Description: Researchers will investigate the amount of contaminants in snowmelt, which will help provide needed information for improving water quality in the Wasatch Front.
End: June 30, 2018
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (Hydrologic Sciences)
Principal Investigator: Greg Carling
Co-PI(s): Steve Nelson and Zach Aanderud
Project Description: This project focuses on measuring the dust-borne contaminants in snowmelt of the Uinta Mountains. Some of these contaminants could possibly be trace metals such as arsenic, lead, or mercury. Other possibly harmful substances can include nitrogen and phosphorus. These elements can be carried by the wind from drier regions hundreds of miles away. Studies have shown that the level of these dust particles in the mountains of the U.S. have increased fivefold since 1866. Not much is specifically known about where these substances go after the snow has melted each spring.
Greg Carling and his team of researchers will investigate where these trace metals and solutes go at the head of the Provo River. They will utilize three different methods. First, they will use isotopic tracers and simulations to evaluate the chemistry of the Provo River. Discovering the content of the river will provide a solid foundation to build the investigation on. Second, Carling will use mineralogical mapping and other specialized experiments to further discover the specific contaminants of trace metals and nutrients. Lastly, they will examine how organic matter helps to transport these materials to other places after the snow melts. The upper part of the Provo River is an ideal location to conduct this study because of its many established water-monitoring stations.
This project will provide very important information about the chemical process of snowmelt and its effects from dust-borne contaminants. Up until this point, not much research has been conducted regarding the content of snowmelt. However, the researchers of this study anticipate a better understanding of how to direct dust transport pathways in snowmelt to avoid increased contamination. Knowing the percentage of chemicals that snow contributes to public water sources will help scientists improve water quality in the future.
This study will provide needed quality control information for water sources in the Wasatch Front, which affects over 2 million people. The information from this study could also help land managers in knowing how to redirect snowmelt in problematic areas. Lastly, this study allows underrepresented groups of people, including women and minorities, to participate in the project.