Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018CO348B

Assessment of Floodplain Storage Dynamics in Colorado

Institute: Colorado
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $25,000 Total Non-Federal Funds: $13,000

Principal Investigators: Ryan Morrison

Abstract: Floodplains provide numerous ecosystem services, including the storage of surface and subsurface water during flood events. Floodplain storage mechanisms not only attenuate flows and reduces downstream flood risk, but also provide a supply of groundwater recharge to river systems. The volume and duration of floodplain water storage depend on numerous factors, such soil characteristics, vegetation attributes, and flow dynamics, all of which are sensitive to change due to disruptive flooding events. Though previous studies have explored the variables that influence floodplain storage mechanics, it is still unclear how floodplain storage capacity might change following a large flood. Furthermore, tools are needed to assess the resiliency and vulnerability of floodplain storage capacity to floods and human modifications. Therefore, through this research, I will investigate how floods alter floodplain characteristics and storage dynamics. Understanding the implications of disruptive flooding on floodplain storage capacity has important implications for communities in Colorado (as also identified by the Colorado Water Institute Advisory Committee for Water Research Policy), particularly in regions where infiltrated return flow is necessary to meet downstream water demands. The two objectives of this research are to 1) evaluate the general role of large floods on floodplain storage dynamics thorough a literature review, and 2) develop a spatial-quantitative framework for assessing the implications of flooding on floodplain storage capacity within Colorado basins. Completing these objectives will require a combination of literature synthesis, dataset exploration, and GIS spatial analysis. Results from this research will be informative for floodplain management in both rural and urban areas, including river restoration activities and groundwater management.