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Water Management in the Puget Sound Basin: Snow Caps to White Caps

November 2014

With climate change and increasing development in watersheds, what tools will water resource managers need in the next five to ten years? This is the question PNNL researchers set out to answer in the Environmental Protection Agency project ‘Snow Caps to White Caps.’ This question is especially important in fast growing watersheds, such as the Snohomish Basin in the Puget Sound region of Washington State.

Using two models—the Distributed Hydrology Soil Vegetation Model (DHSVM) for watersheds and the Finite Volume Coastal Ocean Model (FVCOM) for floodplains and estuaries—linked together by the Integrated Water Resource Modeling System (IWRMS), PNNL researchers examined specific changes in water budget, flood conditions, low flows, salt water intrusion, and land use management. To obtain these data, the models were run with scenarios of climate change and changes in land use/land cover throughout a watershed system. The model runs simulated development from the mountains, or “Snow Caps”, to the estuary, or “White Caps”, using water as the currency. Researchers regularly consulted with resource managers on their needs, specific applications, and project outcomes.

With the completion of the project, continuing interest in the outcomes include whether the model can be applied to other areas such as land use management practices involving forestry, flood control, storm water management, and salmon restoration. Snohomish County is currently using the project outcomes for watershed planning. To learn more about this project and its outcomes, read the in press article.


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