This simulation study explores opportunities to reduce catchment deep drainage through better matching land use with soil and topography, including the 'harvesting' (evapotranspiration) of excess water running on to lower land units. A farming system simulator was coupled with a catchment hydrological framework to enable analysis of climate variability and 11 different land-use options as they impact the catchment water balance. These land-use options were arranged in different configurations down a sequence of three hydrologically interconnected slope units (uphill, mid-slope and valley floor land units) in a subcatchment of Simmons Creek, southern New South Wales, Australia. With annual crops, the valley floor land units were predicted to receive 187 mm year-1 of run-on water in addition to annual rainfall in 1 in 10 years, and in excess of 94 mm year-1 in 1 in 4 years. In this valley floor position, predicted drainage averaged approximately 110 mm year-1 under annual crops and pastures, whereas permanent tree cover or perennial lucerne was predicted to reduce drainage by up to 99%. The planting of trees or lucerne on the valley floor units could 'harvest' run-on water, reducing drainage for the whole subcatchment with proportionately small reduction in land areas cropped. Upslope land units, even though often having shallower soil, will not necessarily be the most effective locations to plant perennial vegetation for the purposes of recharge reduction. Water harvesting opportunities are site specific, dependent on the amounts and frequency of flows of water to lower landscape units, the amounts and frequency of deep drainage on the different land units, the relative areas of the different land units, and interactions with land use in the different slope positions.
Wang, E., Cresswell, H. P., Paydar, Z., & Gallant, J. (2008). Opportunities for manipulating catchment water balance by changing vegetation type on a topographic sequence: a simulation study. Hydrological Processes, 22(6), 736-749. https://doi.org/10.1002/hyp.6655