The University of Arizona

Water budget for south Texas rangelands.

M.A. Weltz, W.H. Blackburn

Abstract


Understanding hydrologic processes is essential to determine if water yield augmentation is possible through vegetation manipulation. Nine large non-weighing lysimeters, each 35 m2, were installed on the La Copita Research Area, 20 km south of Alice, in the eastern Rio Grande Plain of Texas. The non-weighing lysimeters were used to test the hypothesis that honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa var glandulosa Torr.) shrub clusters have greater evapotranspiration rates than grass interspaces. Annual evapotranspiration rates of shrub clusters and grass interspaces were found to be similar, and both were significantly greater than evaporative losses from bare soil. Surface runoff and deep drainage of water (> 2 m) from the bare soil were significantly greater than from the grass interspaces and shrub clusters. There was no drainage of water below 2 m from the shrub clusters. A total of 22 mm of water percolated below 2 m from the grass interspace during the 18 month study period. These results indicate that no net change in the water budget would occur if shrub clusters were replaced with grasses in years with below average or normal rainfall. Increasing water yield from converting shrub-dominated rangelands to grass-dominated rangelands in south Texas is marginal in this area and limited to years when winter and spring rainfall exceeds potential evapotranspiration. There is little evidence to suggest that the minimal (non-significant difference) increase in percolation and surface runoff from the grass interspaces could be reliably captured and dependably made available off-site.

Keywords


water yield;water balance;evapotranspiration;Prosopis glandulosa var. glandulosa;rain;runoff;Texas;drought;rangelands;grasses;soil water

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