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Woods Hole Coastal and Marine Science Center

USGS Sediment Studies in Lake Mead

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Lake Mead is one of the world's largest man-made reservoirs at about 600 sq km, roughly the size of Chicago. Lake Mead started to form on the Colorado River in 1935, upon completion of the Hoover Dam. Since then, the lake has supplied water to agricultural, industrial, recreational, and municipal users in the southwestern United States.

The multiple uses of the lake generate a good deal of public interest such as water quality and the lowering of the lake's water. The USGS, in cooperation with the University of Nevada Las Vegas, has initiated a program to address these issues.

Location of Lake Mead

Figure 1. Area map of Lake Mead. For a larger view, click here.

USGS Studies in Lake Mead
Understanding the geology of the lake floor is an important component of the overall study. Some critical issues addressed in this study include measuring sediment accumulation and the distribution of sediment associated pollutants. The study also answers questions about the history of environmental change in the lake and its effects on the dramatic lowering of water elevation on the lake.

USGS mapped the lake floor from 1999-2001. A complete description of the mapping techniques can be viewed at the USGS Sea-Floor Mapping website. During 2002, researchers from the University of Nevada Las Vegas will lead efforts to ground-truth this geophysical data using a newly developed coring barge and state-of-the-art laboratories.
Scientists and Collaborators

U.S. Geological Survey

David Twichell (Geologic mapping of the lake floor)
VeeAnn Cross (Data processing and GIS development)
Kenneth Parolski (Technical support and development of field program)

University of Nevada Las Vegas

Mark Rudin: Lake Mead/Mohave Research Institute (Coring and Radionuclide studies)
Brenda Buck: Department of Geology (Geomorphology and sedimentology)
Andrew Hanson: Department of Geology (Sedimentology and Basin analysis)

National Park Service
William Burke
Jon Lee (presently at the Idaho Bureau of Reclamation)

US Bureau of Reclamation
Ron Simms (GIS specialist)
Stephen Belew (GIS specialist)

Southern Nevada Water Authority
Art Ehrenberg (GIS analyst)


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