Water releases from Glen Canyon Dam, Arizona, are the primary determinant of streamflow, sediment transport, water quality, and aquatic and riparian habitat availability in the Colorado River downstream of the dam in Grand Canyon. The presence and operation of the dam have transformed the seasonally warm Colorado River into a consistently cold river because of hypolimnetic, or deep-water, releases from the penstock withdrawal structures on the dam. These releases have substantially altered the thermal regime of the downstream riverine environment. This, in turn, has affected the biota of the river corridor, particularly native and nonnative fish communities and the aquatic food web. In the spring and summer of 2000, a Low Steady Summer Flow experiment was conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey and the Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate the effects of the experimental flow on physical and biological resources of the Colorado River ecosystem downstream from Glen Canyon Dam to Lake Mead on the Arizona-Nevada border. This report describes the water temperatures collected during the experimental flow from 14 nearshore sites in the river corridor in Grand Canyon to assess the effects of steady releases on the thermal dynamics of nearshore environments. These nearshore areas are characterized by low-velocity flows with some degree of isolation from the higher velocity flows in the main channel and are hypothesized to be important rearing environments for young native fish. Water-temperature measurements were made at 14 sites, ranging from backwater to open-channel environments. Warming during daylight hours, relative to main-channel temperatures, was measured at all sites in relation to the amount of isolation from the main-channel current. Boat traffic, amount of direct solar radiation, and degree of isolation from the main-channel current appear to be the primary factors affecting the differential warming of the nearshore environment.
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USGS Numbered Series
Water temperatures in select nearshore environments of the Colorado River in Grand Canyon, Arizona, during the Low Steady Summer Flow experiment of 2000