Tuesday June 25, 2024

Colorado Sun

A research study in the East River Basin, a small, mountainous river basin in western Colorado, shows that groundwater will fall in a warming climate — and it can take streams down with it. 

These streams, including the East River, carry water from their headwaters through tunnels, canals and pipes to homes, farms and businesses in the overstressed Colorado River Basin. Groundwater’s role in this process has often been overlooked: Most of the water in Colorado’s mountain streams comes from snowpack, and without a lot of data, it’s been assumed that groundwater is not really a huge player. 

That’s not the case, said Rosemary Carroll, the lead researcher on a groundwater study published in May in the academic journal, Nature Water.

“Groundwater is there to buffer your dry water years,” Carroll said. “If you had no groundwater, you would have a system go dry.”

The East River Basin covers about 115 square miles near Crested Butte. The river eventually flows into the Gunnison River, which meets the Colorado River in Grand Junction. It’s also where scientists have been gathering environmental data for a century through institutions like the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.

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