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Keywords:

  • small diversions;
  • natural flow regime;
  • intermittent streamflow;
  • human water abstraction;
  • temperature thresholds

Abstract

Though many river studies have documented the impacts of large water projects on stream hydrology, few have described the effects of dispersed, small-scale water projects on streamflow or aquatic ecosystems. We used streamflow and air temperature data collected in the northern California wine country to characterize the influence of small instream diversions on streamflow. On cold spring mornings when air temperatures approached 0°C, flow in streams draining catchments with upstream vineyards receded abruptly, by as much as 95% over hours, corresponding to times when water is used to protect grape buds from freezing; flow rose to near previous levels following periods of water need. Streams with no upstream vineyards showed no such changes in flow. Flow was also depressed in reaches below vineyards on hot summer days, when grape growers commonly use water for heat protection. Our results demonstrate that the changes in flow caused by dispersed small instream diversions may be brief in duration, requiring continuous short-interval monitoring to adequately describe how such diversions affect the flow regime. Depending on the timing and abundance of such diversions in a drainage network, the changes in streamflow they cause may be an important limiting factor to valued biotic resources throughout the region. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.