North Slope Lakes Project Summary

Summary Network Map Stations Reports Cooperators Contacts


Welcome to the Water and Environmental Research Center's North Slope Lakes Project. This site contains hydrologic information on lakes, weather conditions, and related information on the North Slope, Alaska. This information is used by University of Alaska Fairbanks and Geo-Watersheds Scientific Researchers and other Project Cooperators to assess the physical and chemical hydrologic processes in North Slope Lakes and potential changes associated with water use. Data on this Web site as well as results from the ongoing study are available to the public at large to promote a better understanding of lake hydrology on the North Slope, various types of water use, and ways of implementing adaptive water management tools and approaches. The project is also helping to form a Cooperative Environmental Data Network across the North Slope coastal plain.


For many years, the oil industry and support services have built ice roads and pads for increased access to remote sites with decreased maintenance costs. This technique is quite important to the oil industry in that it allows oil field development or maintenance while avoiding the environmental disturbance associated with construction of gravel roads and pads. Numerous questions were raised regarding the potential environmental consequences of winter pumping from tundra lakes. The preliminary investigation revealed that chemical and physical impacts of mid-winter pumping were undetectable at the current accepted levels of water removal; however, at present no standards exist to guide industry and agencies in selecting reasonable limits on water removal. Understanding year-round facility water uses and how to verify long-term impacts are not occurring associated with water use is an associated issue in North Slope field operations. Considering the potential for changing baseline conditions, cumulative impacts evaluations will need to relay on process understanding as well as data collection over the period of field activities. Guidelines and analysis tools are needed to enable planning for exploration and construction efforts and to ensure adequate environmental protection.

Description of Methods

This research will be a combination of a hydrological and meteorological field study, remote sensing analysis, and numerical modeling study. We will quantify the water inputs and evaporative losses across the operational region of the North Slope. Extensive snow surveys prior to spring melt will allow us to characterize regional differences in snow distribution. Evaporation and evapotranspiration will be empirically determined from meteorological measurements. We will characterize the available recharge for a range of watersheds representing various lake watershed characteristics. These results will be combined to estimate the water balance of target lakes. The modeling and analysis efforts will develop a set of operational modeling tools for Industry and agencies to use for water use activities. We have developed a coalition of participation from the scientific community, oil industry, agencies, and environmental groups to help meet the multiple objectives and develop consensus on various aspects of water use activities on the North Slope.

Copyright © 2006, 2007 Water and Environmental Research Center