February 11, 2004
Physical and Chemical Implications of Mid-Winter Pumping of Tundra Lakes
Northern Alaskan oil exploration has relied on limited freshwater resources to create ice road and ice pad infrastructure since the 1970s. The result is an ice infrastructure (ice roads, airport runways, and drilling pads) that increases access to remote areas while decreasing maintenance costs and environmental impacts related to gravel roads and pads. However, some questions have been raised regarding the environmental pumping effects on these freshwater lakes. Potential issues include altering the existing water balance, impact to aquatic life including fish and invertebrates, and influencing water chemistry. As some lakes are pumped year after year, cumulative effects may also occur. Additionally, pumping may influence over-wintering fish habitat in nearby rivers if there is a hydraulic connection. The intent of this research is to understand and model the physical and chemical effects of water withdrawal on the lakes of the North Slope of Alaska. First year results indicate full recharge of index lakes during spring melt and minimal chemical differences detected between pumped and non-pumped lakes.