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Characterizing Historic Streamflow to Support Drought Planning in the Upper Missouri River Basin

Paleohydrologic Resources for Drought Planning and Improved Operations in the Upper Missouri River Basin
Principal Investigator
Gregory Pederson

Dates

Start Date
2018-07-10
End Date
2022-11-09
Release Date
2018

Summary

The Missouri River system is the life-blood of the American Midwest, providing critical water resources that drive the region’s agriculture, industry, hydroelectric power generation, and ecosystems. The basin has a long history of development and diversion of water resources, meaning that streamflow records that reflect natural, unmanaged flows over the past century have been rare. As a result, research on the complex interactions between temperature and precipitation in driving droughts and surface water variability in the Missouri River Basin has lagged behind similar work done in other major basins in the country, and has hindered drought planning efforts. To address this need, researchers will use tree-rings to develop reconstructions [...]

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MissouriRiver_MT_DanHarrell_FWS.jpg
“Missouri River, MT, Dan Harrell, FWS - Credit”
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Purpose

The Missouri River system is the life-blood of the American Midwest providing water resources that drive agriculture, industry, hydroelectric power generation, and ecosystems. Due to the basin’s long history of development and diversion of water resources, observational streamflow records that reflect natural (i.e. unmanaged) flows over the past century have been rare. As a result, research on the complex interactions between temperature and precipitation in driving droughts and surface water variability has lagged behind work done in other major basins, and has hindered drought-planning efforts. This knowledge gap is critical given that the region is facing an array of water resource issues that are challenged by hydrologic variability, and potentially adverse future conditions. The main goals of this project are to: 1) develop the first network of natural, multi-century streamflow reconstructions for the Upper Missouri River Basin, 2) assess the spatial and temporal climate mechanisms driving drought and high-flows, and 3) collaborate with water resource professionals to develop applications of these extended streamflow records for improved water management. Working in close collaboration with engineers and water managers for the state of Montana and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation we will integrate data on droughts and natural hydrologic variability spanning multiple centuries to test and adapt current operations to scenarios of plausible future drought. In doing so, we will address questions such as: “What are the impacts to current water operations under severe droughts like the 1930s Dustbowl- or the 1550s megadrought? And, how could operations be changed to improve water management for droughts like these, but under warmer temperatures of the future?” This information will help water managers adapt operations to deal with the future range of potential drought and flood events in the basin, reducing the billions of dollars these events cost today in infrastructure and economic impact.

Project Extension

parts
typeTechnical Summary
valueThe overarching focus of this project is the generation and provision of streamflow reconstructions that meet water managers’ needs, and developing a mechanistic understanding of the temperature and precipitation influence on drought and runoff efficiency in the Upper Missouri River Basin. This project builds on our previous success in producing a network of 31 streamflow reconstructions for major gaging locations with importance to infrastructure operations. First, it extends our collaborative work with water management partners by producing three new gage reconstructions for use in the recently initiated Milk River Basin Study. Then, to address uncertainties related to the changing influence of temperature and precipitation in driving droughts in the Missouri Basin, the study will examine the spatial and temporal dynamics of drought and runoff efficiency through the Turn-of-the-Century Drought (ca. 2000-2010). Finally, in a close collaborative effort with water managers, we will co-produce paleohydrologic data useful for testing current operations and planning for future droughts under a range of scenarios that encompass climatic conditions and variability of the past, potential future, and a paleo-informed blending of natural and human-enhanced climate variability. Information from this study will help guide operational improvements across a complex network of reservoirs and diversions.
projectStatusIn Progress

Budget Extension

annualBudgets
year2018
totalFunds20665.0
parts
typeAward Type
valueCOA
typeAward Number
valueC18000341
totalFunds20665.0

Additional Information

Alternate Titles

Identifiers

Type Scheme Key
RegistrationUUID NCCWSC 1e516e1b-fae0-4d9e-8333-d1d85b8ebc21
StampID NCCWSC NC18-PG1326

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