Glen Canyon Dam, located on the Colorado River in northern Arizona, has affected the physical, biological and cultural resources of the river downstream in Grand Canyon. One of the impacts to the downstream physical environment that has important implications for the aquatic ecosystem is the transformation of the thermal regime from highly variable seasonally to relatively constant year-round, owing to hypolimnetic releases from the upstream reservoir, Lake Powell. Because of the perceived impacts on the downstream aquatic ecosystem and native fish communities, the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program has considered modifications to flow releases and release temperatures designed to increase downstream temperatures. Here, we present a new model of monthly average water temperatures below Glen Canyon Dam designed for first-order, relatively simple evaluation of various alternative dam operations. The model is based on a simplified heat-exchange equation, and model parameters are estimated empirically. The model predicts monthly average temperatures at locations up to 421 km downstream from the dam with average absolute errors less than 0.58C for the dataset considered. The modelling approach used here may also prove useful for other systems, particularly below large dams where release temperatures are substantially out of equilibrium with meteorological conditions. We also present some examples of how the model can be used to evaluate scenarios for the operation of Glen Canyon Dam.
Additional publication details
A simplified water temperature model for the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam