Changes in natural stream temperature levels can be detrimental to the health of aquatic ecosystems. Water use and land management directly affect the distribution of diffuse heat sources and thermal loads to streams, while riparian vegetation and geomorphology play a critical role in how thermal loads are buffered. In many areas, groundwater flow is a significant contribution to river flow, particularly during low flows and therefore has a strong influence on stream temperature levels and dynamics. However, previous stream temperature models do not properly simulate how surface water–groundwater dynamics affect stream temperature. A coupled surface water–groundwater and temperature model has therefore been developed to quantify the impacts of land management and water use on stream flow and temperatures. The model is applied to the simulation of stream temperature levels in a spring-fed stream, the Silver Creek Basin in Idaho, where stream temperature affects the populations of fish and other aquatic organisms. The model calibration highlights the importance of spatially distributed flow dynamics in the catchment to accurately predict stream temperatures. The results also show the value of including temperature data in an integrated flow model calibration because temperature data provide additional constraints on the flow sources and volumes. Simulations show that a reduction of 10% in the groundwater flow to the Silver Creek Basin can cause average and maximum temperature increases in Silver Creek over 0.3°C and 1.5°C, respectively. In spring-fed systems like Silver Creek, it is clearly not feasible to separate river habitat restoration from upstream catchment and groundwater management.
- Stream temperature
- Integrated surface water–groundwater modeling
- Silver Creek