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Continuous estimation of baseflow in snowmelt-dominated streams and rivers in the Upper Colorado River Basin: A chemical hydrograph separation approach

August 1, 2014

Effective science-based management of water resources in large basins requires a qualitative understanding of hydrologic conditions and quantitative measures of the various components of the water budget, including difficult to measure components such as baseflow discharge to streams. Using widely available discharge and continuously collected specific conductance (SC) data, we adapted and applied a long established chemical hydrograph separation approach to quantify daily and representative annual baseflow discharge at fourteen streams and rivers at large spatial (> 1,000 km2 watersheds) and temporal (up to 37 years) scales in the Upper Colorado River Basin. On average, annual baseflow was 21-58% of annual stream discharge, 13-45% of discharge during snowmelt, and 40-86% of discharge during low-flow conditions. Results suggest that reservoirs may act to store baseflow discharged to the stream during snowmelt and release that baseflow during low-flow conditions, and that irrigation return flows may contribute to increases in fall baseflow in heavily irrigated watersheds. The chemical hydrograph separation approach, and associated conceptual model defined here provide a basis for the identification of land use, management, and climate effects on baseflow.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2014
Title Continuous estimation of baseflow in snowmelt-dominated streams and rivers in the Upper Colorado River Basin: A chemical hydrograph separation approach
DOI 10.1002/2013WR014939
Authors Matthew P. Miller, David D. Susong, Christopher L. Shope, Victor M. Heilweil, Bernard J. Stolp
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Water Resources Research
Index ID 70120476
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Utah Water Science Center

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