Synthesizing Environmental Flow Needs Data for Water Management in a Water-Scarce State: The Arizona Environmental Water Demands Database

K. E. Mott Lacroix, B. C. Xiu, J. B. Nadeau, S. B. Megdal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Water rights for environmental flows are not universal, and oftentimes, legal tools used to incorporate the environment into water management only require new users to consider their impact. It can be difficult to include the needs of riparian and aquatic ecosystems in new plans when relevant information is not always available, especially when other existing uses already outstrip available supplies. There is a need for easily accessible and understandable science on the water requirements for riparian and aquatic species, so managers can make informed decisions about whether or not to include riparian and aquatic species in their community's water management future. In this paper, we describe the current understanding of the link between hydrology and Arizona's riparian and aquatic ecosystems through the creation of a geospatial Environmental Water Demands database that can be used to determine the water needs to maintain habitat. Analysis of 121 studies reveals that there are very few analyses of the surface water and groundwater requirements for intermittent or ephemeral river systems, and there are only limited generalizable data for aquatic species. Except for a few species, such as Cottonwood (Populous fremontii) and Willow (Salix gooddingii), few data are available on the flow requirements for vegetation. The Environmental Water Demands database can be used to identify critical geographic and topical knowledge gaps where further research is needed, as well as serve as a single place for water and land managers to assess and use the most currently available information to make more informed management decisions and recommendations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)234-244
Number of pages11
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • Aquatic ecosystems
  • Decision support tool
  • Ecohydrology
  • Environmental flows
  • Riparian ecosystems
  • Water policy and management

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Water Science and Technology
  • General Environmental Science


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