Although riparian areas in the arid southwestern United States are critical for maintaining species diversity, their extent and health have been declining since Euro-American settlement. The purpose of this study was to develop a methodology to evaluate the potential for riparian vegetation restoration and groundwater recharge. A numerical groundwater flow model was coupled with a conceptual riparian vegetation model to predict hydrologic conditions favorable to maintaining riparian vegetation downstream of a reservoir. A Geographic Information System (GIS) was used for this one-way coupling. Constant and seasonally varying releases from the dam were simulated using volumes anticipated to be permitted by a regional water supplier. Simulations indicated that seasonally variable releases would produce surface flow 5.4-8.5 km below the dam in a previously dry reach. Using depth to groundwater simulations from the numerical flow model with conceptual models of depths to water necessary for maintenance of riparian vegetation, the GIS analysis predicted a 5- to 6.5-fold increase in the area capable of sustaining riparian vegetation.
Additional publication details
Coupling groundwater and riparian vegetation models to assess effects of reservoir releases