Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012CO262B

Reconstructing a Water Balance for the San Luis Valley: Streamflow Variability, Change, and Extremes in a Snowmelt Dominated Internal Drainage Basin

Institute: Colorado
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-08-31
Total Federal Funds: $9,890 Total Non-Federal Funds: $4,748

Principal Investigators: Steven Fassnacht

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.