NAU Grad Student Looking for Clues in The Mystery of The Grand Canyon’s Water Supply


Where does the water in the Grand Canyon come from?

Where does the water in the Grand Canyon come from?

We all know the Colorado River, but it’s not the most mysterious water resource in the Grand Canyon; we know it moves through at a rate of about 12,000 cubic feet per second as it travels from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. But Roaring Springs, Grand Canyon National Park’s only water source, is a bigger mystery—one NAU researcher Natalie Jones hopes to have a hand in solving.

Jones, an NAU research technician and graduate student contracted by the Grand Canyon Physical Sciences program,  asked where the water in Roaring Springs comes from in research she did with School of Earth and Sustainability professor Abe Springer. It’s building on previous research for both of them. They published their findings in November in Hydrogeology Journal, with Jones as the lead author and in collaboration with researchers at the Grand Canyon National Park, Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests and the Kentucky Geological Survey at the University of Kentucky.

So, where does the water come from? It’s complicated. But this research helps to pinpoint the region feeding the springs and, importantly, the risk of contamination in that region. It takes researchers one step closer to understanding how to protect this vital resource.

Jones and her co-authors set out to investigate how to create a better way to model karst-aquifer vulnerability in the Grand Canyon. Having a model that more accurately predicts different variables in the geology and water behavior in the park will benefit future researchers and water managers as they consider individual recharge areas and how best to protect them.

Read more at Northern Arizona University

Photo: Rain over Grand Canyon as seen from Yavapai Point on the South Rim of the park.  CREDIT: M. Quinn