Quantifying downstream impacts of impoundment on flow regime and channel planform, lower Trinity River, Texas
Wellmeyer, Jessica L
Slattery, Michael C
Phillips, Jonathan D
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As human population worldwide has grown, so has interest in harnessing and manipulating the flow of water for the benefit of humans. The Trinity River of eastern Texas is one such watershed greatly impacted by engineering and urbanization. Draining the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, just under 30 reservoirs are in operation in the basin, regulating flow while containing public supplies, supporting recreation, and providing flood control. Lake Livingston is the lowest, as well as largest, reservoir in the basin, a mere 95 km above the Trinity's outlet near Galveston Bay. This study seeks to describe and quantify channel activity and flow regime, identifying effects of the 1968 closure of Livingston dam. Using historic daily and peak discharge data from USGS gauging stations, flow duration curves are constructed, identifying pre- and post-dam flow conditions. A digital historic photo archive was also constructed using six sets of aerial photographs spanning from 1938 to 1995, and three measures of channel activity applied using a GIS. Results show no changes in high flow conditions following impoundment, while low flows are elevated. However, the entire post-dam period is characterized by significantly higher rainfall, which may be obscuring the full impact of flow regulation. Channel activity rates do not indicate a more stabilized planform following dam closure; rather they suggest that the Trinity River is adjusting itself to the stress of Livingston dam in a slow, gradual process that may not be apparent in a modern time scale.