State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2012CO262B
Title: Reconstructing a Water Balance for the San Luis Valley: Streamflow Variability, Change, and Extremes in a Snowmelt Dominated Internal Drainage Basin
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2012
End Date: 2/28/2013
Congressional District: 4th
Focus Categories: Irrigation, Surface Water
Keywords: Water Balance, Streamflow Variability, San Luis Valley
Principal Investigator: Fassnacht, Steven
Federal Funds: $ 4,945
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 2,374
Abstract: The San Luis Valley in Colorado is an agriculturally productive region that relies on streamflow from the surrounding mountain ranges to recharge the important aquifer systems of the basin. The northern part of the valley is a closed system separated from the southern portion both topographically and hydrologically (Anderholm, 1996). Past hydrologic investigations focused primarily on subsurface characterization to manage irrigation production in the arid region (e.g. Anderholm, 1996). Surface streamflow however, is critical for sustaining natural systems and likely supported the historic local human population. The purpose of this study is to assess the natural variability, extremes, and changes in streamflow of the San Luis Valley basin over a longer period than the instrumented record. The objectives are to compare the modern water balance and streamflow of a catchment draining into the basin with that reconstructed from paleo-climatic data derived from tree-rings. This study will examine how natural systems in a closed basin function over longer periods which may define possible impacts of future change.

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