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Open-File Report 2008–1107

Simulation of Flow Regimes to Reduce Habitat for T. tubifex

By Robert T. Milhous

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Open-File Report
2008-1107 PDF (2.96 MB)

Whirling disease has had a significant impact on trout fisheries of the American west by reducing the numbers and quality of rainbow trout in infected streams. A critical factor in the life cycle of the whirling disease parasite is the fine sediment that provides the optimum habitat for Tubifex tubifex, an oligochaete worm that acts as an intermediate host for the disease.

This report presents a model for the simulation of flushing flows required to remove undesirable fines and sand from a pool. Undesirable fines may also need to be flushed from runs, the surface layer, and backwater areas. Well-defined links of specific particle sizes to oligochaete worm abundance is needed to justify the use of flushing flows to move sediment.

An analytical method for estimating the streamflows needed to remove the fine sediment is demonstrated herein. The overall steps to follow in removing fines from a stream are:
Step 1. Determine size of the sediment that is the habitat for oligochaete worms.
Step 2. Determine location of the sediment that is the habitat for oligochaete worms.
Step 3. Determine streamflows needed to flush (remove) the sediment that is the habitat for oligochaete worms.

The case study approach is used to present the method and to demonstrate its application. The case is derived from the sediment and oligochaete worm habitat of Willow Creek, a tributary of the Upper Colorado River located in Grand County, Colo. Willow Creek Reservoir (an element of the Colorado–Big Thompson Project) controls the streamflows of the creek and is just above the study site.

Version 1.0

Posted June 2008

Suggested citation:

Milhous, R.T., 2008, Simulation of flow regimes to reduce habitat for T. Tubifex: Fort Collins, Colo., U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, Open-File Report 2008–1107, 16p.



Willow Creek Case Study

Step 1. Determining size of the sediment to be removed

Step 2. Determine location of the sediment to be flushed from the river

Step 3. Determine flushing flows needed to remove the sediment

Discussion and Conclusions


References Cited

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