Environmental flow is the volume of streamflow needed to sustain downstream receiving wetland ecosystems, aquatic organisms, and the overall health and vitality of a river system. The effect of dams or other diversions for hydropower, agriculture, or other uses can disrupt the natural flood regime, quantity, temperature, and timing of streamflow to the detriment of dependent biota, plants and animals. The benefits of environmental flow management are far more reaching than the immediate river channel to include the adjoining floodplain zones, groundwater-dependent ecosystems replenished through river seepage, and coastal estuaries. NWRC scientists are developing new techniques and metrics to evaluate the effects of historical changes in flows and floods to improve our understanding of water availability and delivery for sustaining healthy ecosystems.
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