Improving ecological flow science in the mainstem Delaware through WaterSMART

Science Center Objects

Demand for freshwater is increasing with human population growth and is exacerbated by water management practices, climate variability, and land use alternation.  Ecological flow science attempts to understand flows necessary to support aquatic organisms so that managers can balance these with diverse human water demands.  A primary focus of the USGS Northern Appalachian Research Laboratory (NARL), in collaboration with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center (FORT), has been ecological flow science in the Delaware River Basin. 

Researchers at NARL have been working to understand the ecological requirements of a variety of key migratory (American shad), recreational (rainbow and brown trout), and endangered species (dwarf wedgemussel) in the basin and are developing decision support tools to assist resource agencies make difficult management decisions. 

Related Publications:

Cole JC, Maloney, K., Schmid, M., & McKenna, J. 2014. Developing and testing temperature models for regulated systems: A case study on the Upper Delaware River. Journal of Hydrology, 519, 588–598. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70117418

Maloney, K.O., Talbert, C., Cole, J., Galbraith, H., & Blakeslee, C. 2015. An integrated Riverine Environmental Flow Decision Support System (REFDSS) to evaluate the ecological effects of alternative flow scenarios on river ecosystems. Fundamental and Applied Limnology., 186(1-2), 171–192. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70157523

Maloney KO, Cole, J., & Schmid, M. 2016. Predicting Thermally Stressful Events in Rivers with a Strategy to Evaluate Management Alternatives. River Research and Applications., 32(7), 1428–1437. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70176649

Galbraith, H.S., C.J. Blakeslee, J.C. Cole, C. Talbert, and K.O. Maloney. 2016. Evaluating methods to establish habitat suitability criteria:  A case study in the upper Delaware River Basin, USA.  River Research and Application.  32(8):  1765-1775https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70182205

Maloney, K.O., Lellis, W.A., Bennett, R.M., Waddle, T.J., 2012. Habitat persistence for sedentary organisms in managed rivers: the case for the federally endangered dwarf wedgemussel (Alasmidonta heterodon) in the Delaware River. Freshwater Biology 57, 1315-1327. https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70043559

Cole J.C., Townsend P.A., Eshleman K.N., St. John White B., Galbraith H.S., Lellis W.A.. 2018. Using United States Geological Survey stream gages to predict flow and temperature conditions to maintain freshwater mussel habitat. River Research and Applications 34(8): 977-992.  https://pubs.er.usgs.gov/publication/70200889 

Decision support tools for resource managers

Image of the Riverine Environmental Flow Decision Support System (REFDSS), a decision support tool designed and developed by USGS researchers at NARL and FORT that allows resource managers to evaluate habitat available for a variety of key species under different flow management scenarios. 

(Public domain.)

Mapping the river bottom using side-scan sonar

USGS researchers measuring river bathymetry using a side-scan sonar device in the Delaware River.

(Credit: Randy Bennett, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)

Collecting near-shore bathymetry data

USGS researchers employing different technologies for collecting river bathymetry, including measuring river bottom elevation with a survey-grade GPS at the waters’ edge while additional USGS researchers measure river bottom bathymetry from a boat using a side-scan sonar device.

(Credit: Kelly Maloney, USGS Leetown Science Center. Public domain.)