2023 report

Simulation of future streamflow and irrigation demand based on climate and urban growth projections in the Cape Fear and Pee Dee River Basins, North Carolina and South Carolina, 2055–65

By: L. Gurley, A. García, C. Pfeifle & G. Sanchez*

Source: ORCID
Added: June 22, 2023

First posted June 21, 2023 For additional information, contact: For more information about this publication, contactProgram CoordinatorU.S. Geological SurveyWater Availability and Use Science ProgramNational Water Quality ProgramEmail: wausp-info@usgs.govFor additional information, visithttps://www.usgs.gov/programs/national-water-quality-programContact Pubs Warehouse Water resources in the coastal region of North Carolina and South Carolina (Coastal Carolinas) are currently under stress from competing ecological and societal needs. Projected changes in climate and population are expected to place even more stress on water resources in the region. The Coastal Carolinas Focus Area Study was initiated by the U.S. Geological Survey Water Availability and Use Science Program’s National Water Census to investigate these stressors and their effects on water resources for the Coastal Carolinas. As part of that study, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was used to investigate future streamflow and irrigation demand under six scenarios for the Cape Fear and Pee Dee River Basins, which flow through the Coastal Carolinas and into the Atlantic Ocean.For each river basin, historical (2000 through 2014) Soil and Water Assessment Tool models were minimally calibrated, and future (2055 through 2065) scenario models were developed based on three alternative global climate models, two alternative urban growth projections, and water-use projections that correspond to each global climate model and urban growth projection pair. The river basins were delineated into 2,928 and 5,678 subbasins for the Cape Fear and Pee Dee, respectively, each approximately 2.6 square miles (mi2) in size. The best available water-use and wastewater discharge data were used for historical model calibration. The models simulated monthly mean streamflow with median Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency values of 0.53 (n = 36) and 0.61 (n = 33) in the Cape Fear and Pee Dee River Basins, respectively. Average percent bias was −4.8 percent for the Cape Fear River Basin and −1.2 percent for the Pee Dee River Basin. Catchments for streamgages chosen for model calibration that were small (less than 100 mi2) to medium (100–1,000 mi2) in area tended to perform better than larger catchments (greater than 1,000 mi2).Historical models were used to develop future model scenarios by replacing historical weather, land-use, and water-use input datasets with projected datasets. One small, gaged catchment was selected to illustrate how the models can be used to evaluate the relative differences in simulated streamflow resulting from alternative global climate models and urban growth projections. For the selected catchment, future climate projections had a much greater influence on simulated streamflow than urban growth projections. Simulated cumulative monthly mean streamflow results for this catchment differed by 26 percent under alternative global climate models and differed by 2.4 percent under alternative urban growth projections.Irrigation demand was modeled for subbasins with cropland. Simulated differences in irrigation demand were more pronounced and widespread across the model domain under the alternative future climate scenarios compared to alternative urban growth scenarios.The calibrated and future scenario models have the capability to run on a daily time step and simulate streamflow and irrigation demand for thousands of small subbasins in the Cape Fear and Pee Dee River Basins. The models and underlying datasets enable future analyses for large and small areas within the basins.