A GIS enabled nested simulation-optimization model for routing groundwater to overcome spatio-temporal water supply and demand disconnects in South Texas

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Groundwater, under sustainable management policies, can be an invaluable source of water to municipal, agricultural, and industrial sectors. Management, however, can be challenging given that historically, these resources have been privately owned and minimally regulated. This research details the development of a decision support system (DSS) which couples a GIS-based multi-criteria decision-making (MCDM) scheme with simulation-optimization routines to identify suitable regions for groundwater development and optimal preferences for apportioning those supplies to areas of demand in South Texas. The developed DSS consisted of three modules: (1) a GIS-based MCDM for identifying suitable locations for groundwater production; (2) a simulation-optimization model for estimating available groundwater; and (3) a transportation optimization model for redistributing the groundwater. Applying a comprehensive suite of nine exclusionary criteria in GIS resulted in only 15,304 km2 (5,909 mi2) suitable for groundwater production out of the original ~50,500 km2 (19,500 mi2). Two ideal sites were selected in the suitable region based on proposed major water supply projects in the study area. The projected groundwater extraction rates per month varied considerably over a year emphasizing a need for storage technologies. Furthermore, a transportation optimization model, which considered cost of storage and movement, was developed and applied to obtain the most optimal scheme to transport groundwater from potential supply centers located in Bee and Kennedy counties to projected water deficit areas of San Antonio, Laredo, and McAllen, TX, USA. Lastly, a full-factorial sensitivity analysis was carried out to check the impacts of the supply and demand factors on groundwater production and transport. Policies at the supply centers had a larger impact on the total availability of water, and policies at the demand centers had a larger impact on the total cost of the management scheme. Furthermore, an analysis of total volume stored in a storage and recovery system exhibited an inverse relationship with the groundwater development (supply side) policies and a direct relationship with the demand requirements. The developed DSS proved useful for determining the most optimal siting and distribution network for groundwater sources in South Texas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2573-2587
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Earth Sciences
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014



  • Groundwater
  • Gulf coast aquifer
  • Routing
  • Trans-shipment optimization
  • Water scarcity

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