The coordinated operation of Heron, El Vado, and Abiquiu Dams on the Rio Chama and Cochiti Dam on the Rio Grande and the importation of Colorado River Basin water by the San Juan-Chama Project have altered streamflow and water quality of the Rio Chama and Rio Grande in northern and central New Mexico. The coordinated retention of streamflow in the four reservoirs increased median streamflows, decreased extreme flows, and decreased periods of small streamflow; inflow of San Juan-Chama Project water increased overall streamflow in the Rio Chama and Rio Grande. These changes to streamflow decreased specific conductance and suspended-sediment concentration and increased pH in the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande.
Following construction of Heron and Cochiti Dams and integration of reservoir operations on the Rio Chama and the Rio Grande, the inflow of San Juan-Chama Project water and retention of snowmelt runoff influenced water quality. These influences varied by season because reservoir releases fluctuated according to downstream user needs and annual streamflow variation. The influences of San Juan-Chama Project water and retained snowmelt on water quality diminished with downstream flow as the Rio Grande was subjected to various natural and anthropogenic inflows. Because of the variability and type of seasonal influences, streamflow did not have a strong annual correlation with water quality in the Rio Chama or the Rio Grande.
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USGS Numbered Series
Effects of reservoir installation, San Juan-Chama Project water, and reservoir operations on streamflow and water quality in the Rio Chama and Rio Grande, northern and central New Mexico, 1938-2000