Quantification of Temperature Change to a Water Body Influenced by Subsurface Return Flow

Project ID: 2440
Principal Investigator: Sharon Parkinson
Research Topic: Water Quality
Priority Area Assignments: 2011 (Climate Adaptation), 2012 (Climate Adaptation), 2013 (Climate Adaptation)
Funded Fiscal Years: 2011 and 2012
Keywords: None

Research Question

This proposal is designed to evaluate the potential for developing a model that can help answer the following question: Can changes in river temperature be quantified, in degrees and thermal units, as a result of subsurface water returns? The initial scoping proposal that this submission is based on evaluated available tools with minimal changes that could be used in addressing this question. Based on these findings, this proposal would focus on relative model improvements and a methodology to quantify the potential temperature change in the hyporheic zone and its influence on the thermal regime of a stream. It is imperative for the Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) to understand temperature effects of its projects in order to incorporate flexibility in managing the resource as effectively as possible as well as understanding and predicting system responses to altered operations: total maximum daily load (TMDL), climate change, irrigation practices, and water delivery management.

Need and Benefit

Increasingly, Reclamation is being required to monitor temperature within rivers and below project facilities to comply with TMDLs and other Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations. By investigating the thermal benefit of returning irrigation drains via wetlands or subsurface pathways and, in turn, quantifying the benefit, Reclamation can demonstrate compliance and effects to river reaches while complying with stipulated water quality standards and effectively satisfying its water delivery obligations. This type of analysis would be valuable when demonstrating temperature compliance with a proposed mitigation measure. Additionally, this proposal will investigate the data needs and requirements for model population.

Development of advanced surface water and ground water management tools is paramount to Reclamation's ability to reliably deliver water and generate power as effectively as possible. Reclamation is responsible for understanding the impacts of its project operations and resulting water quality to the surrounding system in meeting standards. Typically, ground water and surface water processes are viewed and managed separately. In many situations, surface water and ground water processes comprise a single system that must be understood and managed together if the resources are to be used effectively. The ability to operate models that can simulate ground water/surface water interactions with models that can incorporate water quality constituents will allow Reclamation to analyze various water delivery management scenarios by analyzing the potential thermal regime change to the streambed.

Contributing Partners

Contact the Principal Investigator for information about partners.

Research Products

Please contact research@usbr.gov about research products related to this project.

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Last Updated: 6/22/20