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Surface water and groundwater exchange along the Cache la Poudre River: considerations for conservation planning




Browne, Claudia A., author
Knight, Richard, advisor
Waskom, Reagan, advisor
Merritt, David, committee member
Ronayne, Michael, committee member

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This study offers a method for estimating riparian water budgets from river point flow data to demonstrate how a water budget framework can guide strategic conservation planning. Groundwater and surface water exchange patterns along the Cache la Poudre River were evaluated in the period of 1980 to 2009 to describe variations between river reaches, relationships to flow, and to develop water budgets in three riparian study areas. In the absence of sufficient groundwater data along the river, this approach is intended to contribute a pragmatic way to begin to evaluate riparian water availability, to guide targeted field data collection, and to develop strategic riparian conservation and restoration plans. Major study questions explored the magnitude, timing, and frequency of alluvial exchange, and the potential relationship between alluvial exchange and a specific flow threshold. Results showed that river loss (associated with alluvial recharge) occurred during a wide array of flows, and that the direct relationships of alluvial exchange to flow were often only weakly correlated. The study also found that inter-annual variations in riparian water supplies - specifically the aquifer storage deficit from the previous year - influenced potential water availability in the rooting zones of riparian plant communities. In high risk priority conservation areas, installation of piezometers is needed to collect targeted field data and validate water budgets to assess impacts of pending land and water use scenarios such as lined irrigation ditches, reduced return flows, and/or lined gravel pits.


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alluvial exchange
surface water
water budget


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