Groundwater is increasingly being overdrafted in the Southeastern U.S., despite abundant rainfall and the apparent availability of surface water. Using the state of Louisiana as an example, the current study quantifies the stresses on water resources and investigates the potential for opportunities to use surface water in lieu of groundwater pumping. The assessment is based on a fine watershed scale (12-digit Hydrological Unit Code [HUC] boundaries) water balance between the availability of surface and groundwater and surface water and groundwater demand. Water demand includes environmental flows, as well as public supply, rural domestic, industrial, power generation, agricultural, and aquaculture sectors. The seasonality of water stress is also addressed by incorporating monthly variations in surface water supply and irrigation demands. We develop several new weighting schemes to disaggregate the water withdrawals, provided by the U.S. Geological Survey on a county scale, to the HUC12 scale. The analysis on the smaller HUC12 scale is important for identifying areas with high water stress that would otherwise be masked at a larger scale (e.g. the county or HUC8 watershed scales). The results indicate that the annual water stress in Louisiana is below one (i.e. there is more water available than is used) for most watersheds; however, some watersheds (15 of the HUC12 units) show stresses greater than one, indicating an insufficient water supply to meet existing demands. The areas of the highest water stress are largely attributable to water consumption for power generating plants or irrigation. Moreover, estimating the stresses on surface water and groundwater sources separately confirms our speculation of abundant surface water and demonstrates a significant over-drafting/deficit of groundwater in many of the states aquifer systems. These results have implications for identifying new opportunities for reallocation of surface water use to reduce groundwater pumping and improve water sustainability in the region. Seasonal fluctuations in surface water supply and water withdrawals for irrigation highlight the fact that the water system is under more stress during the summer season. This observation underscores the need for infrastructure for shortterm surface water storage in agricultural regions. The water budget analysis presented here can be useful for stakeholders in developing water management plans and can also help to inform the development of a water code that will enable Louisiana to successfully manage and conserve its water resources for the future.


Geosciences and Geological and Petroleum Engineering

Keywords and Phrases

Agriculture; Aquifers; Budget control; Catchments; Groundwater; Groundwater resources; Irrigation; Rain; Scales (weighing instruments); Surface water resources; Surface waters; Sustainable development; Water conservation; Water management; Water supply; Watersheds; Disaggregation; Louisiana; Seasonal fluctuations; Surface water and groundwaters; U.S. geological surveys; Water budget analysis; Water stress; Water withdrawal; Water resources

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)


Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2016 Institute of Physics Publishing, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Dec 2016

Included in

Geology Commons