2010 AWRA Alaska Section Annual Conference

Snow management to augment water supplies on Alaska’s North Slope - Sveta Berezovskaya , University of Alaska Fairbanks (co-authors: Greta Myerchin/UAF, Joel Bailey/UAF)


Oil and gas exploration operations use large amounts of fresh water for ice roads and ice pads during the long-lasting winter on the Alaska’s North Slope (ANS). A traditional water source is water withdrawn from the lakes. Hydrological regimes of these lakes are characterized by a spring snowmelt providing much of the recharge, followed by a subsequent drying of the lakes in summer when evaporation generally exceeds precipitation. This study evaluates the use of snow management and snow fences to augment lake water supplies in the ANS.

We initiated a hydrological observational program on ANS lakes in summer 2009. Water sources and sinks of two lakes (a control natural lake and an experimental man-made lake) were measured in their natural regime as part of pre-treatment study. A snow fence was constructed in the experimental lake watershed in the fall of 2009. We are expecting to observe snow drift impact on man-made lake water balance for two seasons: summer 2010 and summer 2011. Up to date results provide lake water balance evaluation and development of lake volume-stage relationship. Water balance analysis confirms that snowmelt is the major water source contributing to both lakes. End-of-winter 2009 snow cover contained 124 mm and 162 mm of water equivalent for the control and man-made lakes, respectively. Total summer precipitation for both sites was 65 mm. Water levels at both lakes gradually decreased over the summer, reaching their lowest point in August 2009. The main water sinks were evaporation and outflow. The summer 2009 pre-treatment study provides a baseline that will be used to compare and evaluate future changes due to snow management.

Topic: Watershed monitoring