Impacts of grade control structure installations on hydrology and sediment transport as an adaptive management strategy

Final Report ST-2017-1751-01
By: , and 



The goal of this research was to examine the impacts of Grade Control Structure (GCS) installations at the Heard Scout Pueblo (HSP) study site in the City of Phoenix, Arizona, USA. The study site is around a high-use trail system and is comprised of eroded and incised channels that conduct high flows and associated sediments into a residential neighborhood downstream, a noted stormwater control problem. We established baseline conditions associated with rainfall/runoff response before structures were installed so we could have some data for comparison afterwards.

Innovative monitoring equipment, including video cameras and pressure transducers (to calculate discharge); digital terrain models, sediment samplers and sediment chains (to measure erosion and deposition); soil moisture sensors in monitoring wells (to document infiltration and potential recharge); and weather stations (to track temperature and relative humidity) were established and a small Unmanned Aircraft System (sUAS) survey was completed by July, 11, 2017, in time for the typical summer monsoon season which officially runs from June 15th to September 30th. Only one pre-GCS installation rain event incurred a significant flow event (October 13, 2018).

Natural Channel Design (NCD), a landscape restoration company with decades of experience, was hired through a competitive bid process to develop a novel layout of ~30 GCS installations (sills, modified one-rock dams (ORD), and plugs, as well as a modified Zuni-bowl). The American Conservation Experience (ACE) hand-built the structures based on these designs in the main channel from November 13, 2018 through December 1, 2018. ACE built another ten structures in locations adjacent to the channel from January 15 through January 18, 2019. NCD worked with the landscape forensics to identify a historic channel and reinstate it using GCS.

A surface-water model was also applied, using some of the baseline measurements (terrain and hydraulic conductivity) to track the flows of water and potential infiltration associated with rainfall events before GCS installation, to assist NCD in their design. The same model was applied using the installed GCS locations to simulate impacts of the structures on flow and infiltration. Our model was able to predict the slight reduction and delay in peak flows for small events and simulate infiltration, which was measured and occurred in the channel. Results demonstrated that structures could increase infiltration by ~15% over time. More data describing geomorphology and hydrology after repeated rainfall events will allow for increased analyses.

Innovative monitoring, including the large‐scale particle image velocimetry (LSPIV) were invaluable to this research. Given the arid-land location and added drought conditions, the water levels were not high enough to compute, even using the continuous slope-area method, so discharge was calculated solely using the LSPIV. The careful redundancy of data acquisition is extremely important when studying dryland hydrology.

Weather data indicated that the HSP GCS installations created roughly a three-degree microclimate cooling effect for at least two days following rainfall events, as compared with the untreated channel. The cooling was attributed to increased moisture, evaporation, and latent heat expulsion from the evaporation.

Study Area

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Impacts of grade control structure installations on hydrology and sediment transport as an adaptive management strategy
Series title Final Report
Series number ST-2017-1751-01
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Bureau of Reclamation
Contributing office(s) Western Geographic Science Center
Description iv, 65 p.
Country United States
State Arizona
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