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Urban water – a new frontier in isotope hydrology

NCJ Number
Date Published
10 pages

Since the spatial and vertical understanding of water supporting urban systems that comes from stable isotope analyses can serve as a useful management tool, the current study explored this research frontier using the coupled natural–human landscape of the U.S. Salt Lake Valley, with its greater than one million inhabitants.


Isotope hydrology has focused largely on landscapes away from densely inhabited regions. In coming decades, it will become increasingly more important to focus on water supplies and dynamics within urban systems. Stable isotope analyses provide important information to water managers within large cities, particularly in arid regions where evaporative histories of water sources, vulnerabilities, and reliabilities of the water supplies can be major issues. The current study first provides data on the stable isotope ratios of the hydrologic system’s primary components: precipitation, incoming surface waters, and terminus waters in this closed basin. It then explores the spatial and temporal patterns of drinking waters within the urban landscape and the new opportunities to better link isotope ratio data with short- and long-term management interests of water managers. (publisher abstract modified)


Date Published: January 1, 2016