Visualizing the Invisible: Causes, Consequences, Changes, and Management of Streamflow Depletion Across the U.S.

Science Center Objects

Streamflow is declining in many parts of the United States (US) due to factors including groundwater pumping, land use change, and climate change. Streamflow depletion, a reduction in groundwater discharge to a stream due to human activities such as pumping and/or land use change, tends to evolve slowly and can be entirely invisible for many years to decades. This is because streamflow depletio...

Streamflow is declining in many parts of the United States (US) due to factors including groundwater pumping, land use change, and climate change. Streamflow depletion, a reduction in groundwater discharge to a stream due to human activities such as pumping and/or land use change, tends to evolve slowly and can be entirely invisible for many years to decades. This is because streamflow depletion can be masked by the natural and/or climate change-induced variability in streamflow, and groundwater storage can buffer the impacts on streams. The negative effects on both anthropogenic and ecological systems can evolve over decades or more, and specific causes and potential solutions to these issues are often difficult to discern. The invisible nature of streamflow depletion implies that water managers should be made aware of potential depletion that may impact their region as conditions develop. We propose to synthesize existing data from the USGS and other sources, and use these data to: (1) quantify changes in streamflow and baseflow through trend analysis of available data; (2) attribute changes in streamflow and baseflow to climate change and land use change; (3) evaluate simple hydrologic metrics for appropriateness, robustness, and ability to capture human impacts on the stream environment; and (4) create a streamflow depletion visualization tool to facilitate education and information transfer. The proposed project develops both the next generation of scientific tools for the critical issue of streamflow depletion and an accessible and visual way of transferring this knowledge of streamflow depletion.



Principal Investigators: 

Andrea Brookfield (Kansas Geological Survey, University of Kansas)

Lauren Hay (USGS)

Will Farmer (USGS)

Mary Hill (University of Kansas)

Samuel Zipper (University of Victoria)



What changes streamflow? picture of a stream with a question mark in the middle of the image