Presenter Information

Corey A. HallFollow

Presentation Type

Poster

Faculty Mentor’s Full Name

Brian Chaffin

Faculty Mentor’s Department

College of Forestry and Conservation

Abstract

In most Western U.S. states, including Montana, water rights determine the distribution, use, and management of water across the landscape by creating a system of private and public flow allocations based on priority dates for water use. For many streams in Montana, the state has issued more water rights than there is actual water available in streams during some parts of the year. Under potential climate change scenarios of less available water or changing distribution and timing patterns, it is important to understand if ‘paper’ water rights (priority dates and flow volumes) can accurately predict when irrigators will need to stop using water, as this information can influence how water rights will be managed by the state. In this research, I will use current, publically-available geospatial and hydrologic information on water rights in Montana to construct a model for water use and availability in an agriculturally-based watershed dependent on streamflow for irrigation. Using data from Montana.gov and the MT Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Water Right Query System, I will construct an account of water allocation via water rights on Bass Creek in the Bitterroot watershed. I will then compare this account with actual flow volumes (from USGS flow data) to determine if Bass Creek is over allocated in some years. I hope to also compare the allocation scheme and flow volumes with remotely sensed data indicating water use on the landscape, and to determine if and when water users stopped using water due to over allocation. I expect that the results will show that current information on water rights and water use does not accurately reflect the flow rates and cannot be used to predict over allocation of streamflow in agriculturally-based watersheds in Montana.

Category

Physical Sciences

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Apr 27th, 11:00 AM Apr 27th, 12:00 PM

Investigating Water Rights and Water Demand in Over-Allocated Streams in Montana

UC South Ballroom

In most Western U.S. states, including Montana, water rights determine the distribution, use, and management of water across the landscape by creating a system of private and public flow allocations based on priority dates for water use. For many streams in Montana, the state has issued more water rights than there is actual water available in streams during some parts of the year. Under potential climate change scenarios of less available water or changing distribution and timing patterns, it is important to understand if ‘paper’ water rights (priority dates and flow volumes) can accurately predict when irrigators will need to stop using water, as this information can influence how water rights will be managed by the state. In this research, I will use current, publically-available geospatial and hydrologic information on water rights in Montana to construct a model for water use and availability in an agriculturally-based watershed dependent on streamflow for irrigation. Using data from Montana.gov and the MT Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) Water Right Query System, I will construct an account of water allocation via water rights on Bass Creek in the Bitterroot watershed. I will then compare this account with actual flow volumes (from USGS flow data) to determine if Bass Creek is over allocated in some years. I hope to also compare the allocation scheme and flow volumes with remotely sensed data indicating water use on the landscape, and to determine if and when water users stopped using water due to over allocation. I expect that the results will show that current information on water rights and water use does not accurately reflect the flow rates and cannot be used to predict over allocation of streamflow in agriculturally-based watersheds in Montana.