Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Unseen Colorado Mountain Aquifers Throw Water On 'Teflon Basin' Myth

Date:
June 6, 2005
Source:
National Science Foundation
Summary:
New research shows that high-altitude aquifers honeycomb parts of the Colorado Rockies, trapping snow melt and debunking the myth that high mountain valleys act as "Teflon basins" to rush water downstream.

A researcher investigates the snowpack at the Niwot Ridge Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site.
Credit: Niwot Ridge LTER site

New research shows that high-altitude aquifers honeycomb parts of the Colorado Rockies, trapping snow melt and debunking the myth that high mountain valleys act as "Teflon basins" to rush water downstream.

Related Articles


Scientist Mark Williams of the University of Colorado at Boulder conducted geochemical studies that show that less than half of the annual snow melt in the Green Lakes Valley in the mountains west of Boulder arrives at a downstream watershed treatment facility as "new water." He found that most of the water sampled from North Boulder Creek during runoff months was "old groundwater" that had been stored in subterranean mountain catchments.

"We're seeing that snow melt is re-charging the hydrologic systems in the mountains, pushing old groundwater from subsurface reservoirs into rivers and streams," Williams said. "The common perception that water stored in mountain snow packs runs immediately into streams and rivers is probably wrong, and the Teflon basin myth is incorrect."

Groundwater in the Green Lakes Valley on Niwot Ridge -- a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site -- appears to be stored in a huge catacomb of rock that Williams likened to a tiered cake. Researchers sampled surface snow and rain as well as streams, lakes and springs in the area, at tree line and above.

Similar studies by Williams and colleagues near Leadville, Colo., showed that high-mountain groundwater is dominated by snow melt that is locked underground for years or decades. Water from the snow pack replenishes high-altitude groundwater reservoirs, pooling underground rather than rushing downstream toward the plains.

"A greater understanding of how human activities impact the water in our aquifers, streams and rivers is critical," says Henry Gholz, director of NSF's LTER program. "This research demonstrates how wrong our simplifications can be."

The many fault and fracture zones in the Rocky Mountains are the primary portals to the hidden catchments, he said. But the complex geology overlying the mountain aquifers continues to challenge researchers.

"The significant delay between the time we saw water entering the system at the top end and the time it showed up in the creeks was surprising," Williams said.

The researchers found that just before the peak spring runoff, more than 50 percent of the flow in North Boulder Creek above tree line was old groundwater. During the weeks immediately following the peak runoff flow, the amount of aging groundwater in the creek jumped to roughly 80 percent, he said.

"But we don't yet know how connected high-mountain groundwater is to the large, well-known aquifers on the eastern plains," Williams said. "We need to investigate this possible connection."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Science Foundation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Science Foundation. "Unseen Colorado Mountain Aquifers Throw Water On 'Teflon Basin' Myth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 June 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050603074751.htm>.
National Science Foundation. (2005, June 6). Unseen Colorado Mountain Aquifers Throw Water On 'Teflon Basin' Myth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050603074751.htm
National Science Foundation. "Unseen Colorado Mountain Aquifers Throw Water On 'Teflon Basin' Myth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/06/050603074751.htm (accessed October 31, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, October 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

How A Chorus Led Scientists To A New Frog Species

Newsy (Oct. 30, 2014) A frog noticed by a conservationist on New York's Staten Island has been confirmed as a new species after extensive study and genetic testing. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

Raw: Hawaii Lava Inches Closer

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) Aerial video shows the path lava has carved across a portion of Hawaii's big island, threatening homes in the town of Pahoa. Officials say the flow was just over 230 yards from a roadway Thursday morning. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

Raw: Hawaii Lava Approaching Village Road

AP (Oct. 30, 2014) The lava flow on the Big Island of Hawaii was 225 yards from Pahoa Village Road on Wednesday night. The lava is slowing down but still approaching the village. (Oct. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

Endangered Carpathian Ponies Are Making a Comeback in Poland

AFP (Oct. 29, 2014) At the foot of the rugged Carpathian mountains near the Polish-Ukrainian border, ranchers and scientists are trying to protect the Carpathian pony, known as the Hucul in Polish. Duration: 02:17 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins