffs in conjunction with the precipitation event on day 215 of 1995. Sources of runoff by crop type, soil type and rooting depth that contributed the most to runoff were identified.