Control over water supply and distribution is critical for agriculture in drylands where manipulating surface runoff often serves the dual purpose of erosion control. However, little is known of the geomorphic impacts and legacy effects of rangeland water manipulation infrastructure, especially if not maintained. This study investigated the geomorphic impacts of structures such as earthen berms, water control gates, and stock tanks, in a semiarid rangeland in the southwestern USA that is responding to both regional channel incision that was initiated over a century ago, and a more recent land use change that involved cattle removal and abandonment of structures. The functional condition of remnant structures was inventoried, mapped, and assessed using aerial imagery and lidar data. Headcut initiation, scour, and channel incision associated with compromised lateral channel berms, concrete water control structures, floodplain water spreader berms, and stock tanks were identified as threats to floodplains and associated habitat. Almost half of 27 identified lateral channel berms (48%) have been breached and 15% have experienced lateral scour; 18% of 218 shorter water spreader berms have been breached and 17% have experienced lateral scour. A relatively small number of 117 stock tanks (6%) are identified as structurally compromised based on analysis of aerial imagery, although many currently do not provide consistent water supplies. In some cases, the onset of localized disturbance is recent enough that opportunities for mitigation can be identified to alter the potentially damaging erosion trajectories that are ultimately driven by regional geomorphic instability. Understanding the effects of prior land use and remnant structures on channel and floodplain morphologic condition is critical because both current land management and future land use options are constrained by inherited land use legacy effects.
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||The geomorphic legacy of water and erosion control structures in a semiarid rangeland watershed|
|Series title||Earth Surface Processes and Landforms|
|Contributing office(s)||Arizona Water Science Center|
|Other Geospatial||Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge|