Debunking Water Myths and Misconceptions The Role of Science

Debunking Water Myths and Misconceptions The Role of Science MWEA 84th Annual Conference June 21-24 Boyne Falls Jim Nicholas, Center Director USGS Mi...
Author: Brittney Reed
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Debunking Water Myths and Misconceptions The Role of Science

MWEA 84th Annual Conference June 21-24 Boyne Falls Jim Nicholas, Center Director USGS Michigan Water Science Center U.S. Department of the Interior U.S. Geological Survey

Myths and Misconceptions Water is in compartments—boundaries. Groundwater doesn’t move. Weather should be like when I was a kid. What’s normal? There’s plenty of water for any use.

What is water use? We understand water in Michigan very well.

BOUNDARIES Boundaries aren’t real Groundwater is always flowing to surface water

Hydrologic Cycle Precipitation




Compartments are convenient ATMOSPHERE



Boundaries are perception, not reality Air Lake



Groundwater-Surface Water A Single Resource—no boundaries

Groundwater—Storage and Distribution

Groundwater Distribution Groundwater is always moving Naturally moves to surface water

Groundwater—floats your kayak in the summer

Groundwater-Surface Water Groundwater always part of the flow in most rivers Many times it is the only flow

Groundwater-Surface Water 25 75 28 72

35 65

Ground water in blue

21 48



VARIABILITY My experience and knowledge What’s “normal”?

Precipitation—varies in space

Runoff—varies in space

Streamflow—varies in space

Glacial Aquifer Yields— vary in space

Not all Great Lakes levels are high or low at the same time

Great Lakes Water Balance

Evaporation from Lake Superior— seasonal variability

Streamflow Hydrograph

Two years compared to a 54-year average— Clinton River

Streamflow Hydrograph

Are low flows increasing in the Clinton River?

Groundwater-Level Hydrographs Oct


Compare 1979-92 (black) with 2000-03


Lake Superior Water Levels—1860-2000

Lake Superior Water Levels— last 5000 years

Climate—last 120 years of temperature change

WATER AVAILABILITY Atlanta Abundance What about quality? What is water use? Who needs water?

Abundance of Water 20 percent of world’s fresh surface water

3288 miles of coastline to access it Regional bedrock aquifers

Glacial aquifers > 1000-ft thick Blue Ribbon trout streams

Water Use Michigan is 8th in population 15th in total water use

33rd in water use per capita 25th in ground-water use

Perspective St. Clair River Flow—121,000 MGD Precipitation on Lake Michigan—33,000 MGD Evaporation from Lake Michigan—27,000 MGD Streamflow to Lake Michigan—25,000 MGD Lower Peninsula GW Recharge—16,000 MGD Chicago Diversion—2,100 MGD Lower Peninsula Groundwater Use—700 MGD Pfizer—32 MGD Lansing BWL—20 MGD Agricultural Irrigation Well—1 MGD Nestle Waters/Ice Mountain—0.36 MGD

Regional abundance does not mean a lack of local shortages or competing uses …consider total assets and cash flow

Quantity includes Quality sometimes the problem is natural

Quantity includes Quality sometimes the problem is very long-term

Pathways—A key to management

Quantity includes Quality Ground-Water Discharge through Streambed Sediments Attenuates Sediment Temperature

There is No Unused Water All water is being used by someone or something All human use of water has an effect on someone or something—often local Often the effect is not noticeable or is perceived to be outweighed by a benefit (Chicago Diversion)

There is No Unused Water Human uses of water redistribute water in time and place A dam may alter the high and low flows of a river A city with an intake in a Great Lake may discharge used water to a stream that is tributary to the lake A groundwater use will always have an effect on a surface-water body, though the effect may be too small to measure

Water Use—Effects on Storage and Distribution

Water Use— Effects on Storage

Water Use—Effects on Distribution Pumping from Deep Bedrock Aquifer in SE Wisconsin Reduced flow to Lake MI—8%

Induced flow from Lake MI—4%

Reduced Storage—11%

Induced GW flow from outside area—18%

Reduced flow to SW—59%

Sources of Water to Wells

Uses can affect ecosystems New State Law— Links Use and Ecosystem

Source of Water to Wells Begins all storage (lower water level) Ends all captured streamflow

Irrigation Water Use— varies in space + time Ground water 64%

Surface water 34% Great Lakes 2%

What is Water Use? Detroit land cover change 1905-1992 Changes in land cover affect: recharge streamflow wetlands water quality

What is Water Use? Drain Tiles Lower water tables Less recharge Faster movement to streams Fewer wetlands More useable land

A new use for groundwater

Hydrology and Ecology— A Missing Link Hydrology is a principal driver of aquatic ecology

Hydrologist know little ecology and Ecologists know little hydrology Very little known about ecosystem dependence upon hydrology

Debunked Myths and Misconceptions Boundaries are perception, not reality Groundwater is always moving to surface water The hydrologic cycle has a lot of variability in a year, decade, century, and millenia—it is very hard to define “Normal” There is no unused water Our uses of water and land redistribute water temporally and spatially We need to understand pathways to manage resources—science needs to inform management and policy

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