Estimating Watershed-Averaged Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Fluxes using Streamflow Measurements in a Semi-Arid, High Altitude Montane Catchment

Friday, 19 December 2014
Cameron Herrington and Ricardo Gonzalez-Pinzon, University of New Mexico Main Campus, Albuquerque, NM, United States
Streamflow through the Middle Rio Grande Valley is largely driven by snowmelt pulses and monsoonal precipitation events originating in the mountain highlands of New Mexico (NM) and Colorado. Water managers rely on results from storage/runoff models to distribute this resource statewide and to allocate compact deliveries to Texas under the Rio Grande Compact agreement. Prevalent drought conditions and the added uncertainty of climate change effects in the American southwest have led to a greater call for accuracy in storage model parameter inputs. While precipitation and evapotranspiration measurements are subject to scaling and representativeness errors, streamflow readings remain relatively dependable and allow watershed-average water budget estimates. Our study seeks to show that by “Doing Hydrology Backwards” we can effectively estimate watershed-average precipitation and evapotranspiration fluxes in semi-arid landscapes of NM using fluctuations in streamflow data alone. We tested this method in the Valles Caldera National Preserve (VCNP) in the Jemez Mountains of central NM. This method will be further verified by using existing weather stations and eddy-covariance towers within the VCNP to obtain measured values to compare against our model results. This study contributes to further validate this technique as being successful in humid and semi-arid catchments as the method has already been verified as effective in the former setting.