On Tuesday, April 12, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) released a sophisticated computer model of the interconnected aquifers in central and northern Arizona. The Northern Arizona Regional Groundwater Flow Model simulates how precipitation moves through aquifers and eventually supplies water to rivers, streams, and springs. The model covers the watersheds of the Verde, Salt, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Years in the making, the model was commissioned by the Arizona Department of Water Resources in 1999. The Yavapai County Water Advisory Committee also provided financial support.
A key benefit of the model is that it will allow policymakers and other users to understand how various changes, natural or social, may affect regional groundwater supplies. For example, as Joanna Dodder Nellans notes in an article in The Daily Courier, local governments could analyze how projected population growth might affect local groundwater systems and related surface water bodies. The model could also be used to evaluate the efficacy of artificial recharge efforts as well as the impacts of climate change. Another valuable aspect of the model is that it facilitates a better understanding of how groundwater movement in one area affects flows in other areas.