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Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

A New Tool for Assessing Environmental Impacts of Altering Short-Term Flow and Water Level Regimes

Bejarano, Maria Dolores; Garcia-Palacios, Jaime H.; Sordo-Ward, Alvaro; Garrote, Luis; Nilsson, Christer


The computational tool InSTHAn (indicators of short-term hydrological alteration) was developed to summarize data on subdaily stream flows or water levels into manageable, comprehensive and ecologically meaningful metrics, and to qualify and quantify their deviation from unaltered states. The pronunciation of the acronym refers to the recording interval of input data (i.e., instant). We compared InSTHAn with the tool COSH-Tool in a characterization of the subdaily flow variability of the Colorado River downstream from the Glen Canyon dam, and in an evaluation of the effects of the dam on this variability. Both tools captured the hydropeaking caused by a dam operation, but only InSTHAn quantified the alteration of key flow attributes, highlighting significant increases in the range of within-day flow variations and in their rates of change. This information is vital to evaluate the potential ecological consequences of the hydrological alteration, and whether they may be irreversible, making InSTHAn a key tool for river flow management.


fluvial ecosystems; hydropeaking; InSTHAn tool; short-term flow regimes; subdaily flows; sustainable river management

Published in

2020, Volume: 12, number: 10, article number: 2913
Publisher: MDPI