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Neural Networks to Simulate Regional Ground Water Levels Affected by Human Activities

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In arid regions, human activities like agriculture and industry often require large ground water extractions. Under these circumstances, appropriate ground water management policies are essential for preventing aquifer overdraft, and thereby protecting critical ecologic and economic objectives. Identification of such policies requires accurate simulation capability of the ground water system in response to hydrological, meteorological, and human factors. In this research, artificial neural networks (ANNs) were developed and applied to investigate the effects of these factors on ground water levels in the Minqin oasis, located in the lower reach of Shiyang River Basin, in Northwest China. Using data spanning 1980 through 1997, two ANNs were developed to model and simulate dynamic ground water levels for the two subregions of Xinhe and Xiqu. The ANN models achieved high predictive accuracy, validating to 0.37 m or less mean absolute error. Sensitivity analyses were conducted with the models demonstrating that agricultural ground water extraction for irrigation is the predominant factor responsible for declining ground water levels exacerbated by a reduction in regional surface water inflows. ANN simulations indicate that it is necessary to reduce the size of the irrigation area to mitigate ground water level declines in the oasis. Unlike previous research, this study demonstrates that ANN modeling can capture important temporally and spatially distributed human factors like agricultural practices and water extraction patterns on a regional basin (or subbasin) scale, providing both high-accuracy prediction capability and enhanced understanding of the critical factors influencing regional ground water conditions.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Centre for Agricultural Water Research in China, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, People’s Republic of China.

Publication date: 2008-01-01

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