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 eyes Pineapple Express soaking California
24.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>