Civil Engineering ETDs


Ryan Morrison

Publication Date



Water resource systems often contain numerous components that are intertwined or contradictory, such as power production, water delivery, recreation, and environmental needs. This complexity makes it difficult to holistically assess management alternatives. In addition, hydroclimatic and ecological uncertainties complicate efforts to evaluate the impacts of management scenarios. We need new tools that are able to inform managers and researchers of the tradeoffs or consequences associated with flow alternatives, while also explicitly incorporating sources of uncertainty. My research addresses this limitation using two modeling approaches: stochastic system dynamics modeling and Bayesian network modeling. Specifically, the objectives of my research were 1) evaluate the impacts of environmental flow alternatives on other water users within a complex managed basin using stochastic system dynamics modeling; 2) assess the benefits of environmental flow alternatives on select ecological processes using stochastic system dynamics modeling; and 3) demonstrate the unique benefits of combining fine-scale hydrodynamic and Bayesian network models when assessing ecological responses to water management alternatives. I developed a stochastic system dynamics model to evaluate the impacts of environmental flow alternatives on multiple water users in the Rio Chama basin, New Mexico. This work examined the influence of flow alternatives on cottonwood recruitment, reservoir storage, hydropower production, and whitewater boating. In addition, I coupled two-dimensional hydrodynamic and Bayesian network models to assess the impacts of management scenarios on cottonwood recruitment on the Gila River, New Mexico. The Bayesian network approach explicitly incorporated spatial variability, as well as hydrologic and ecological uncertainties. These methods are useful for more thoroughly assessing the tradeoffs of management decisions, integrating system components within a holistic framework, and evaluating ecological consequences of management scenarios at fine spatial scales.


water resources, environmental flows, system dynamics model, bayesian network model, collaborative modeling


Hydro Research Foundation

Document Type




Degree Name

Civil Engineering

Level of Degree


Department Name

Civil Engineering

First Advisor

Stone, Mark

First Committee Member (Chair)

Harm Benson, Melinda

Second Committee Member

Schuler, Andrew

Third Committee Member

Valentin, Vanessa