EES Departmental Seminar - Dr. Lauren Somers

Dr. Lauren Somers
Assistant Professor
Civil and Resource Engineering
Dalhousie University

Title: Groundwater, climate change and adaptation in the Peruvian Andes and beyond

Abstract: Mountain water resources are a globally important freshwater source but are threatened by decreasing water storage in snowpack and glaciers. Groundwater contribution to mountain streamflow, once assumed to be relatively small, is now understood to represent an important water source to mountain streams and rivers. This presentation will focus on recent hydrogeological research in the Peruvian Andes which examines the role of groundwater in sustaining streamflow as glacier meltwater supply diminishes. Our tracer experiments have revealed that groundwater discharge in the Peruvian Andes is an important source of stream flow, and that certain landforms, like moraines, are characterized by significant groundwater-surface water exchange. Next, we integrated groundwater, surface water and glacier melt numerical models and applied climate projections to assess the impact of climate change on the mountain hydrological system over the 21stcentury. Relatively consistent groundwater discharge feeds dry-season streamflow as glacier meltwater decreases. However, as temperature and evapotranspiration increase through time, groundwater recharge decreases, resulting in an overall reduction in streamflow. In response to changing hydrologic conditions, several climate change adaptation strategies have been proposed to increase groundwater recharge. We collected field data and applied numerical modelling to assess the efficacy of hillslope trenching as an adaptation strategy in the Peruvian Andes. Overall, this work demonstrates the importance of groundwater in Andean hydrological systems and highlights the need for improved observation and management of mountain groundwater resources. Finally, recent research directions will be discussed with the goal of expanding our understanding of how mountain groundwater resources are changing within and beyond the Andes. 



Format: In-person
Milligan Room (8th floor LSC Biology Wing)