EPA Science Inventory

Willamette Basin Surface Water Isoscape (18O and 2H): Interpreting Temporal Changes of Source Water within the River

Citation:

BROOKS, P. J. WIGINGTON JR, D. L. PHILLIPS, R. COMELEO, AND R. COULOMBE. Willamette Basin Surface Water Isoscape (18O and 2H): Interpreting Temporal Changes of Source Water within the River. EcoSphere. ESA Journals, 3(5):21 pages, (2012).

Description:

Determining how water sources for rivers vary over time can greatly enhance our understanding and management of land use and climate change impacts on rivers. Because the stable isotope composition of precipitation can vary geographically, variation in the stable isotope composition of river water may be able to identify source water dynamics. We monitored the stable isotope values (18O and 2H) of river and stream water within the southern Willamette River basin in Western Oregon over two years. Within this basin, eighty-four percent of the isotopic variation in small tributary streams was explained by the mean elevation of the catchments, whereas seasonal variation was minimal. However, water within the river had distinct isotopic seasonal patterns that likely occurred because of changes in the mean elevation of source water for the river. River isotopic values were lowest during summer low-flow and highest during Feb/March when snow accumulated in the mountains. We estimated that the mean elevation of the source water for the Willamette River shifted over 700 m, seasonally. During winter when rain occurred in the valley and snow accumulated in the mountains, the river reflected a mixture of low mountains and valley bottom precipitation. During the dry Mediterranean summer, 60-80 % of the river water came from the snow zone above 1200 m, which is only 12% of the land area and accounts for 15.6 % of the annual precipitation within the Willamette Basin. Reliance on high-elevation water during summer low flow highlights the vulnerability of this system to influences of a warming climate, where snowpacks in the Cascade Mountains are predicted to decrease in the future.

Purpose/Objective:

Determining how water sources for rivers vary over time can greatly enhance our understanding and management of land use and climate change impacts on rivers.

URLs/Downloads:

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Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Start Date: 05/01/2012
Completion Date: 05/01/2012
Record Last Revised: 10/29/2012
Record Created: 01/24/2012
Record Released: 01/24/2012
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 240859

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

WESTERN ECOLOGY DIVISION

FRESHWATER ECOLOGY BRANCH