Submitted to: Ecosphere
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/7/2012
Publication Date: 6/27/2012
Citation: Bowen, G.J., Kennedy, C.D., Henne, P.D., Zhang, T. 2012. Footprint of recycled water subsidies downwind of Lake Michigan. Ecosphere. DOI: 10.1890/ES12-00062.1. Interpretive Summary: Better budgeting of water at large scales is key to improved management of water resources. We developed a new geochemical model to describe Lake Michigan's water budget, demonstrating that it better represented groundwater recharge from evaporated Lake Michigan water. Our results not only improve Lake Michigan's water budget, but also reveal that up to 32% of recharge to individual aquifers may be derived from evaporated Lake Michigan water.
Technical Abstract: Continental evaporation is a significant and dynamic flux within the atmospheric water budget, but few methods provide robust observational constraints on the large-scale hydroclimatological and hydroecological impacts of this ‘recycled-water’ flux. We demonstrate a geospatial analysis that provides such information, using stable isotope data to map the distribution of recycled water in shallow aquifers downwind from Lake Michigan. The delta2H and delta18O values of groundwater in the study region decrease from south to north, as expected based on meridional gradients in climate and precipitation isotope ratios. In contrast, deuterium excess (d = delta2H = 8 * detal18O) values exhibit a significant zonal gradient and finer-scale spatially patterned variation. Local d maxima occur in the northwest and southwest corners of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan, where ‘lake-effect’ precipitation events are abundant. We apply a published model that describes the effect of recycling from lakes on atmospheric vapor d values to estimate that up to 32% of recharge into individual aquifers may be derived from recycled Lake Michigan water. Applying the model to geostatistical surfaces representing mean d values, we estimate that between 10 and 18% of the vapor evaporated from Lake Michigan is re-precipitated within downwind areas of the Lake Michigan drainage basin. Our approach provides previously unavailable observational constraints on regional land-atmosphere water fluxes in the Great Lakes Basin and elucidates patterns in recycled-water fluxes that may influence the biogeography of the region. As new instruments and networks facilitate enhanced spatial monitoring of environmental water isotopes, similar analyses can be widely applied to calibrate and validate water cycle models and improve projections of regional hydroecological change involving the coupled lake-atmosphere-land system.