Investigating Hydrologic Regime Change in an Evolving Semi-Arid Agricultural Watershed, Smith River, Montana:
The agricultural landscape of the semi-arid Northern Rocky region has evolved over the past century, and consequently so has the flow regime of the streams that sustain it. The purpose of my work is to seek information critical to effective water management in this semi-arid climate including: characterization and quantification of the hydrological effect of agricultural land and water use on surface water flow regimes; where and when the effects are most prominent; and what effects might future change have on water availability to sustain river morphology and ecological use. I embarked on this research motivated by the potential to contribute knowledge on the sensitivity of river hydrology and morphology to agricultural land and water use for practical application in the management of human-influenced watersheds.
My work is employing new watershed modeling techniques to answer long-standing questions regarding the hydrologic effects of agriculture, including the creation of a hydrologic model that represents pre-agricultural hydrology in a Montana watershed. This hydrologic model will be used to produce simulated runoff data to compare with measured runoff in a current agricultural watershed. Changes in water use and river morphology will also be investigated using historical data including aerial photographs and agricultural census data.