Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018AL191B


Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $24,999 Total Non-Federal Funds: $49,931

Principal Investigators: Thorsten Knappenberger, Elise Irwin

Abstract: J. Identification and Statement of major regional water problem (2 paragraphs maximum): Alabama is a state rich in aquatic resources, including the highest levels of biodiversity and tens of thousands of kilometers of rivers and streams. Surface water is generally plentiful and typically only in times of drought are conflicts among water users apparent. Along with the positive attributes regarding water resources in the state, many data needs exist especially related to water management. Alabama currently does not have a water management plan but there are existing regulations that assist with conflict resolution among water stakeholders, including several Federal Acts such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. The Alabama Water Agencies Working Group was appointed by the governor of the state to investigate the implementation of a water management plan that would address major needs of water users while considering instream flow requirements of water bodies for aquatic resources and human needs for clean water. While the process for developing a plan is still in motion, technical aspects of decision support tools for determining environmental instream flow needs (in particular) have not been recently applied. Instream flow incremental methodologies are hydraulic or hydrologic models that are applied at the reach level and are valuable for evaluating the variation in physical and hydraulic habitat units in relation to variation in flow regimes. Implementation of instream flow incremental methodologies (IFIM) have been used in several Alabama river systems for decision support to determine flowhabitat relations for at risk species; however, technology and knowledge of ecohydrology has far surpassed the methods and scientific inference that was applied in the past. Our approach will be to integrate both existing remote sensing technologies, sidescan- sonar and drone imagery with 2D and 3D hydraulic models to deliver a visual tool that can quantify the effects of instream habitat relative to variation in flow regimes. To build reach-level models, bathymetric and velocity data are required at various river stages. Traditionally, 1D models (e.g., PHABSIM). were constructed using broad scale measures with flow and depth meters, coupled with substrate data along multiple transects in a reach. Integration of the transects allowed for interpolation of changes in depth/velocity/substrate conditions at different river flows, either based on USGS gage data or some other form of stage-discharge relation. These studies were time consuming and required site specific application of both traditional survey methods (survey transits to measure water level elevation) and meter scale depth/velocity measurements taken either wading or from a boat fixed to a tag line. New technologies are available that can be combined to efficiently and more precisely model reach level habitat parameters in fluvial systems that can ultimately inform decisions regarding instream flows for diverse aquatic fauna.