Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2010NV165B

Water Quality and Eutrophication Modeling of Lake Mead under Changing Water Levels

Institute: Nevada
Year Established: 2010 Start Date: 2010-03-01 End Date: 2011-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $20,513 Total Non-Federal Funds: $41,036

Principal Investigators: Dong Chen

Abstract: Lake Mead is one of the most important water bodies in the United States; providing recreational opportunities, fish and wildlife habitat, and drinking, irrigation, and industrial water for approximately 25 million people. Consequently, it is crucial that the quality of this water be maintained to provide a reliable and safe source of water for its many uses. Rapid urban development in southern Nevada, combined with modified upstream land use and the emergence of invasive species has gradually degraded Lake Mead water quality. Concurrently, sustained drought since 2000 has led to a significant drop (about 100-feet) of the lake’s water level, further stressing the water quality and ecological processes. The goal of this research is to develop a three-dimensional water quality model of Lake Mead to investigate eutrophication processes and predict their trends in future. The model integrates previous water monitoring efforts by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, U.S. Geological Survey, and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. The numerical model applied to Lake Mead will be the three-dimensional Environmental Fluid Dynamics Code (EFDC). DRI scientists have been applying EFDC to investigate changes in the flow circulation patterns of Lake Mead (Chen et al., 2009). Based on our previous effort, the goal of this proposed study will be met by completing the following four objectives: (1) customize the eutrophication model of EFDC (CE-QUAL-ICM) for Lake Mead, (2) parameterize and verify CE-QUAL-ICM using previously collected data, (3) predict future lake water quality and eutrophication processes with a speculated scenario in 2021 when the live storage of Lake Mead becomes exhausted (Barnett and Pierce, 2008), (4) produce the framework for an adaptive management tool by considering drought impact.