Paper No. 14-4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM
DECADAL-SCALE SIMPLIFICATION OF THE DOLORES RIVER, SW COLORADO, IN RESPONSE TO FLOW REGULATION
The Dolores river is a snowmelt-fed mountain river that drains from the western San Juan Mountains into the deserts of the eastern Colorado Plateau. Its waters are central to agricultural activity in southwestern Colorado and nearby tribal lands. Construction of McPhee dam in 1983 drastically altered the flow regime downstream by limiting high flows and raising baseflows. In most years, there is no release of water beyond a ~50 cfs 'fish pool'. The primary response of the river corridor is that the channel has narrowed, simplified, and has become host to encroaching riparian vegetation. A central challenge to water managers is how to best use available water to revitalize the river below the dam and enhance habitat for native fish while meeting the needs of other stakeholders.
Our results are clarifying the trajectory and pace of change in the Dolores River corridor while probing the limits of what contemporary release strategies can do to support native fish habitat.