@USGS and Colorado School of Mines announce long-term partnership

Junior environmental engineering students measure water quality parameters for their field session client, Clear Creek Watershed Foundation. (Credit: Deirdre O. Keating)

Here’s the release from the USGS (David Ozman):

CSM to be new home of USGS labs, 150 government scientists

Today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke joined Paul C. Johnson, president of Colorado School of Mines, to announce a long-term partnership between the university and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). The partnership will bring more than 150 USGS scientists and their minerals research labs to the university’s Golden, Colorado, campus where government scientists and Mines faculty and students will work together in a new state-of-the-art facility. Johnson and Zinke were joined at today’s announcement by Senator Cory Gardner and Congressman Ed Perlmutter, as well as Mines Board of Trustees Chairman Thomas E. Jorden and Roseann Gonzales-Schreiner, USGS Associate Director for Administration and Acting Director of the Southwest Region.

“This is a great day for the USGS and for Colorado School of Mines,” said Secretary Zinke. “The majority of USGS’s work is on federal lands in the west, but their research is also used by government agencies, the private sector, universities, nonprofits and partners all over the world. Partnering with Colorado School of Mines, a world-class earth science research institution, and co-locating our scientists and researchers creates incredible opportunities to spur innovation and transformational breakthroughs, while also providing an incredible pool of talent from which to recruit.”

“With this new facility, the USGS and the School of Mines will have a revolutionary shared workspace for the world-class research and education that the USGS and the Colorado School of Mines are famous for delivering to the country,” said USGS Director Jim Reilly. “We look forward to this expansion of our efforts in the great State of Colorado and I’m distinctly honored to be the Director at the time of this development.”

“The expanded USGS presence at Mines will capitalize on our collective expertise to address the availability of mineral and energy resources, environmental challenges and geo-environmental hazards, all of which are of critical importance to national security and the economies of Colorado and the nation. It will also create an incredibly unique educational environment that will produce the leaders we need to tackle future challenges related to exploration and development of resources here on Earth and in space, subsurface infrastructure and sustainable stewardship of the Earth,” said Mines President Paul C. Johnson. “We want to thank our Colorado congressional delegation, especially Rep. Ed Perlmutter and Sen. Cory Gardner, for their help in forging this exciting partnership with the USGS.”

“I’ve been working hard to convince everyone that Colorado and the School of Mines are a perfect match for the United States Geological Survey,” said Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO). “This move highlights the scientific leadership of our state. We will be putting USGS in a modern facility in a state where research on their core mission areas can be performed right out their back door. Their water resource research will be particularly useful to Colorado and other western states as we continue to grapple with long-term drought. I’d like to welcome Dr. Reilly and his team to the campus and thank Secretary Zinke for his leadership on this issue.”

“This new Subsurface Frontiers Building on the Mines Campus will be a tremendous asset for their faculty and students, and housing USGS staff and lab space will further cement the strong relationship between Mines, USGS and the Department of the Interior,” said Congressman Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-7). “This was a team effort, and I want to thank everyone for their hard work to make this happen.”

USGS and Mines, renowned for their expertise in the earth sciences and engineering, are expanding a long-standing relationship to catalyze even greater collaboration among USGS scientists and Mines faculty and students in the name of tackling the nation’s natural resource, security and environmental challenges, and exploring frontiers where the next innovations in earth and space resources, technology and engineering will occur. The relationship between Mines and the USGS goes back more than 40 years, with the USGS Geologic Hazards Science Center and its National Earthquake Information Center already calling the Mines campus home.

@USGS Crews Work Fast to Capture Evidence of Devastating Carolina Floods

Here’s the release from the USGS (Heather Dewar:

To learn more about USGS’ role providing science to decision makers before, during and after #Florence, visit the #USGS Hurricane Florence page at https://www.usgs.gov/florence

The floodwaters that covered wide swaths of the Carolinas’ coastal plain are finally receding, more than two weeks after Hurricane Florence made landfall Sept. 14 near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, and U.S. Geological Survey hydrographers are moving in rapidly to the areas where the flooding lingered longest. About 30 flood experts are in the second week of a high water mark campaign, traveling from one hard-hit community to the next, searching neighborhood by neighborhood and sometimes door to door for physical evidence of flooding.

Double-checking a high water mark on a church door near Maxton, NC September 2018 via USGS.

The USGS experts are looking for telltale lines of seeds, leaves, grass blades and other debris left behind on buildings, bridges, other structures and even tree trunks as floodwaters recede. Once they find these high water marks, they label them, photograph them, survey them, and record crucial details about them.

The USGS flood experts’ field work is highly skilled and time-sensitive, because high water marks can be obliterated by weather and by property owners’ cleanup efforts. Hydrographers have been in the field collecting high water marks each day since Sept. 18, working mostly in two-person teams and moving as quickly as receding waters and the scope of the work permits. The teams from the USGS South Atlantic Water Science Center, which covers the Carolinas and Georgia, have recorded more than 600 high water marks in North and South Carolina and surveyed at least 365 of those. Field crews expect to record many more as they move into communities like Conway, South Carolina, where the floodwaters have not yet finished their retreat. You can see some preliminary results of their work at the USGS Flood Event Viewer for Hurricane Florence: https://stn.wim.usgs.gov/FEV/#FlorenceSep2018

Why is this fieldwork important? The physical signs of flooding provide valuable information that can confirm or correct other lines of evidence. Among these are measurements from a network of about 475 permanent and temporary river and streamgages that were in place in North and South Carolina when Florence struck; more than 175 stream and river flow measurements taken by field crews after the storm on flood-swollen rivers, streams and even roads; satellite photos and imagery from unmanned aerial vehicles (or drones); and computer modelled flood projections. Taken together, all this evidence will allow USGS experts to reconstruct precisely where, when, at what depth, and in what volume floodwaters inundated the region.

USGS hydrologic technician Rob Forde flags a high water mark above the eaves at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Spring Hill, NC in the wake of flooding brought on by Hurricane Florence. Credit: Kagho Asongu, USGS. Public domain.

Right after the storm, the USGS’ early information from high water marks can help emergency managers decide where to locate relief centers, so that aid can reach the most severely affected communities quickly, and can help the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manage flood control.

In the coming weeks USGS flood information can help the Federal Emergency Management Agency to discern the difference between wind and water damage – important information for property owners and insurers. Over the long term, it can help emergency managers plan better for future floods; improve the computer models used by the National Weather Service to forecast flooding; and provide information used by FEMA to update the nationwide flood zone maps that underpin the federal flood insurance program.

“I am proud of the USGS staff’s speed, thoroughness and accuracy as they do this essential work in difficult conditions, and under the pressure of time,” said USGS South Atlantic Water Science Center director Eric Strom. “The team began working well before Florence made landfall, when field crews began installing storm-tide sensors along the coast. Right after the storm passed, we mobilized as many as 60 people at a time to fix or relocate streamgages that were damaged or destroyed, monitor the flooding, and work with forecasters and emergency managers to get them the up-to-date flood information they needed. And now, because the rivers have receded so slowly, we’re in the midst of a long high water mark campaign in two states.

“It’s been a sustained, coordinated effort in response to a hurricane that triggered record-setting floods.”

Preliminary USGS data indicates that Florence’s heavy rains resulted in 19 water level records on rivers and streams in North Carolina and 10 records in South Carolina. Rivers that reached or exceeded the major flood stage heights forecast by the National Weather Service included the Cape Fear, Northeast Cape Fear, Neuse, Lumber, Waccamaw, Pee Dee, Little Pee Dee, Black and Lynches rivers.

This flood event viewer, dated Oct. 3, 2018, shows the extent and type of information collected by USGS hydrologists in North and South Carolina in the wake of historic flooding brought on by Hurricane Florence. Credit: USGS. Public domain.

The flooding in the Carolinas was long-lasting, with several rivers experiencing two peaks of high water flow or flood stage. The first one happened as local rainfall flowed into rivers and streams, and the second one came as rain that fell near the rivers’ headwaters worked its way downstream. In Goldsboro, North Carolina, about 100 miles inland from Florence’s landfall, the Neuse River escaped from its banks, crested at 27.6 feet on September 18, and lingered above the 18-foot flood stage mark for almost a week. The last two rivers to peak were both in South Carolina: the Little Pee Dee on Sept. 25 and the Waccamaw River on Sept. 26.

“Unfortunately, our experience dating back to the 1940s shows that the Carolina coastal plain is a flood-prone region,” said the center’s South Carolina-based associate director John Shelton, who was the on-site coordinator for much of the USGS response. “The scientific knowledge we’re gaining now will be put to good use helping to protect lives and property if and when floods strike this area again.”

For more than 125 years, the USGS has monitored flow in selected streams and rivers across the U.S. The information is routinely used for water supply and management, monitoring floods and droughts, bridge and road design, determination of flood risk and for many recreational activities.

Can steadier releases from Glen Canyon Dam make #ColoradoRiver ‘buggy’ enough for fish and wildlife? #COriver

Here’s an interview with Ted Kennedy, a U.S. Geological Survey aquatic biologist from Gary Pitzer and the Water Education Foundation. Click through and read the whole article. Here’s an excerpt:

Water means life for all the Grand Canyon’s inhabitants, including the many varieties of insects that are a foundation of the ecosystem’s food web. But hydropower operations upstream on the Colorado River at Glen Canyon Dam, in Northern Arizona near the Utah border, disrupt the natural pace of insect reproduction as the river rises and falls, sometimes dramatically. Eggs deposited at the river’s edge are often left high and dry and their loss directly affects available food for endangered fish such as the humpback chub.

Ted Kennedy, a U.S. Geological Survey aquatic biologist, led a recently concluded experimental flow that is raising optimism that the decline in insects such as midges, blackflies, mayflies and caddisflies can be reversed. Conducted under the long-term, comprehensive plan for Glen Canyon Dam management during the next 20 years, the experimental flow is expected to help determine dam operations and actions that could improve conditions and minimize adverse impacts on natural, recreational and cultural resources downstream.

Western Water spoke with Kennedy about the experiment, what he learned and where it may lead. The transcript has been lightly edited for space and clarity.

It turns out that streamflow in the #AnimasRiver near Farmington was a monster 5 CFS rather than the 0 CFS reported

West Drought Monitor July 3, 2018.

From The Durango Herald (Jonathan Romeo) via The Cortez Journal:

A U.S. Geological Survey river gauge in Farmington that recorded the Animas River flowing at nearly non-existent levels was the result of human error, the scientific agency said Friday.

Fletcher Brinkerhoff, a supervisory hydrologic technician for the USGS in Albuquerque, said the reading of 0 cubic feet per second at the gauge was the result of incorrect information entered into the USGS’s database.

The Durango Herald reported about record-low reading in a Page 1A story Friday.

Still, water levels the past few weeks have been incredibly low, Brinkerhoff said, hovering around 5 cfs.

@USGS: Water Use Across the United States Declines to Levels Not Seen Since 1970

Here’s the release from the USGS (Mia Drane-Maury, Cheryl Dieter):

Reductions in water use first observed in 2010 continue, show ongoing effort towards “efficient use of critical water resources.”

Water use across the country reached its lowest recorded level in 45 years. According to a new USGS report, 322 billion gallons of water per day (Bgal/d) were withdrawn for use in the United States during 2015.

This represents a 9 percent reduction of water use from 2010 when about 354 Bgal/d were withdrawn and the lowest level since before 1970 (370 Bgal/d).

“The downward trend in water use shows a continued effort towards efficient use of critical water resources, which is encouraging,” said Tim Petty, assistant secretary for Water and Science at the Department of the Interior. “Water is the one resource we cannot live without, and when it is used wisely, it helps to ensure there will be enough to sustain human needs, as well as ecological and environmental needs.”

Total water withdrawals by State, 2015 [1 Bgal/d = 1,000 million gallons per day].

In 2015, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states (in order of withdrawal amounts): California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Arkansas, New York, Illinois, Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Montana, and Nebraska.

Total water withdrawals by category and by State from west to east, 2015 [1 Bgal/d = 1,000 million gallons per day].

California accounted for almost 9 percent of the total withdrawals for all categories and 9 percent of total freshwater withdrawals. Texas accounted for about 7 percent of total withdrawals for all categories, predominantly for thermoelectric power generation, irrigation, and public supply.

Florida had the largest share of saline withdrawals, accounting for 23 percent of the total in the country, mostly saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power generation. Texas and California accounted for 59 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining.

“The USGS is committed to providing comprehensive reports of water use in the country to ensure that resource managers and decision makers have the information they need to manage it well,” said USGS director Jim Reilly. “These data are vital for understanding water budgets in the different climatic settings across the country.”

For the first time since 1995, the USGS estimated consumptive use for two categories — thermoelectric power generation and irrigation. Consumptive use is the fraction of total water withdrawals that is unavailable for immediate use because it is evaporated, transpired by plants, or incorporated into a product.

“Consumptive use is a key component of the water budget. It’s important to not only know how much water is being withdrawn from a source, but how much water is no longer available for other immediate uses,” said USGS hydrologist Cheryl Dieter.

The USGS estimated a consumptive use of 4.31 Bgal/d, or 3 percent of total water use for thermoelectric power generation in 2015. In comparison, consumptive use was 73.2 Bgal/d, or 62 percent of total water use for irrigation in 2015.

Water withdrawn for thermoelectric power generation was the largest use nationally at 133 Bgal/d, with the other leading uses being irrigation and public supply, respectively. Withdrawals declined for thermoelectric power generation and public supply, but increased for irrigation. Collectively, these three uses represented 90 percent of total withdrawals.

  • Thermoelectric power decreased 18 percent from 2010, the largest percent decline of all categories.
  • Irrigation withdrawals (all freshwater) increased 2 percent.
  • Public-supply withdrawals decreased 7 percent.
  • Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015.

    Trends in total water withdrawals by water-use category, 1950-2015.

    A number of factors can be attributed to the 18 percent decline in thermoelectric-power withdrawals, including a shift to power plants that use more efficient cooling-system technologies, declines in withdrawals to protect aquatic life, and power plant closures.

    As it did in the period between 2005 and 2010, withdrawals for public supply declined between 2010 and 2015, despite a 4 percent increase in the nation’s total population. The number of people served by public-supply systems continued to increase and the public-supply domestic per capita use declined to 82 gallons per day in 2015 from 88 gallons per day in 2010. Total domestic per capita use (public supply and self-supplied combined) decreased from 87 gallons per day in 2010 to 82 gallons per day in 2015.

    The USGS is the world’s largest provider of water data and the premier water research agency in the federal government.

    Variability of hydrological #droughts in the conterminous United States, 1951 through 2014

    Click here to go to the USGS website to read the report. Here’s the abstract:

    Abstract

    Spatial and temporal variability in the frequency, duration, and severity of hydrological droughts across the conterminous United States (CONUS) was examined using monthly mean streamflow measured at 872 sites from 1951 through 2014. Hydrological drought is identified as starting when streamflow falls below the 20th percentile streamflow value for 3 consecutive months and ending when streamflow remains above the 20th percentile streamflow value for 3 consecutive months. Mean drought frequency for all aggregated ecoregions in CONUS is 16 droughts per 100 years. Mean drought duration is 5 months, and mean drought severity is 39 percent on a scale ranging from 0 percent to 100 percent (with 100% being the most severe). Hydrological drought frequency is highest in the Western Mountains aggregated ecoregion and lowest in the Eastern Highlands, Northeast, and Southeast Plains aggregated ecoregions. Hydrological drought frequencies of 17 or more droughts per 100 years were found for the Central Plains, Southeast Coastal Plains, Western Mountains, and Western Xeric aggregated ecoregions. Drought duration and severity indicate spatial variability among the sites, but unlike drought frequency, do not show coherent spatial patterns. A comparison of an older period (1951–82) with a recent period (1983–2014) indicates few sites have statistically significant changes in drought frequency, drought duration, or drought severity at a 95-percent confidence level.

    @USGS: Browse/download 38,000+ historic photos on our USGS Photographic Library website

    Long bar with multiplex projectors. Photogrammetry, Topographic Division, U.S. Geological Survey. Denver, Colorado. 1955. Photo credit: USGS

    Click here to access the site. (Not safe for work unless you are a historian.)