River systems worldwide have been modified through water management practices resulting in impaired flow regimes critical to supporting hydrogeomorphic processes and ecological functionality of riverscapes. In particular, hydropower operations affect downstream ecosystems through changes in flow patterns, temperature, and sediment transport. A functional flows paradigm – emphasizing process-based hydrograph components – has emerged as a guide for developing environmental flow frameworks in heavily managed river systems. The objectives of this project are to articulate functional flows for hydropower operations that benefit downstream ecosystems as well as develop thermal regime criteria for select case studies to inform sustainable hydropower operation. This project is part of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center for Water-Energy Technologies (CERC-WET), whose mission is to build and transfer knowledge, technologies, human capabilities, and relationships that position China and the United States to thrive with constrained energy and water resources in a changing global climate.
Graphic: O'Shaughnessy Dam, Yosemite National Park. (Inklein, Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0)