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Optimal Water Allocation from Subsurface Dams: A Risk-Based Optimization Approach

Abstract

Subsurface dams, strongly advocated in the 1992 United Nations Agenda-21, have been widely studied to increase groundwater storage capacity. However, an optimal allocation of augmented water with the construction of the subsurface dams to compensate for the water shortage during dry periods has not so far been investigated. This study, therefore, presents a risk-based simulation–optimization framework to determine optimal water allocation with subsurface dams, which minimizes the risk of water shortage in different climatic conditions. The developed framework was evaluated in Al-Aswad falaj, an ancient water supply system in which a gently sloping underground channel was dug to convey water from an aquifer via the gravity force to the surface for irrigation of downstream agricultural zones. The groundwater dynamics were modeled using MODFLOW UnStructured-Grid. The data of boreholes were used to generate a three-dimensional stratigraphic model, which was used to define materials and elevations of five-layer grid cells. The validated groundwater model was employed to assess the effects of the subsurface dam on the discharge of the falaj. A Conditional Value-at-Risk optimization model was also developed to minimize the risk of water shortage for the augmented discharge on downstream agricultural zones. Results show that discharge of the falaj is significantly augmented with a long-term average increase of 46.51%. Moreover, it was found that the developed framework decreases the water shortage percentage in 5% of the worst cases from 87%, 75%, and 32% to 53%, 32%, and 0% under the current and augmented discharge in dry, normal, and wet periods, respectively.

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Data Availability

The data that support the findings of this study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resources for providing the required data. We also acknowledge local expert Mr. Eng. Ahmed Salim Al-Wahibi for his generous support for falaj survey, soil sampling and data collection. Authors extend appreciation to the research Group DR/RG/17.

Funding

The authors would like to thank Sultan Qaboos University for the financial support under Grant Number IG/DVC/WRC/18/01.

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A.I.: Project administration, Supervision, Funding acquisition, Conceptualization, Methodology, Investigation, Writing-original draft; M.S.K.: Software, Investigation, Formal analysis, Writing-original draft; M.R.N.: Conceptualization, Methodology, Software, Investigation, Formal analysis, Writing—Review and Editing; A.A.: Resources, Writing—Review and Editing; M.C.: Formal analysis, Writing—Review and Editing; H.A.: Investigation; A.H.G.: Writing—Review and Editing.

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Correspondence to Azizallah Izady.

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Izady, A., Khorshidi, M.S., Nikoo, M.R. et al. Optimal Water Allocation from Subsurface Dams: A Risk-Based Optimization Approach. Water Resour Manage 35, 4275–4290 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11269-021-02946-9

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Keywords

  • Subsurface dam
  • Water allocation
  • Conditional value-at-risk
  • Optimization
  • MODFLOW
  • Falaj