Environmental Drivers of Water Quality Variability in Lake Meredith, Texas

Date

2024-03-07

Authors

Crosman, Erik
Mukherjee, Maitreyee
Cuthbert, Robyn
Ogle, Heather
Mbanefo, Simon
Olatunbosun, Afolarin
Pool, Grayson
Taylor, Darby

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Abstract

An ongoing study on water quality that began in March 2023 has resulted in unprecedented data to improve understanding of how environmental variability impact the water quality of Lake Meredith, Texas, the premier recreational and municipal and agricultural storage reservoir on the Texas Panhandle that provides crucial water supplied to both the Amarillo and Lubbock metropolitan areas. The runoff from heavy rains in May and June 2023 raised the level of Lake Meredith by over 10 feet and decreased the Salinity by over 30%. Strong gradients in salinity and temperature were found to result in unusually strong vertical stratification of Lake Meredith in summer 2023, which has implications for water usage and lake biology. Surface and depth profiles of lake physiochemistry (temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, conductivity and salinity) were collected monthly beginning in March 2023 at 6 locations on the north and south sides of Lake Meredith, and every 10 minutes at the Sanford-Yake Marina. This study has provided novel data on understanding how environmental forcing mechanisms impact water quality as well as microbiological communities at Lake Meredith.

Description

This objectives of this research project were to improve our understanding of the meteorological and hydrological drivers of water quality variability on Lake Meredith, which is the premier recreational lake on the Texas Panhandle, that provides swimming, boating, and camping for thousands of visitors each year. Lake Meredith is also a major source of drinking water for Amarillo and Lubbock, Texas overseen by the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority. The lake is subject to low water levels due to water demand and high evaporation rates (Zhu et al. 2021). However, water quality has been reduced in recent years with low water levels, to the point that only limited water can be pulled from Lake Meredith for drinking purposes due to high salinity from the high evaporation and low river inflows into the lake. This objectives of this study were to improve general understanding of meteorological, hydrological, and chemical factors impacting the lake water quality through detailed monitoring of the lake physiochemical properties over time. Clean water is important for human health, agriculture and the environment, all key concerns for the Texas Panhandle. While water pollution has not historically been that much of concern in West Texas, the increase in ash runoff from recent mega-wildfires in eastern New Mexico, salt loading from agriculture and high evaporation rates make the need for improved understanding of what drives water quality variations important. Zhu, John, Nelun Fernando, and Carla G. Guthrie. "Estimate of Long-Term Water Availability for a Reservoir in Texas Using a Markov Chain Monte Carlo Method with Paleo Drought and Trend Consideration." World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2021. The project was conducted with almost no deviation from the original Kilgore proposal. A suite of water quality and temperature sensors were deployed in March 2023 at Lake Meredith to improve understanding of how environmental variability (e.g., weather, lake level variations) impact the water quality. The only deviation is that several of the temperature sensors were either stolen or lost at various locations around the lake. So, the main sampling site at Sanford-Yake marina was successful. However, we did not obtain the full time series of temperature data from the other locations around the lake. In addition, we conducted monthly vertical temperature profiles of pH, conductivity/salinity, dissolved oxygen, from the surface to 60 feet depth at the Sanford-Yake Marina, to support understanding of changes in surface water quality and microbiology populations (this activity was not included in the original proposal). Monthly data water sampling and data download trips from the deployed sensors led to numerous opportunities in educating WT students on sampling of water quality (5 students participated in the research study) and enhanced the Environmental Sampling and Interpretation course ENVR 4404/5404 for undergraduate and graduate students in Spring 2023 (graduate students helped set up the instruments as part of their laboratory work, and the entire 19 students from ENVR 4404/5404 visited Lake Meredith as a field trip.

Keywords

2024 Faculty and Student Research Poster Session and Research Fair, West Texas A&M University, College of Agriculture and Natural Science, Poster, Water quality, Lake Meredith, Texas Panhandle

Citation