This study is a coordinated effort by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service (USDA ARS), and Arizona State University, with assistance from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Arizona. The specific objectives of the study were: to determine the water needs of riparian vegetation through the riparian growing season and throughout the SPRNCA to ensure its long-term ecological integrity; to quantify the total water use of riparian vegetation within the SPRNCA; and to determine the source of water used by key riparian plant species within the SPRNCA.
To meet these objectives, the study was divided into three elements: (1) a characterization of the status and variability of hydrologic factors within the riparian system (USGS), (2) a riparian biohydrology study to relate spatial and temporal aspects of riparian changes and condition to the hydrologic variables (Arizona State University), and (3) a water-use evapotranspiration (ET) study to quantify annual consumptive ground-water use by riparian transpiration and direct evaporation from the stream channel (USDA ARS) in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the University of Wyoming, and the University of Arizona.
Twenty-six sites within the SPRNCA were selected for collection of vegetation data from three primary streamflow regimes (perennial, intermittent-wet, intermittent-dry), which include the principal vegetation communities. Detailed hydrologic-condition data were collected at a subset of 16 of these sites, called the SPRNCA biohydrology sites. Water-use and water-source data were collected at a subset of 5 of the 16 biohydrology sites. Vegetation data also were collected at supplemental sites within the SPRNCA boundary in the Upper San Pedro Basin and in the Lower San Pedro Basin. In addition to information about vegetation and geomorphic conditions, hydrologic data collected at the 16 biohydrology sites were used to delineate 14 reaches that were internally homogenous in terms of streamflow hydrology (spatial intermittence of streamflow) and geomorphology (channel sinuosity and flood-plain width).
Although this overall study consisted of three elements, the elements were closely coordinated to derive integrated results. Specifically, the connection between water demand, water availability, and riparian functioning represents a synthesis of the study elements. The effects of intra- and inter-annual as well as spatial variability of hydrologic and riparian factors were observed in each of the three study elements.