Abstract

In agricultural areas where groundwater is the main water supply for irrigation, forecasts of the water table are key to optimal water management. However, water management can be constrained by semiseasonal to seasonal forecast. The objective is to create an ensemble of water table 1-to-5-month lead-time forecasts based on multiple data-driven models (DDMs). We hypothesize that data-driven modeling capabilities (e.g., random forests, support vector machines, artificial neural networks (ANNs), extreme learning machines, and genetic programming) will improve naïve and autoregressive simulations of groundwater tables. An input variable selection method was used to carry the maximum information in the input (precipitation, crop water demand, changes in groundwater table, snowmelt, and evapotranspiration) and output relationship for the DDMs. Five DDMs were implemented to forecast groundwater tables in an unconfined aquifer in the Northern High Plains (Nebraska, USA). RMSE and Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency index were used to evaluate the skill of the model and three hydrologic regimes were determined statistically as high, mid, and low groundwater table levels. Additionally, varying storage regimes were used to construct rising and falling limbs in the tested well. Results show that all models outperform the baseline for all the lead times, ANNs being the best of all.

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