Assessment of Water Capacity and Availability from Unregulated Stream Flows Based on Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration (ELOHA) Environmental Flow Standards

Z. Zhang, J. W. Balay, K. M. Bertoldi, P. O. MaCoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Determination of water resources management thresholds, such as conservation releases, passby flows, and water availability limits, is a contemporary challenge facing water resources managers. With recent advancements in environmental flow science, including the ecological limits of hydrologic alteration (ELOHA) framework, environmental flow standards can be developed for a variety of stream types throughout a particular region or watershed. Environmental flow standards typically cover the entire natural flow regime, including low-flow, seasonal-flow (medium), and high-flow components. However, it can be difficult for water resources managers to directly apply these standards to establish practical management thresholds. This study proposes a novel approach to assessing water capacity based on ELOHA environmental flow standards. The procedure entails iterative simulations to identify withdrawal limits for gaged streams and regional regression analysis to predict withdrawal limits for ungaged streams. The approach was applied for 63 reference gages with long-term, continuous, minimally altered, daily streamflow records within the Susquehanna River basin. The results of the investigation demonstrate that the approach can be used to assess water capacity from gaged and ungaged streams via iterative withdrawal simulations and regional regression analysis respectively. The regression equation developed through analysis of the reference gages has an adjusted R-square value of 0.96 and a standard error of 27%. Determination of a water capacity value, based on a suite of environmental flow standards, provides water resources managers with a valuable tool for informing the establishment of water resources management thresholds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1469-1480
Number of pages12
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Volume32
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016

Keywords

  • ELOHA
  • environmental flows
  • water availability
  • water capacity
  • water resources management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Environmental Science(all)

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