Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Droughts and reservoirs: Finding storage space underground

19.09.2006
Odd as it sounds, in some places the smartest way to safeguard the water supply is to let it drain out of the reservoirs and soak into the ground. That's what been discovered in local water shortages in Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico – all of which could be microcosms of water shortage issues looming throughout the Western U.S.

In these three cases – Cedar Bluff Reservoir (Hays, KS), Optima Lake, (Guymon, OK), and Storrie Lake (Las Vegas, NM) – water losses from evaporation are so high that they can accelerate water supply emergencies for farms and cities, explains Tom Brikowski, a professor of hydrology at the University of Texas at Dallas. Brikowski and Wayland Anderson, a Denver engineer, are presenting their work at the Geological Society of America conference on Managing Drought and Water Scarcity in Vulnerable Environments: Creating a Roadmap for Change. The meeting takes place 18-20 September at the Radisson Hotel and Conference Center in Longmont, Colorado.

In the case of the City of Hays, the trouble starts 20 miles upstream at the Cedar Bluff Reservoir. Because of changes in farming practices, the reservoir gets only half the inflowing water it did when built in 1949. It now loses 75 percent of its inflowing water to evaporation. As a result, water losses most years now equal or exceed inflows. Reservoir releases were cut in 1979.

"You get to the point where you can't afford to lose that much water," said Brikowski, "and your only other alternative is to store it underground."

But how do you do that? In the case of Hays, nature had already provided for underground storage in the form of the Smoky Hill River aquifer. The aquifer has provided half the city's water supply for decades. Since the building of the Cedar Bluff reservoir, however, stream flow on top of it has dropped by 50 percent. That stream water recharged the wells, which, in turn, kept alive the town of Hays, Brikowski explains.

At the behest of the City of Hays, Brikowski and Anderson created a detailed three-dimensional model of the sandy, gravelly ("alluvial") ground beneath the Smokey Hill River. Anderson analyzed the water balance of the reservoir. Next they simulated what had happened to the dropping water table, how much groundwater the aquifer could store, and how long a drought it could endure.

"It's a clear case that the shut off of water (by the reservoir) limited how much water Hays could pump," said Brikowski. It also showed that by releasing water from that same reservoir they could kill two birds with one stone: recharge the aquifer and reduce the evaporation loss rate. According to Brikowski, "It was pretty hard to argue with the conclusion."

They also found that by releasing reservoir water to recharge the Smoky Hill River aquifer, users could survive even the worst recorded drought with full production from municipal wells.

"I think the City as a whole was quite happy," said Brikowski. By getting a better understanding of their water, the city can now avert seasonal water emergencies and no longer have to consider building hundreds of miles of pipeline to get water from other river basins.

This story could replay in other places as well – especially where reservoirs are getting less inflow due to changing water uses or climate change.

There's the city of Las Vegas, NM, only months away from evacuations this year after lack of snow over the winter left streams dry. It was only the annual monsoon season that saved them this year, said Brikowski. The water crisis is becoming an almost annual event as winter snow packs shrink and melt sooner each spring, probably as a consequence of global warming.

"More efficient storage, perhaps in alluvial aquifers, represents the only real hope for a solution," Brikowski said.

The same may eventually be the case for most of California, which relies heavily on the melting of snow pack high in the Sierra Nevada to feed streams and rivers through the summer. Global warming is expected to raise the snowline on those mountains and has already pushed spring earlier in the year. This means there is generally less snowmelt and it may not last the whole summer.

The Optima Reservoir of the Oklahoma Panhandle is an extreme example. A dry lake, it loses 100 percent of its inflowing water to evaporation. Converting to subsurface storage may be the only way to store water.

"It's not that in any of these places they've done anything wrong," Brikowski said. Rather, situations change and water management has to keep up to avoid supply problems. Underground storage, he said, is something to add to the water management toolbox.

Ann Cairns | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.geosociety.org

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Argon is not the 'dope' for metallic hydrogen

24.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers find unexpected, dust-obscured star formation in distant galaxy

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core

24.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>