AWRA Awards $7500 in Scholarships

August 7, 2014 | Posted by cmccrehin
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AWRA Scholarship winners

2014 AWRA Richard A. Herbert Scholarship winners (L to R): Natalie Nelson, Emma Mendelsohn and Peter Bauson

AWRA is pleased to announce the recipients of our 2014 Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Fund awards. Considered by AWRA and our members to be one of the organization’s greatest accomplishments, the scholarship fund, established in 1980, has helped 41 students continue with their studies in water resources management.

“The 2014 Herbert Scholarship applicant pool was most impressive,” according to Martha Narvaez, chair of the selection committee. “If this pool of applicants is any indication, the field of water resources will benefit greatly from the next generation of water resource professionals.”

Application packets for 2015-2016 may be submitted starting in January 2015. For more information on our scholarship program email

The 2014 AWRA Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Fund winners are:

Natalie Nelson, University of Florida – Graduate (Ph.D.) Student Award ($2,000)
Natalie is a Ph.D. student in Agricultural and Biological Engineering. Her academic platform also includes certificates in Hydrologic Sciences and Wetland Science. A diverse plan of study, including Wetland Hydrology, Marine Ecological Processes, Wetland Restoration and Management, Geographic Information Systems, and Wetlands and Watersheds Law, supports her interdisciplinary research.

In 2012, Natalie was awarded a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which has enabled her to pursue research focusing on understanding algal bloom development in freshwater systems. For the past two years, she has been a member of the First Place team in the Large Institution Category of the national EPA Campus RainWorks Challenge, a “green” Stormwater management design competition. She is the co-lead of “AquArts,” an educational program that utilizes artistic teaching methods to inform first and second graders of the urban water cycle and sustainable water practices that can be implemented at home.

Emma Mendelsohn, Duke University – Graduate (M.S.) Student Award ($2,000)
Emma is currently studying sustainable water quality management as a master’s candidate. Her studies include hydrology, water pollution, and geospatial analysis from a management perspective; bridging science, economics and public policy and the day-to-day realities of water resource management. She also works as a Watershed Hydrology and Biogeoscience Field/GIS Assistant, researching the hydrologic connectivity between headwater streams and downstream waters. For her capstone masters project, she intends to study how storm events impact aquatic biota downstream from coal ash ponds.

Peter Bauson, Manchester University – Undergraduate Student Award ($2,000)
Peter is currently majoring in Environmental Studies and Biology. In addition to his academic curriculum, he has participated in several research projects related to water resources. One of his first projects was a diurnal study of the Eel River, which entailed monitoring pH and dissolved oxygen.

In addition, due to the overwhelming generosity of AWRA members, the Board of Directors and Scholarship Committee are pleased to announce three ancillary scholarships. Recipients are:

  • Asia Dowtin, University of Delaware – Ph.D. Student ($500)
  • Willa Paterson, Pennsylvania State University – M.S. Student ($500)
  • Ariel Nautch Edwards, Western Washington University – Undergraduate Student ($500)

If you would like to show your support for our next generation of water resources managers, please consider making a donation to our scholarship program. You do not need to be a member of AWRA to donate.

Congratulations to the winners of the Student Presenter Competition from AWRA’s 2014 GIS and Water Resources VIII – Data to Decisions Conference, which was held in Salt Lake City, Utah May 12-14. Twenty-one students participated and were scheduled throughout the conference technical program. Conference attendees were given the opportunity to judge the students during their scheduled sessions. The following criteria was used for all competitors:

  • Efficient use of allotted presentation time or poster space.
  • Quality of responses to audience questions in oral or at poster sessions.
  • Effective integration of audio-visual materials.
  • Perceived preparedness.
  • Logic and understandability of material (problem, methods, results, conclusions).
  • Adequate description of context for material – conveyed purpose of paper, identified relevant literatures, etc.
  • Overall style and presence; effective communicator – enthusiasm or persuasiveness
  • Suitability for AWRA/professional audience.
  • Significance and originality of the material presented.

Everyone did a terrific job and made the decision difficult.  However the following individual was selected as the outstanding winners:

Oral Student Presenter:  Zachary Benedetto, Lafayette College, Easton, PA
Development of GIS-based surface water and groundwater transport models for Lower Saucon Township, PA (co-authors: Dru Germanoski, John Wilson, David Brandes and Rachel Brummel)

Poster Student Presenter:  Celena Cui, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO
GIS-based nitrogen removal model for assessing vulnerability of Florida’s surficial aquifer from Onsite Wastewater Systems (co-authors:  Wendy Zhou, Mengistu Geza)

Again, our congratulations on a job well done to all those students who were in the competition and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors.  We look forward to hearing more from everyone at future AWRA conferences!

Zachary Benedetto Bio

benedettoZack Benedetto was a Senior at Lafayette College at the time of the AWRA GIS conference, and has since then graduated Summa Cum Laude with honors in both Civil Engineering and Geology. At the conference, he presented his Senior thesis research which consisted of developing GIS-based surface water and groundwater transport models for a township in Pennsylvania to use in the future to simulate contaminant flow. Other activities Zack was involved in at Lafayette included the Outdoors Club, a co-ed a cappella group, and intramural sports. He enjoys hiking and traveling and he spent a semester abroad in New Zealand. Zack starts working full time in July at Arup, an engineering firm in NYC that focuses on sustainable land development and infrastructure projects. He may attend graduate school in the future.

Celena Cui Bio

cui Celena is from San Diego, CA and has always been interested in our surrounding environment. This interest motivated her to study environmental systems at the University of California, San Diego, where she obtained her bachelor’s degree. Afterwards, Celena continued her studies at the Colorado School of Mines in the Hydrologic Science and Engineering Program. As a part of her master’s thesis work, Celena collaborated with Dr. Wendy Zhou and Dr. Mengistu Geza on developing a GIS-based nitrogen removal model for assessing Florida’s surficial aquifer vulnerability from onsite wastewater treatment systems. It was her pleasure to present this work at the AWRA conference as it concluded her graduate studies this spring. Celena now looks forward to new goals and challenges in the environmental field.


August 2, 2014 | Posted by admin
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Featured Collection: Clinch River

 The Clinch River of southwestern Virginia and northeastern Tennessee is arguably the most important river for freshwater mussel conservation in the United States. This featured collection, put together by guest associate editors Carl Zipper, Jennifer Krstolic, Bill Wolfe, and Greg Cope, presents investigations of mussel population status and habitat quality in the Clinch River. Collectively, these studies identify major ions and metals as water- and sediment-quality concerns for mussel conservation in the Clinch River.

Other Technical Papers:

Collins and Gillies examine removal effectiveness of constructed wetlands.

Chu et al. explore techniques for detecting shifts in rainfall and runoff.

Royer et al. examine conjunctive water use in confined basalt aquifers.

Long and Dymond examine bioretention as a strategy to reduce thermal impacts of urban stormwater runoff.

Robertson et al. use SPARROW to look at nutrients in the Mississippi/Atchafalaya basin.

Habberfield et al. compare stream restoration assessment techniques.




TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 26 July – 1 August 2014

August 1, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Welcome to August!BtlxJ_ECAAEnLmr

Did you hear about the recent ‘Math Lab Bust’ in Laurel County, KY? The perps were caught red-handed with the tools of the trade - Klein bottles and Riemannian manifolds!

Picture courtesy of WLEX-18 in Lexington, KY.

Click here for the latest summary of water news.


“A river is more than an amenity, it is a treasure.” -Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes (thanks to @BlueWaterBmore)

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 19 – 25 July 2014

July 25, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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coverI don’t need no stinkin’ book to tell me that water makes me happy!  ’Doing water’ makes me happy! Even my water students make me happy!

But I’ll probably read it anyway….

Click here to access the weekly water news. For jobs, scroll down to ‘Positions Open’.


“I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, ‘Where is the self-help section?’ She said that if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.” - George Carlin

‘The Santa Cruz Declaration’ – Good, but Misses Some Points

July 19, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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logoA few days ago one of my email lists contained this message from Ben Crow:
The Santa Cruz Declaration on the Global Water Crisis came out of a US National Science Foundation sponsored workshop on Equitable Water Governance last year. It was published in Water International earlier this year with commentary from several figures in the field of water. It seeks to describe several categories of water injustice compromising the lives and livelihoods of many millions across the globe. It also provides a brief summary of possibilities arising from the contestation of water injustice in many local contexts.
The opening statement of the Declaration has proved controversial as you will see from some of the comments:

At least one billion people around the world struggle with insufficient access to water. However, the global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality. This declaration expresses our understanding of water injustice and how it can be addressed. 

A continuation of debate about the Declaration is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Water International
I will be happy to receive additional comments on the Declaration and will post them online with the Declaration.
Ben Crow
Here is the workshop homepage, which includes PDFs of the papers. I could likely discern the backgrounds of the attendees (one was my former Master’s student, Abigail Brown) or at least the papers’ authors.
Here is a copy of the SCD and some invited comments:
Download SC_Declaration&Comments_2014
(Water International, 2014, Vol. 39, No. 2, 246–261; 
So what do I make of this document? The following strains credulity (emboldening mine):

However, the global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality.

I certainly agree that injustice and inequality are elements of the ‘global water crisis’ (which I assume refers to water quantity/quality ‘shortcomings’). There is no question that water mismanagement and inadequate institutions contribute to the ‘crisis’. But I cannot accept the authors’ contention that injustice and inequality are the main causes of the ‘global water crisis’. No evidence is provided to support their premise.
The comments made by the experts were somewhat enlightening, although a few tended toward verbosity and seemed more focused on promoting recent books.
These comments (p. 251), by Salman M.A. Salman, left me cold (emboldening mine):

We have been constantly reminded that of the 1400 million cubic kilometres of global water resources, only 2.5% is freshwater; and of that amount, 99% is permanent ice or in deep aquifersThus, there is not enough water on the planet, particularly with the escalation in population growth (from 1.6 billion to 6.1 billion during the last century alone).

The numbers are correct. But not enough water? ‘Deep aquifers’ – that must be code for ‘unavailable’. Dissing groundwater again!
The comments that resonated most with me were those of friend, colleague, and hydrogeologist Yoram EcksteinHe pulled no punches:

I read this ‘declaration’ in the morning, and since I got hot under my collar I decided to put it aside. Then I read it again in the evening, and got ‘dismayed’ again. So, here is the ‘beef’. The ‘declaration’ opens with the following stunning statement summarizing the authors’ “understanding of water injustice and how it can be addressed”:

The global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity. Although limited water supply and inadequate institutions are indeed part of the problem, we assert that the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality. We, the undersigned scholars, community members, activists, officials and citizens, declare that the principal form of the water crisis is not a shortage of water, nor failures of government, but the many injustices in access to, the allocation of, and the quality of water. The global water crisis is not likely to be resolved by the provision of more water.

It never fails to amuse me to see when lawyers and ‘social justice activists’ talk (or write) about injustice in allocation of a resource without any understanding of the physical nature of the resource. I do not know if the group authoring this ‘declaration’ is driven by self-promotion in stating that “the global water crisis is fundamentally one of injustice and inequality”. As a physical scientist, I am stunned, as I am sure are most if not all of my peers, by the opening statement that “the global water crisis is not . . . driven by water scarcity”. Tell this to a Jordanian, Israeli, or Palestinian, just to mention a few. How can they consider injustice in the agricultural sector (e.g. irrigation) when disregarding unequal distribution of water on the globe? How they can bunch the injustices and inequalities in the agricultural sector of the Middle East or Sub-Saharan Africa with the injustices and inequalities in the same sector of Nicaragua or Cambodia?

Eckstein felt so strongly about the authors’ statement that he posted a longer message on the GSA’scommunity site. He notes that he was not alone in his criticism:

I was among the very few privileged to be invited by the Special Issue’s guest-editor to offer a comment on the Declaration, to be included within the very same issue. Unfortunately, I was joined only by Dr. Malin Falkenmark of the Stockholm International Water Institute in voicing criticism (she did it in a more “diplomatic” and more settled way, as Swedes always do). Only the two of us recognized the fallacies in the Declaration’s argument that “the global water crisis is not, as some suggest, primarily driven by water scarcity.” Only the two of us noticed that its framers offer no supporting scientific data for the Declaration’s argument. Only the two of us, finally, pointed out that an agenda-driven perspective renders the Declaration’s arguments null and void. Instead, all other commenters offered resounding accolades which reminded me of the politically-correct scripts (that are so much now in fashion) with which I became so familiar growing up on the wrong side of the “iron curtain.” What a travesty (and how ironic) to call this opinion piece a Declaration as if it to draw a parallel with The Declaration of Independence which so eloquently and justly argued for its universal principles.

Please, log-on or look up for the Water International 2014, Vol. 39, No. 2 in your library and read the “Declaration” and then send your opinion/reaction to Water International Editor-in-Chief Dr. James Nickum at or Deputy Editor-in-Chief Dr. Philippus Wester at

If the authors believe what they say about the primary drivers of the water crisis they should provide documentation. It may not belong in the document, but perhaps could be an appendix. [Note: A working draft of the workshop paper may have this information.] I do agree that there are serious issues of water injustice in the world and that these need to be rectified. Thus, the SCD does serve a useful purpose. Its controversial opening statement serves as a lightning rod. But I don’t believe it.
One thing I’ll mention in closing. I realize that the SCD is not a technical document with prescriptions (solutions) for water supply in the Global South and similar places. But I think some benefit could be realized by addressing groundwater as a water supply for people plagued by poor water access and/or institutional indifference.
I fear the authors of the SCD and others at the workshop are like many in that they think of ‘surface water’ and avoid groundwater. The latter is the ‘people’s resource’. It is often available where it’s needed and often does not require sophisticated infrastructure (dams, pipelines, canals) as does surface water. The latter leads to institutional control and authoritarian approaches. Groundwater? Not necessarily. The people can organize around the groundwater resource and devise governance and management mechanisms. I heard about this fromTushaar Shah several years ago. The SCD folks might consider this. Note that water rights might still be an issue.
I will close with something from Malin Falkenmark, who, as Yoram Eckstein said, got it right:

“What we can see is in other words two parallel global water crises emerging:

1) a water supply service crisis, not always driven by water scarcity, which can be alleviated by improved water governance and management; and 2) a water resource crisis, driven by increasing water scarcity, which has to be adapted to by mental shifts, resilience-based approaches and adaptive water policies.” - Malin Falkenmark, from the paper, p. 253

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 12 – 18 July 2014

July 18, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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toiletI’ve been told the Japanese have a real affinity for toilets, especially high-tech varieties. This picture surfaced in one of my Tweets this week. Here is the story.

My only experience with a high-tech Japanese toilet was at the Holiday Inn at the Osaka Airport in 2003. I was faced with a device with numerous switches, dials, and buttons, all labeled in Japanese. The only control in English was a red button that said, ‘High Pressure’. ‘Nuff said!

Click here for this week’s water news summary.


“Don’t sweat the petty things and don’t pet the sweaty things.” - George Carlin

TGIF! Weekly Water News Summary, 5 – 11 July 2014

July 11, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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Mike+Sarah-1Self-promotion alert! Here we go….

Looking west across Lake Tahoe with former UNR student and good friend Sarah Raker. This was on 29 June 2014 on a wonderful field trip in the Truckee River basin led by Janet Phillips, who is developing a Tahoe (Truckee River source) – Pyramid Lake (terminus) Bikeway. What a ride that would be, especially the downhill segment!

Check out my post on the Lake Abert desiccation.

Click here to access the weekly water summary.


“If your dreams do not scare you, they are not big enough.” - Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Congress Navigates the Clean Water Act: Is Water Wet?

July 10, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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So will Congress determine whether water is wet? Could take some time.

Friend and colleague Jan Schoonmaker of Van Scoyoc Associates sent this material to me. The following message accompanied his email.

The House Science, Space, and Technology Committee held a hearing yesterday on the scope and impact of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) proposed rule entitled “Definition of the ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act.” The Administration’s position was represented by Bob Perciasepe, Deputy Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Here’s a link to his testimony.

Download HR_RPerciasepe_CWA_9July2014

Attached is a copy of the hearing’s charter which is a document prepared by the Science Committee’s professional staff. It served as a good briefing paper for the members of the subcommittee. Since this issue is probably a hot topic for some of you I thought you’d find the document of interest.

Download Hearing_Charter_HR_9July2014 

Here is a story from E & E:

WATER POLICY: Lawmakers roast EPA’s second-in-command over rulemaking, by Manuel Quiñones, E&E reporter (Thursday, 10 July 2014)

U.S. EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe faced deepUnknownskepticism from House lawmakers yesterday over the agency’s proposal to clarify the Clean Water Act’s reach.

EPA has been aggressive in answering critics of the proposal. Administrator Gina McCarthy, for example, has been in Missouri trying to appease farmers (E&ENews PM, July 9). But the effort is not gaining much traction among congressional Republicans.

“The EPA is on a regulation rampage and this regulation proves it,” House Science, Space and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) said during a hearing yesterday.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.) was less critical but said some constituents indeed had concerns about the rule. She welcomed the hearing as a way to help address the “misinformation that has been circulating about the proposal.”

That’s exactly what EPA’s deputy chief said he was hoping to do. “Some of the misinformation is something we have to cut through,” Perciasepe said.

Some critics, he said, have asked whether EPA was going to require permits for cows crossing streams, or protect dry washes and floodplains. “I can say categorically that none of those statements are true,” Perciasepe said.

Perciasepe said EPA’s rulemaking would actually reduce the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act and would not assert jurisdiction over waters not currently under federal protection.

But Smith pointed to a map of perennial and intermittent streams, hoping to show the dramatic potential impact of the rule. He asked, “To the extent that the water traverses the land, then that land itself would be impacted by the regulation, would they not?”

Perciasepe said, “The water, the water tributaries, the bodies of waters that are in those areas would be subject to regulation if you discharge pollution into them,” not the land itself.

Smith continued, “Suppose we are not talking about pollutants, suppose we are just talking about rain runoff or that drizzle that’s in your report.”

Perciasepe responded, “The stream would be covered, not the land area. You would not be able to discharge into streams, including streams that are intermittent.”

Referring to Smith’s map, he added, “I want to be really clear here, all that red area is not going to be regulated by the Clean Water Act. It would only be the tributaries that are in those areas. I don’t know what else to say about that.”

‘Fundamental disagreement’

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) demanded EPA withdraw the rule. “What you’ve shown is a disregard for listening. You don’t listen,” Collins said. “Congress doesn’t trust you, the Farm Bureau doesn’t trust you, counties don’t trust you, the public doesn’t trust you.”

Collins added, “When you say that these puddles and streams aren’t regulated and you put in your blog they’re not regulated, but it’s not clear. So I don’t understand why [you don't] withdraw the rule.”

Perciasepe responded, “There’s a difference between making it clearer because others are trying to make it unclear and whether we believe the rule we proposed does what I say. Because I believe it does.”

Because Perciasepe agreed that every drop of rainwater could eventually end up in a regulated body of water, Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) said, “You’re going to control every piece of land and every landowner.”

Perciasepe pleaded for more time to respond, saying, “But those are not jurisdictional. The backyard water is not jurisdictional. Mr. Chairman, can I please …?”

The chairman moved on, saying Perciasepe could address the issue again later in the hearing.

GOP lawmakers pressed EPA to release more analysis for public comment and maps showing the impact of the proposed rule on waterways and wetlands.

Smith and other lawmakers also questioned Perciasepe on EPA proposing the Clean Water Act rule before the completion of a study meant to justify the measure, which is under review by the EPA Science Advisory Board.

Even though EPA has promised not to finalize the rule until after the report is done, Smith and other lawmakers blasted Perciasepe for preventing direct communication between committee lawmakers and the SAB.

Smith said, “We don’t have to get the EPA’s permission for the Science Advisory Board to give us answers to our questions.” He asked, “Why did the EPA intercept our questions?”

Perciasepe said the agency had passed along the panel’s questions but said members are treated like “special federal employees.” He added, “We feel that there needs to be a process.”

Smith replied, “We have a complete and fundamental disagreement on that. I think it was totally inappropriate for the EPA to intercept the questions.”

Unlike Bob, I hope you enjoy!

“By and large, language is a tool for concealing the truth.” - George Carlin, quoted in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, via The Week

Lake Abert’s Desiccation: Natural or Not? Let’s Find Out!

July 9, 2014 | Posted by Michael "Aquadoc" Campana
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A few days ago The Oregonian published an article by Rob Davis about the drying of Lake Abert (or Abert Lake as the locals call it): Lake Abert, Oregon’s only saltwater lake, is disappearing and scientists don’t know whyHere is an in-depth story from Davis and more: 5 things you should know about Lake Abert, Oregon’s disappearing salt lake.

As is often the case with online stories, the comments are as interesting as the story itself, and this one is no exception.

Lake Abert (small red dot on the map, south-central part of Oregon) is located in Lake County, Oregon’s dry country, in the so-called Untitled‘Oregon Outback’. The lake is about 80 miles east of Klamath Falls, and is fed by one stream, the Chewaucan River. The only outflow is via evaporation (and presumably, some groundwater seepage). 

The article focuses on a family business whose brine shrimp business is tanking, scientists who claim that drought is not the cause of the desiccation and are puzzled why the drying is occurring, farmers and ranchers who irrigate with water from the Chewaucan River and are concerned that their water may be taken from them to save the lake, and disinterested state officials, including a watermaster who made an ill-conceived, dismissive quote (see below).

Here’s more from Davis: 5 things you should know about Lake Abert, Oregon’s disappearing salt lake.

Here is an earlier (February 2011) column by a guest columnist, limnologist Doug Larson. He stated:

In 1991, the state of Oregon and the federal government authorized a private developer to impound the Chewaucan River with a crude, earth-filled dam, 23 feet high. Freshwater that should be flowing into Lake Abert to maintain optimal salinity levels is now being withdrawn from a 650-acre reservoir to irrigate marginal agricultural land. This, combined with a natural water shortage in the region, imperils the lake’s fragile ecology.

Oregon’s Water Resources Department could revoke the developer’s water-withdrawal permit, now under review. But removing the dam entirely would have a more lasting and purposeful effect, freeing the river while saving a small business whose impact on the lake is negligible.

Interesting about the dam, which was not mentioned in the Davis stories.

I was surprised at the decisions made affecting Lake Abert in the apparent absence of data and the inability of OWRD to track irrigation withdrawals from the Chewaucan River.

So why am I  interested in this story, which I Tweeted last weekend? I’d just driven through the region, spending the night in Lakeview, on Highway 395 about 30 miles south of Lake Abert and just north of Goose Lake (the large lake straddling the Oregon-California state line south of Lake Abert). Goose Lake was essentially dry when I drove past it in late June 2014. A local told me it had been dry since last summer.

I cut my hydrologic teeth in the Great Basin of Nevada, very similar to this part of Oregon. The western part of the USA is known for its pluvial (sometimes called ‘glacial’) lakes, which formed during the Pleistocene Epoch, when the climate was wetter than now because of the effects of the continental glaciation to the north. My former Desert Research Institute colleagues Marty Mifflin and Peg Wheat were experts on these lakes and I learned a lot from them. Here is their classic 1979 publication, Pluvial lakes and estimated pluvial climates of Nevada.

Download Mifflin_Wheat_Pluvial_Lakes_NV

During the Pleistocene, large freshwater lakes, such as Lakes Lahontan and Bonneville, dominated the region. Those lakes are long gone, leaving behind saltier, smaller remnants: the Great Salt Lake, Pyramid Lake, Walker Lake, and others, as well as playas (dry lakebeds). It should be noted that the latter two lakes’ salinity increases and volume losses have been exacerbated by diversions.

Lake Abert was one of those pluvial lakes, as were most of the lakes in500px-Interpretive_sign_near_Lake_Abert,_Oregon this part of Oregon, and, along with Summer Lake, was part of pluvial Lake Chewaucan, shown here.

What this means is that Lake Abert was formed during wetter times, and in the present time, occupies a much smaller volume and area and a higher salinity. So it has an ‘equlibrium’ size and salinity (adjusted to current climatic conditions), although I don’t know what those are. No one does, and that’s part of the problem here.

I am surprised that none of this – pluvial lakes – has been mentioned in any of the aforementioned newspaper articles. It’s pretty well known and is relevant. I am not even a paleolimnologist or paleoclimatologist, like my former UNM colleague Roger Y. Anderson, who examined dry lakes in the USA Southwest to ascertain lake histories and climate changes.

I suspect the dam alluded to in Larson’s article is having an effect on the lake volume. How could it not? Cut down the flow, the lake will shrink. But is it causing all the shrinkage? Hard to say. Again – what is the ‘equilibrium’ size of the lake? That has not been determined. Davis’ article mentioned a proposal submitted by Joe Eilers, a Bend hydrologist, to OWEB that sought to determine the water balance of the lake. It was not funded and that does not surprise me.

My Ten Cents: I suggest beefing up the aforementioned proposal (which I have not seen) and combining it with a paleolimnological and paleoclimatic study encompassing the current Lake Abert basin or even extending it to the entire basin of Lake Chewaucan. A climate focus is critical as it would draw interest from funding agencies. I doubt the state of Oregon would fund it (I agree that politics is at play here) and the researchers would likely have to go to the NSF or some other science agency. The key is to make the study more ‘researchy’. Involving some undergraduate/graduate students and an errant academic or two would be a good idea.

Check out the Mifflin and Wheat publication. Might provide some guidance.

Is it worth the money to save Lake Abert? Many would say no – the lake is dying anyway so why spend money and possibly have to give up good irrigation water? I say ‘yes’ – it will enhance our knowledge of these relict lakes in Oregon and perhaps unlock some climatic and other mysteries.

While we’re at it, we might ponder and answer the question, ‘Do lakes have water rights?’

One thing we don’t need: the attitude reflected by today’s quote.

“I don’t have time to read it.” - Brian Mayer, OWRD watermaster, referring to scientists’ data showing the drought is not as severe as believed (from the story)


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