Joseph Maser

Date of Award

Spring 8-24-2016

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Environmental Science and Management


Environmental Science and Management

Physical Description

1 online resource (viii, 82 pages)


Watershed management -- Oregon -- Umatilla River Watershed, Runoff -- Measurement, Wildfires -- Environmental aspects, Forest fires -- Environmental aspects, Climatic changes




This study provides an analysis of watershed response to climate change and forest fire impacts, to better understand the hydrologic budget and inform water management decisions for present and future needs. The study site is 2,365 km2, located in the upper Umatilla River Basin (URB) in northeastern Oregon. The Precipitation Runoff Modeling System, a distributed-parameter, physical-process watershed model, was used in this study. Model calibration yielded a Nash Sutcliffe Model Efficiency of 0.73 for both calibration (1995-2010) and validation (2010-2014) of daily streamflow. Ten Global Climate Models using Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 experiments with Representative Concentration Pathways 4.5 and 8.5 (RCP), were used to observe hydrologic regime shifts in the 2020s, 2050s, and 2080s. Mean center timing of flow occurs earlier in the year in both pre- and post-fire conditions, where there are increased winter flows and decreased summer flows throughout the 21st century. Change in temperature and percent change in precipitation is more variable in the summer than winter increasing over time, with a slight decrease in winter precipitation in the 2080s in RCP 8.5. Temperature increases 1.6°C in RCP 4.5 and 3.3°C in RCP 8.5 by the end of the 21st century. The ratio of Snow Water Equivalent to Precipitation decreases 96% in the 2080s in RCP 8.5 before forest cover reduction, and decreases 90-99% after forest cover reduction. Potential basin recharge and the base-flow index are both sustained throughout the 21st century with slight declines before forest cover reduction, with an increase in basin recharge and increase in base-flows in the 2080s after fire-burns. However, the simulated sustained base-flows and area-weighted basin recharge in this study, do not take into account the complex geologic structure of the Columbia River Basalt Group (CRBG). A more robust characterization and simulation of URB aquifer recharge would involve coupling the PRMS model with a groundwater model in a future study. Although groundwater recharge in the CRBG in the URB is not well understood, the long-term decline of groundwater storage presents a serious environmental challenge for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and communities in the URB.

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