AbstractAlthough there is extensive work related to design and implementation of model-driven optimal groundwater management, evaluation of the performance of those models is less reported. This hinders transferability of lessons learned and wide adoption of specific policies. This paper reports a study designed to evaluate the effectiveness of a real-time optimal groundwater management tool, optimized regional operations plan (OROP), used in the Tampa Bay region (located on the west coast of Florida in the United States) since 1998. The overarching question in this study is how different groundwater levels would have been at monitoring sites if such an operational decision-supporting tool was not implemented. The proposed framework is comprised of multiple steps, including generating a non-OROP groundwater pumping scenario that would have happened without the decision support tool in place, running a modified optimization model in retrospective mode, and comparing water level between OROP-based and non-OROP–based pumpage scenarios. The framework is applied to historical data in the past decade (2010–2019). In generating an alternative pumpage scenario, realistic model constraints (e.g., pump capacity, pipeline hydraulics, and network) were used to generate wellfield pumpage to meet demands. Wellfield pumpage is then disaggregated at individual wells. Differences in resulting water levels at monitoring wells, at multiple timescales, between the OROP and non-OROP pumpage scenarios were calculated. Results reveal that although at a weekly timescale the effectiveness of OROP seems minimal over the region, the cumulative effectiveness at the monthly and annual timescales is remarkable. It is also found that benefit of using OROP is even higher during dry seasons when groundwater levels are more critical in maintaining wetland health. The proposed framework presented in this study can be applied to other areas in evaluating groundwater management strategies.

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