Publication Year

2021

Keywords

sediment load, dam, Colorado River, water quality

Disciplines

Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment

Abstract

Since the construction of large dams along the Colorado River in the 1950’s, water quality and stream bed morphology have changed drastically impacting many species that are reliant on the Colorado River. The Colorado River is home to many endangered and endemic fish species, and understanding human impacts is critical for their survival. This project aims to answer the question: To what extent do major dams along the Colorado River, such as the Parker, Hoover, and Glen Canyon, impact sediment transport? Previous studies are focused mostly on singular dam impacts. This study compares the difference between different water quality variables of multiple dam sites. Sediment and water samples taken below and above the Parker, Hoover, and Glen Canyon Dams were used to analyze turbidity, grain size, and sediment load. Temperature and dissolved oxygen were measured on site. This study found that Glen Canyon Dam withheld a large component of the sediment load from downriver, while the other two dams also contributed to the decrease of sediment downriver. Turbidity and organic carbon levels decreased below dam locations as well. Temperature steadily rose downstream. From these results, the study shows that the main impact dams have on water quality are the reduction of suspended sediment load and organic carbon, and riverbed sediment grain size. These factors affect downstream benthic ecosystems by reducing habitat, decreasing desirable conditions for native species, and interrupting nutrient flow.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

Environmental Studies

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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