Building a hydrologic foundation for tropical watershed management

TitleBuilding a hydrologic foundation for tropical watershed management
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsChristian, J, Martin, J, S. McKay, K, Chappell, J, Pringle, CM
Date Published03
AbstractHere we provide an empirical hydrologic foundation to inform water management decisions in the El Yunque National Forest (EYNF) in eastern Puerto Rico. Tropical watershed hydrology has proven difficult to quantify due to high rainfall variability, high evapotranspiration rates, variation in forest canopy interception and storage, and uncertain hydrologic inputs from fog condensation in cloud forests. We developed mass-balance and observation-based water budgets for nine local watersheds within the EYNF using a novel assemblage of remotely sensed rainfall data, gaged streamflow observations, and municipal water withdrawal rates. It is important to note that, while prior budgets considered large water withdrawals outside (downstream) of EYNF boundaries, our current budget is confined to within EYNF boundaries. Here, we also base our estimates of water withdrawal volume on operational data, in contrast to prior water budgets that estimated volume based on either the capacity of known water intakes or regulatory permit limits. This resulted in more conservative and realistic estimates of withdrawals from within the EYNF. Finally, we also discuss the ecological importance of considering the effects of water withdrawals not only at an average monthly scale, but also on the basis of exceedance probability to avoid over-abstraction for the protection of native migratory fishes and shrimps. This analysis highlights a number of unique challenges associated with developing hydrologic foundations for water management in tropical ecosystems.