The importance of base flow in sustaining surface water flow in the Upper Colorado River Basin

The Colorado River has been identified as the most overallocated river in the world. Considering predicted future imbalances between water supply and demand and the growing recognition that base flow (a proxy for groundwater discharge to streams) is critical for sustaining flow in streams and rivers, there is a need to develop methods to better quantify present-day base flow across large regions. We adapted and applied the spatially referenced regression on watershed attributes (SPARROW) water quality model to assess the spatial distribution of base flow, the fraction of streamflow supported by base flow, and estimates of and potential processes contributing to the amount of base flow that is lost during in-stream transport in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB).

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