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Archive for the ‘Colorado river’ Category

Climate Change Raising Zinc Level in Colorado Waterway

Posted by feww on December 16, 2010

Snake River Watershed  Zinc Up 4 Fold in 30 Years

News Release: University of Colorado at Boulder

Elevated zinc concentrations in Colorado waterway likely a result of climate change

Rising concentrations of zinc in a waterway on Colorado’s Western Slope may be the result of climate change that is affecting the timing of annual snowmelt, says a new study led by the University of Colorado at Boulder.


The Snake River watershed is located in Colorado’s White River National Forest west of Denver. This watershed drains dramatic alpine terrain en route to the Blue River and ultimately to the Colorado River.  More at source

The study focused on the Snake River watershed just west of the Continental Divide near Keystone, Colo., where CU-Boulder researchers have observed a four-fold increase in dissolved zinc over the last 30 years during the lowest water flow months, said Caitlin Crouch. Crouch, a master’s degree student who led the study, said the high levels of zinc affect stream ecology, including deleterious effects on microbes, algae, invertebrates and fish.

The team speculated the increased zinc concentrations may be tied to changes in groundwater conditions and stream flow patterns caused by climate change and the associated snowmelt that has been peaking two to three weeks earlier than normal in recent years, largely because of warming air temperatures. The result is lowered stream flows and drier soils along the stream in September and October, which increases metal concentrations, said Crouch.

“While most of the talk about climate change in western waterways is about decreasing water quantities, we are evaluating potential climate influences on water quality, which is a whole different ball game,” she said.

Crouch gave a presentation on the subject at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union held in San Francisco Dec. 13-17. The study was co-authored by Professor Diane McKnight of CU-Boulder’s civil and environmental engineering department.

The zinc in the Snake River watershed is primarily a result of acid rock drainage, or ARD, which can come from abandoned mine sites along rivers or through the natural weathering of pyrite in the local rock, said Crouch. Sometimes enhanced by mining activity, weathering pyrite forms sulfuric acid through a series of chemical reactions, which dissolves metals like zinc and carries them into the groundwater.

McKnight, also a fellow of CU-Boulder’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, said there are nearly 2,000 miles of waterways in Colorado affected by ARD.

One of the most noticeable impacts of ARD in the Upper Snake River drainage is on the fishery downstream, said Crouch, a graduate student in CU-Boulder’s Environmental Studies Program. Rainbow trout populations in much of the river are not self-sustaining because of ecologically harsh stream conditions, and the waterway requires stocking several times a year.

The elevated zinc in the Snake River comes from several ARD sources, said Crouch. Crouch’s study site — where an increasing trend in zinc concentrations is sustained by groundwater discharge — is above the Peru Creek tributary to the Snake River, where natural pyrite weathering is thought to be the main source of ARD. Peru Creek is largely devoid of life due to ARD from the abandoned Pennsylvania Mine and other smaller mines upstream and has been a target for potential remediation efforts.

McKnight said another factor involved in rising zinc levels in the Snake River watershed — which runs from the top of the Continental Divide to Dillon Reservoir — could be the result of the severe 2002 drought in Colorado. The drought significantly lowered waterways, allowing more pyrite to be weathered in dry soils of the watershed and in wetlands adjacent to the stream.

As part of her study, Crouch measured zinc concentrations in an alpine tributary of the Upper Snake River. She found that zinc concentrations there were 10 times higher than in the main stem of the waterway and correlated with increased sulfate, so-called “hard water” containing calcium and magnesium, and a variety of metals.

“This supports our contention that the increasing zinc concentrations we are seeing in the watershed are driven by the acceleration of ARD,” Crouch said. “One of the things I still am trying to parse out is whether metals like zinc are coming from one discrete source or are being diffused into the watershed from the groundwater beneath.”

Cleaning up abandoned, polluted mines like the Pennsylvania Mine remains a problem largely because of liability issues since the mine owners who normally would be responsible for the mine cleanup are long gone. The Environmental Protection Agency has begun an agency-wide effort to reduce barriers to the cleanup of abandoned mine sites by local environmental groups and volunteers.

In the case of the Pennsylvania Mine, the Snake River Task Force is working with partners like the Keystone Ski Resort, the Keystone Center, Trout Unlimited, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments, Summit County, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, the EPA and the Blue River Watershed Group.

 

Posted in Blue River Watershed, Climate Change, Colorado river, Snake River Watershed, White River National Forest | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lake Mead at Lowest Level Ever

Posted by feww on September 23, 2010

DROUGHT: EXISTENTIAL THREAT  TO REGION

Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the US, reached lowest level since June 1937

Formed by water impounded by the Hoover Dam, Lake Mead is the largest reservoir in the United States. It reached its lowest ever level in August 2010.


Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, formed by water from Colorado River impounded by the Hoover Dam, hydrates Nevada, southern California, Arizona, and northern Mexico. It is receding to its lowest level since the 1930s, when it was first filled. Image source unknown. Click images to enlarge.

Lake Mead is located on the Colorado River, about 48 km (30 miles) southeast  of Las Vegas and west of the Grand Canyon.

Extending about 180 km (112 miles) behind the dam, Lake Mead holds about 28.5 million acre feet (35 km³) of water, and provides hydroelectric power for the region.

[NOTE: An acre-foot is the amount of water that covers one acre to a depth of one foot.]


Lake Mead held only 10.35 million acre-feet, 37 percent of its capacity on August 11, 2010, when this image was taken. Source: NASA E/O. Download largest image (3 MB, JPEG).


This image acquired on August 22, 1985 shows the lake holding about 24.8 million acre-feet.  Source: NASA E/O.  Download largest image (3 MB, JPEG). Full caption available here.

The water elevation stood at 331 meters (1,087 feet) above sea level in August 2010 compared with August 1985 lake level of 370m (1,213 feet). Water restrictions will be imposed should the water elevation drop to 328m (1,075 feet). [See Lake Meade Elevation at Hoover Dam.]

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Posted in Colorado river, drought and deluge, Hoover Dam, Rocky Mountains, Water restrictions | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Drought Turning Texas Parched Dry

Posted by feww on July 26, 2009

Stop Squeezing Nature to YOUR Death!

Drought is transforming Texas into a large dry parched land

Texas is the most drought-stricken state in the country. Waterways across south-central Texas are drying up, and there’s no telling how much longer the supplies will last. Water levels are down significantly in lakes, rivers and wells throughout Texas.

US Drought Map [As dated]

State of Texas

Drought statistics released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that 77 of Texas’ 254 counties are in extreme or exceptional drought, the two most severe categories, which makes Texas the only state in the continental U.S. falling in those categories.

Climatologists expect the harsh drought conditions to continue for at least another 5 weeks.

Some 230 Texas public water systems are under mandatory water restrictions, covering areas in and around Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. Another 70 have urged customers for voluntary cutbacks.

texas drought
Farmer Michael Schaefer of St. Hedwig, Texas, says small ears on his yellow field corn show the effect of drought. ‘‘It’s pretty bad…and the 105-degree temperature doesn’t help either,’’ Schaefer said. Photo: John Davenport/Zuma Press. Image may be subject to copyright.

“In the bone-dry San Antonio-Austin area, the conditions that started in 2007 are being compared to the devastating drought of the 1950s. There have been 36 days of 100 degrees or more this year in an area where there are usually closer to 12.” AP reported.

“Among the most obvious problems are the lack of water in Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan near Austin, two massive reservoirs along the Colorado River that provide drinking water for more than 1 million people and also are popular boating and swimming spots. Streams and tributaries that feed the lakes have ‘all but dried up,’ according to the Lower Colorado River Authority.”

The water level in Lake Travis is down 54 percent, with all but one of the 12 boating ramps closed because they are too far from the edge of the water, “and the last may go soon. The receding waters have even revealed old stolen cars shoved into the lake years ago, authorities said.”

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Posted in Austin, Colorado river, Dallas, Houston, Lake Travis, San Antonio | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »