Shenandoah River Instream Flow Studies

Science Center Objects

As urban and rural growth continues, competition for clean water expands into stream areas previously capable of meeting local water-use demands. Conflicts among instream and offstream users of streamflow increase as flows decrease. This research enhances understanding of summer low-flow conditions in the North Fork, South Fork, and Shenandoah Rivers, relating water availability to physical habitat needs of fish, and developing relations for the availability of suitable fish habitat and instream flows.

Problem

As urban and rural growth continues, competition for clean water expands into stream areas previously capable of meeting local water-use demands. Conflicts among instream and offstream users of streamflow increase as flows decrease.

Objective

The objectives of this research are to enhance understanding of summer low-flow conditions in the North Fork, South Fork, and Shenandoah Rivers, relate water availability to physical habitat needs of fish, and develop a relation for the availability of suitable fish habitat and instream flows.

Relevance and Benefits

As a result of the study, the counties and communities in the Shenandoah Basin should have a better knowledge of the water resources in the basin, the regional hydraulic system, and the effect of withdrawals and conservation measures on the ecology, agriculture, industry, and water supply. The data and alternative condition analyses may be used for identification and compilation of the major instream-flow issues, development of the required multidisciplinary technical team to conduct more detailed studies, and develop basin specific habitat and flow requirements for aquatic life and water uses.

Approach

Flow data and biological data will be combined with depth and velocity of streamflow, cover type and bed-material size of numerous verticals at cross sections representing channel types. For the North Fork, hydraulic data were collected over a range of discharges by the USGS with the assistance of VPI. Hydraulic data were input to the RHABSIM model (River Habitat Simulation Software), a 1-dimensional water-surface profile model that uses stage-discharge ratings to simulate habitat conditions over a range of discharges. The modeling was used to determine the relation between habitat and flow. This information along with offstream user needs will allow the planning district more efficient allocation of water resources.

Shenandoah River Presentations Summary

  1. Mid Atlantic Area Water Availability Workshop, University of Delaware Conference Center, Newark Delaware, Presentation with Alison Teetor http://va.water.usgs.gov/delwkshp2005/index.htm Accompanying Notes for USGS power point 
  2. North Fork Instream Flow Study Poster Presented at the Water Availability Workshop
  3. "Habitat Availability During Low-Flow Periods on the North Fork Shenandoah River, Virginia"
  • March 2005
  1. USGS power point presentation to the RWRPC Technical Advisory Committee North Fork Shenandoah River Results Application For the State Drought Assessment Plan
  2. DEQ Drought Response Plan Documentation http://www.deq.virginia.gov/waterresources/droughttac.html

Project Time Periods

  • Shenandoah River: 1995 to 1998
  • North Fork Shenandoah River: 1998 to 2004
  • South Fork Shenandoah River: 2004 to 2011
  • Mainstem Shenandoah River Model Update: 2011 to 2013