A regional analysis of the impact of dams on water temperature in medium-size rivers in eastern Canada

Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences
Various studies have helped gain a better understanding of the thermal impacts of dams on a site-specific basis, but very few studies have compared the thermal impacts of varying types of dams within the same region. In this study, we conducted a regional-scale assessment of the impacts of dams on the thermal regime of 13 medium-size rivers in eastern Canada. The objectives of this study were to identify features of the thermal regime of rivers that are predominantly impacted by dams and to compare the impacts associated with different types of regulation (run-of-river, storage, peaking). The thermal regime of regulated and unregulated rivers was characterized using 15 metrics that described the magnitude, frequency, duration, timing, and rate of change of water temperature. Results indicate that storage and peaking dams impounding at least 10% of the median annual runoff generally (i) reduced the magnitude of water temperature variation at seasonal, daily, and subdaily timescales and (ii) increased the monthly mean water temperature in September. This regional assessment offers important insight regarding a generalized pattern of thermal alteration by dams, and this information could be used to guide biological monitoring efforts in regulated rivers.

Audrey Maheu, André St-Hilaire, Daniel Caissie, Nassir El-Jabi, Guillaume Bourque, and Daniel Boisclair