thumbnail

Origin of the Colorado River experimental flood in Grand Canyon

Hydrological Sciences Journal/Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques

By:
,

Links

  • The Publications Warehouse does not have links to digital versions of this publication at this time
  • Download citation as: RIS

Abstract

The Colorado River is one of the most highly regulated and extensively utilized rivers in the world. Total reservoir storage is approximately four times the mean annual runoff of ~17 x 109 m3 year -1. Reservoir storage and regulation have decreased annual peak discharges and hydroelectric power generation has increased daily flow variability. In recent years, the incidental impacts of this development have become apparent especially along the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park downstream from Glen Canyon Dam and caused widespread concern. Since the completion of Glen Canyon Dam, the number and size of sand bars, which are used by recreational river runners and form the habitat for native fishes, have decreased substantially. Following an extensive hydrological and geomorphic investigation, an experimental flood release from the Glen Canyon Dam was proposed to determine whether sand bars would be rebuilt by a relatively brief period of flow substantially greater than the normal operating regime. This proposed release, however, was constrained by the Law of the River, the body of law developed over 70 years to control and distribute Colorado River water, the needs of hydropower users and those dependent upon hydropower revenues, and the physical constraints of the dam itself. A compromise was reached following often difficult negotiations and an experimental flood to rebuild sand bars was released in 1996. This flood, and the process by which it came about, gives hope to resolving the difficult and pervasive problem of allocation of water resources among competing interests.The Colorado River is one of the most highly regulated and extensively utilized rivers in the world. Total reservoir storage is approximately four times the mean annual runoff of approximately 17??109 m3 year-1. Reservoir storage and regulation have decreased annual peak discharges and hydroelectric power generation has increased daily flow variability. In recent years, the incidental impacts of this development have become apparent especially along the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park downstream from Glen Canyon Dam and caused widespread concern. Since the completion of Glen Canyon Dam, the number and size of sand bars, which are used by recreational river runners and form the habitat for native fishes, have decreased substantially. Following an extensive hydrological and geomorphic investigation, an experimental flood release from the Glen Canyon Dam was proposed to determine whether sand bars would be rebuilt by a relatively brief period of flow substantially greater than the normal operating regime. This proposed release, however, was constrained by the Law of the River, the body of law developed over 70 years to control and distribute Colorado River water, the needs of hydropower users and those dependent upon hydropower revenues, and the physical constraints of the dam itself. A compromise was reached following often difficult negotiations and an experimental flood to rebuild sand bars was released in 1996. This flood, and the process by which it came about, gives hope to resolving the difficult and pervasive problem of allocation of water resources among competing interests.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Article
Publication Subtype:
Journal Article
Title:
Origin of the Colorado River experimental flood in Grand Canyon
Series title:
Hydrological Sciences Journal/Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques
Volume
45
Issue:
4
Year Published:
2000
Language:
English
Publisher:
IAHS
Publisher location:
Wallingford, United Kingdom
Larger Work Type:
Article
Larger Work Subtype:
Journal Article
Larger Work Title:
Hydrological Sciences Journal/Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques
First page:
607
Last page:
627
Number of Pages:
21