The amount of water flowing in streams and rivers has been significantly altered in nearly 90 percent of waters that were assessed in a new nationwide USGS study. Flow alterations are a primary contributor to degraded river ecosystems and loss of native species.
"This USGS assessment provides the most geographically extensive analysis to date of stream flow alteration," said Bill Werkheiser, USGS Associate Director for Water. "Findings show the pervasiveness of stream flow alteration resulting from land and water management, the significant impact of altered stream flow on aquatic organisms, and the importance of considering this factor for sustaining and restoring the health of the Nation's streams and ecosystems."
Flows are altered by a variety of land- and water-management activities, including reservoirs, diversions, subsurface tile drains, groundwater withdrawals, wastewater inputs, and impervious surfaces, such as parking lots, sidewalks and roads.
"Altered river flows lead to the loss of native fish and invertebrate species whose survival and reproduction are tightly linked to specific flow conditions," said Daren Carlisle, USGS ecologist and lead scientist on this study. "These consequences can also affect water quality, recreational opportunities and the maintenance of sport fish populations."
For example, in streams with severely diminished flow, native trout, a popular sport fish that requires fast-flowing streams with gravel bottoms, are replaced by less desirable non-native species, such as carp. Overall, the USGS study indicated that streams with diminished flow contained aquatic communities that prefer slow moving currents more characteristic of lake or pond habitats.
"Management practices related to water demand continue to alter stream flows in many places," said Jeff Ostermiller, Water Quality Manager with the Utah Division of Water Quality. "Understanding the ecological effects of these flow a
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United States Geological Survey