PROJECT TITLE: Application of isotope hydrology for detecting process changes in mountaintop-mined catchments
SPONSOR: NSF EAR Hydrologic Sciences
PROJECT DURATION: 15 June 2010 to 14 June 2012
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Nic Zegre (WVU, lead-PI) and Kevin McGuire
PROJECT SUMMARY: Mountaintop mining with valley fill (MTM/VF) in the Appalachian region of the eastern US represents a significant alteration of the landscape with a multitude of accompanying processes impacting water quality as well as the risk of floods. Despite the scale and extent of MTM/VF in this region and its recognized impact on water quality and quantity, runoff processes in these settings remain poorly understood. Isotope hydrology can provide process-based information about the temporal and geographic sources of runoff and rainfall-runoff relationships, but these approaches have not been applied in systems undergoing rapid change and typically not in large landscapes such as those in MTM/VF areas. The research objective of this project is to evaluate controls on catchment storage, flow paths, and transit times of water in MTM/VF impacted catchments to better understand processes that influence water quality and runoff and flood generation. This study will use for the first time isotope hydrologic methods to characterize shifts in rainfall-runoff processes through time in an undisturbed watershed that will experience MTM/VF over the next several years.