An interdisciplinary team of Utah and Wyoming researchers, led by Norm Jones, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Brigham Young University, received a $6 million National Science Foundation award for the project, which participants say could glean critical information to help answer questions about environmental sustainability in the arid Western states. The team plans to develop high-performance computer modeling and computational resources known as cyberinfrastructure to simulate how factors such as population growth, land use and climate variability might impact water supplies in the Intermountain West. Participants include researchers from BYU, the University of Utah, Utah State University and the University of Wyoming. “The work of this team, which includes some of the leading researchers in hydrology and related fields in the Western United States, will lead to a greater understanding of long-term water resource forecasting than ever before,” Jones said in a written statement.
Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council, said water managers from Western states are starting to look at water supplies in a more regional way, taking notice of the effect one state has on another…
Access to the new NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center, a facility slated to open in early 2012, could help the process. The team could develop simulations that better detail the hydrologic process, accounting for more variability in topography, land cover, geology and water management infrastructure, according to a statement from the researchers.
Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Emily Narvaes Wilmsen):
Tom Brown of the USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station and his team, Colorado State University Professor Jorge Ramirez and recent CSU graduate Romano Foti, received recognition by Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper as Designated Finalists in CO-LABS 2011 Governor’s Award for High Impact Research awards for their research, “Quantifying the Current and Future Vulnerability of the United States Water Supply System.”
Brown is the lead Water Resources Scientist for the U.S. Forest Service Forest and Rangeland Renewable Resources Planning Act (RPA) 2010 update. For the last 15 years, he has been researching, evaluating, and modeling water supply and demand. Ramirez and Foti were both key partners in this research.
This research assesses the current and future vulnerability of our nation’s water supply system and models projected changes in vulnerability using three climate models with several emission scenarios. One key finding shows that future increases in the vulnerability of the U.S. water supply to shortage will depend more on changes in supply than on growth in water demand. This research maps out the demand for, and supply of, water in the contiguous U.S. today and into the future and will be a foundation for water management policy decisions. The publication of this study is anticipated in spring 2012.
“The research conducted by Brown and his team is exemplary of the Station’s mission to ‘develop and deliver knowledge and innovative technology to improve the health and use of the nation’s forests and rangelands’,” said Sam Foster, Rocky Mountain Research Station Director.
Colorado State is known internationally for its water expertise with about 150 scientists in all eight colleges dedicated to some aspect of water research. The university is also home to the Colorado Water Institute, a state-funded institution that exists to assist agencies and state residents with evolving water concerns. Ramirez, a Colorado State professor of civil and environmental engineering, leads the I-WATER (Integrated Water, Atmosphere, Ecosystems Education and Research) program, a $2.75 million research and education program funded by the National Science Foundation to train the next generation of water scientists. He teaches courses in hydrologic science and engineering and does research on eco-hydrology, land surface atmosphere interactions, sustainability and integrated vulnerability analysis of water and environmental systems, regional evapotranspiration trends and climate change, and the impacts of climate variability on hydrologic processes.
The RMRS is one of seven regional units that make up the U.S. Forest Service Research and Development organization – the most extensive natural resources research organization in the world. The Station maintains 12 field laboratories throughout a 12-state territory encompassing the Great Basin, Southwest, Rocky Mountains, and parts of the Great Basin, and administers and conducts research on 14 experimental forests, ranges, and watersheds, while maintaining long-term databases for these areas. To find out more about the RMRS go to http://www.fs.fed.us/rmrs.
The CO-LABS organization is a non-profit that informs the public about the breakthroughs and impacts from the 24 federal labs in Colorado. The annual awards for “High Impact Research” acknowledge Colorado-based research centers for breakthroughs in atmospheric science, renewable energy, sustainability and disease prevention. For more information about CO-LABS and the 2011 Governor’s Awards for High Impact Research go to www.co-labs.org.
Steve Tarlton, state health department radiation control program manager, wanted to assure those attending a public meeting Wednesday that both surface water and groundwater is prevented from moving off the mill site by an earthen dam and a pumpback system located between the mill site and the Lincoln Park neighborhood. He said no new contamination is leaving the site.
Cotter Corp.’s license will expire in early 2012, so company officials must submit a renewal application by the end of this year. State health officials also want a better look at the “legacy” contamination in the neighboring Lincoln Park community, which became part of the Superfund cleanup site in 1984 after the 1958 to 1979 use of unlined tailings impoundments allowed uranium and molybdenum contamination to seep into the groundwater.
“Ten new wells will be drilled in Lincoln Park and we will examine test results to try to get good data to define the edges of the contamination plume,” Ethington said. The hydrology of the area is controlled by the leaking of irrigation ditches, but one irrigation ditch — the Pump Ditch — may be blocking contamination from escaping the Lincoln Park neighborhood. “I believe it is like a dam that is obstructing movement,” Ethington explained, pointing out that officials want to figure out how to allow the contamination to get out of the Lincoln Park neighborhood.
“A hundred years down the line what is that (Arkansas) river going to be like? And a thousand years from now people will be saying what in the hell were those guys thinking,” asked Tony Belaski, a local resident.
“I have no answer for how long it will take to get to the river. We thought it would be diluted by now — that is something we need to figure out,” Tarlton said. Tarlton said the diluting power of the Arkansas River will be much more powerful than the springs and runoff affecting groundwater in Lincoln Park.
Tarlton said officials will look for alternatives to capture groundwater sooner at the mill site before it flows away and becomes more difficult to deal with. Among alternatives that will be considered are trenching, a new evaporation pond and a water treatment facility which would be costly, Tarlton said. “All the alternatives will be evaluated during the license renewal,” Tarlton said…
State health officials said there will be several opportunities for the public to comment during meetings throughout the license renewal process. The process also will include an environmental impact assessment, Tarlton said…
And finally, state officials want to investigate the potential source of a separate groundwater plume found under the Shadow Hills Golf Course which sits just south of the mill site. “That plume only has uranium in it so it is probably a different source. It is the kind of material derived more from an ore rather than the processing of ore,” Ethington explained.
More Lincoln Park/Cotter Mill superfund site coverage here and here.