Colorado River Managers Begin First Experimental 'Bug Flows'

May 4, 2018

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.

Glen Canyon Dam
Credit USGS

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.