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CIRES Science in Action: Testing the Waters by Morgan Heim

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About This Gigapan

Taken by
Morgan Heim Morgan Heim
Explore score
1.41 Gigapixels
Date added
Jan 29, 2010
Date taken
Jan 28, 2010

What's in your water?

Dillon Reservoir provides drinking water for the Denver Metro Area. Braving a lake 55 meters deep, researchers from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) take to the ice to test water quality and assist the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in gathering samples that will be analyzed for pharmaceuticals.

Researchers trekked the frozen lake and drilled through more than a foot of ice to reach the waters beneath. A big challenge for this project is collecting water from spots throughout the 55-meter deep water column. Research assistants Ariann Blankenship and Mary Oppold (pictured here) did this by using a technique similar to a super-sized version of pulling soda-filled straws out of a cup by holding a finger over the end. Instead of a straw, they lowered a roughly 20-foot PVC pipe with a tennis ball stopper to various depths. This technique serves a dual purpose, getting them the water they need and a good workout.

Researchers also measured key elements for tracking water quality, such as depth, pH, temperature, and salinity.

Special to this venture was a partnership with the EPA, helping them collect samples that would be tested for pharmaceuticals. In recent years, scientists across the country have found drugs in the water likely from people flushing old medications down the drain and other sources. There is evidence that this may be causing hormone changes in fish and other unknown impacts.

So when you reach for a cool drink from the tap in Denver, know that researchers at CIRES are helping to keep an eye on the goodness of the H2O that winds up in your glass.

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