Well, its Week 10 of my internship; the weather is hot, and the coding has been fierce, lol.
I’m finally almost finished with my agent-based model (as far as I know, anyways…. [different story, much less pleasant / much more frustrating]) and am about ready to start integrating the program containing the model of the groundwater aquifer in with my program!
The idea is to create an agent-based model of farmers’ irrigation behavior when growing corn, sorghum, soybean, and wheat in an area of the Republican River Watershed. How much water the farmer uses to irrigate his/her crops depends not only on the actual water conditions in the soil, but also on his/her “comfort level” with the crops being exposed to water stress (lack of water) at the time. Taking both of these factors into consideration, we calculate how much water is used to grow the crops through a given growing season, and the net profit that the farmer can gain from having grown those crops!
While the ABM is running, we will feed the information it generates about the farmer’s water use into a program that contains a “physical model” of the groundwater aquifer in the area. This will enable us to see not only the effect of the farmer’s pumping behavior on the water levels and overall health of the aquifer, but will also allow us to calculate the pumping costs that the farmer will incur. As the water levels in the aquifer get lower and lower in an area, water needs to be pumped a greater distance up to the ground (where the farmer will use it) – this, of course, gets harder to do, and requires more electricity to complete. More electricity used == greater pumping costs to the farmer == lower season profits! In addition to any damage to the aquifer that his/her pumping might be causing!
As it can take literally thousands (in some areas over 10,000) years for our groundwater aquifers to recharge/recover from being depleted, this is a really important issue for the future of human agriculture. Hopefully, we will be able to contribute to the body of knowledge available to policy-makers, and help them to enact regulations that allow farmers to keep crop profits as high as possible while maintaining sustainable irrigation habits.
It is exciting work to be doing! I’ve learned a lot so far about coding, farming, irrigation, and about the life/career path of a researcher. And during the days that I’m not meeting with my supervisor, I’ve been able to take my work outside so that I can enjoy the beautiful weather while hopefully making a small contribution to helping our agricultural industry become more sustainable. Can’t complain!