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Science and Innovations

Colorado River Managers Begin First Experimental 'Bug Flows'


This weekend, managers at Glen Canyon Dam will begin a first-of-its-kind experiment to release water that benefits bugs, which play a vital role in the Colorado River ecosystem. KNAU’s Melissa Sevigny reports.

These “bug flows” are meant to provide safe places for aquatic insects to lay their eggs.

Under normal operations, the Colorado River fluctuates widely with hydropower demand, which causes eggs on the riverbanks to dry out and die. This experiment will provide low, steady flows on the weekends. Normal operations will continue during the week.

Ted Kennedy is a research ecologist at the U.S. Geological Survey. He says, "We’re sure hoping that this might represent the kind of win-win that we’re always searching for, where we can still meet society’s needs and demands for renewable hydropower while improving the health of the Colorado River ecosystems."

Kennedy says aquatic insects are a vital source of food for fish and wildlife. Some sensitive species like caddisflies and mayflies have nearly vanished from the Grand Canyon.

The bug flows will continue through the end of August.

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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