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Keywords:

  • environmental flow;
  • minimum flow;
  • water allocation;
  • reliability;
  • flow duration curve

Snelder, Ton, Doug Booker, and Nicolas Lamouroux, 2011. A Method to Assess and Define Environmental Flow Rules for Large Jurisdictional Regions. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(4):828-840. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00556.x

Abstract:  Hydrological rules of thumb are used across jurisdictional regions to set minimum flows and allocation limits that apply by default (i.e., when more detailed site-scale studies have not been carried out). Uniform rules do not account for spatial variation in environmental characteristics, resulting in inconsistent consequences for the protection of ecosystems, and the reliability of water resources. We developed a method for assessing hydrological rules of thumb that describes their consequences for protection of the ecosystem (in terms of retention of physical habitat) and the reliability of the water resource. The method links regionalized flow duration curves, at-station hydraulic geometry, and generalized physical habitat models to make assessments at many locations across a region. The method estimates, for a given set of rules, the retained physical habitat for specified taxa/life stages and the proportion of the time abstractions are restricted. We applied the method to assess a set of rules that are proposed as default minimum flows and allocation limits for New Zealand rivers. The assessment showed that the minimum flow rules had variable consequences. The method could be used to quantify the tradeoff between environmental protection and water resources availability and reliability.