Nav: Home

Citizen science programs provide valuable data on intermittent rivers in southwestern US

March 22, 2019

A University of Oklahoma-led project is showing how citizen science programs provide valuable data on rivers in southwestern United States. The datasets of ecological and hydrological data obtained from intermittent rivers (rivers that dry at some point in space or time) in Arizona are input into a nationwide network. Trained citizen scientists are mapping three rivers in Arizona: the San Pedro River, Cienega Creek and Agua Fria River. The wet and dry data collected yearly from these programs map information on how to best manage water resources under a changing climate.

"It is difficult to get good quality data about how much water is in intermittent rivers. Most of our existing infrastructure for measuring river flows in the United States is geared towards monitoring water levels of perennial rivers, which are those that always flow. Citizen science groups provide valuable contributions to the field of river science, as the data they produce would not be available otherwise. Without that data we wouldn't be able to answer basic research questions like how the length of wet river reaches in these rivers has changed over time, and what these changes might mean for fish that live in these rivers," said Daniel Allen, assistant professor in the Department of Biology, OU College of Arts and Sciences.

In this study, these three groups of citizen scientists divide up and measure the river using a simple method that includes measuring the river from where it begins to where it ends in places where there is at least 30 feet of water. The three long-term wet and dry datasets produced by citizen science river monitoring programs describe landscape drying patterns, examine how they vary over time and use models to quantify landscape drying patterns and temperature, precipitation, stream flow and drought metrics.

While trained citizen scientists conducted the wet and dry surveys on each of these rivers, Friends of the Agua Fria National Monument organize the Agua Fria River surveying effort. The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management organize the upper Cienega Creek surveys, and the Pima County Association of Governments organize surveys of the lowest reaches of Cienega Creek. The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management organize surveys on the San Pedro River.

The data from these surveys is used to generate maps on long-term trends in the three rivers. Two of the rivers measured in this study, the Cienega Creek and the Agua Fria River, showed significant decline. The San Pedro is the only one of three rivers did not decline, which may be due to a groundwater management resource plan in effect. It may be that the declining rivers have no protection and groundwater use has increased during the recent droughts in the area, leading to surface water declines.

Changes in landscape drying patterns in intermittent rivers have strong implications for fish connectivity and bird migration. Drying patterns are likely to decrease connectivity for native fish who need long stretches of unbroken river to reproduce. Rivers in this region are important for the millions of birds that migrate from South America and stop in the region on their way north. The cottonwood and willow trees where they roost during resting periods are typically only found next to rivers where there is water year round. The southwestern United States has experienced large droughts over the past several decades, and the extent of river drying will likely continue as a result of climate change.

Citizen science programs focused on mapping wet and dry sections of rivers and streams are valuable and could be expanded unmonitored intermittent rivers. New technologies, such as smartphone applications, are being developed to improve efforts and aid in integrating data collected by different programs. This type of program could be expanded across the United States to study the variables impacting intermittent rivers in different climates and by different intensities of human water use.
-end-
This study is part of a larger effort to create an intermittent river research coordination network funded with a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. A paper is available in the journal Freshwater Science at https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/full/10.1086/701483. For more information, contact Professor Allen at dcallen@ou.edu.

University of Oklahoma

Related Water Articles:

'Pregnancy test for water' delivers fast, easy results on water quality
A new platform technology can assess water safety and quality with just a single drop and a few minutes.
Something in the water
Between 2015 and 2016, Brazil suffered from an epidemic outbreak of the Zika virus, whose infections occurred throughout the country states.
Researchers create new tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity
A wife-husband team will present both high-tech and low-tech solutions for improving water security at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle on Sunday, Feb.
The shape of water: What water molecules look like on the surface of materials
Water is a familiar substance that is present virtually everywhere.
Water, water everywhere -- and it's weirder than you think
Researchers at The University of Tokyo show that liquid water has 2 distinct molecular arrangements: tetrahedral and non-tetrahedral.
What's in your water?
Mixing drinking water with chlorine, the United States' most common method of disinfecting drinking water, creates previously unidentified toxic byproducts, says Carsten Prasse from Johns Hopkins University and his collaborators from the University of California, Berkeley and Switzerland.
How we transport water in our bodies inspires new water filtration method
A multidisciplinary group of engineers and scientists has discovered a new method for water filtration that could have implications for a variety of technologies, such as desalination plants, breathable and protective fabrics, and carbon capture in gas separations.
Source water key to bacterial water safety in remote Northern Australia
In the wet-dry topics of Australia, drinking water in remote communities is often sourced from groundwater bores.
Our water cycle diagrams give a false sense of water security
Pictures of the earth's water cycle used in education and research throughout the world are in urgent need of updating to show the effects of human interference, according to new analysis by an international team of hydrology experts.
Water management helped by mathematical model of fresh water lenses
In this paper, the homeostasis of water lenses was explained as an intricate interaction of the following physical factors: infiltration to the lens from occasional (sporadic) rains, permanent evaporation from the water table, buoyancy due to a density contrast of the fresh and saline water, and the force of resistance to water motion from the dune sand.
More Water News and Water Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.