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New Study Examines Colorado River Flows, Loss Of Beaches

A recent study looks at how Grand Canyon has changed since the construction of Glen Canyon Dam.

Before the dam was built, the Colorado flowed erratically, with high runoff in the spring and low flows the rest of the year. A research team led by Alan Kasprak, of Fort Lewis College in Colorado, has found that changes to the river have reduced the amount of sand by about half.

Although previous studies have shown the importance of high flows in the Colorado River ecosystem, Kasprak’s team found that low flows play an important role as well.

"The recognition of the importance of low flows is a little bit, is something that we’ve recently come to discover," Kasprak said. "It’s sort of the other part of the flow regime of the Colorado River that’s been lost as a result of Glen Canyon Dam operation."

The study also found that current flows have led to increased tamarisk growth, which is likely to continue over the next couple of decades, causing further loss of beaches.

Ron Dungan has lived in Arizona for more than 35 years. He has worked as a reporter, construction worker, copy editor, designer and freelance writer. He's a graduate of the University of Iowa, where he was a member of the undergraduate Writers’ Workshop, and has a master’s in history from Arizona State University.Dungan was an outdoors reporter and member of the storyteller team at the Arizona Republic, where he won several awards, and was a contributor on a border project that won the 2018 Pulitzer for explanatory reporting.When not working, Dungan enjoys books, gardening, hanging out with his German shorthaired pointer, backpacking and fly-fishing. He's a fan of the Arizona Cardinals and Iowa Hawkeyes.