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Holistic Modeling of Surface and Ground-Water Flow in Watersheds Affected by Historical Mining: Raymond H. Johnson

Project Title: Holistic Modeling of Surface and Ground-Water Flow in Watersheds Affected by Historical Mining
Mendenhall Fellow: Raymond H. Johnson, 303-236-1885,
Duty Station: Denver, Colorado
Start Date: October 5, 2003
Education: Ph.D. in Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, 2003
Research Advisors: Stanley Church, (303) 236-1900,; Suzanne Paschke, (303) 236-4882 x352,

Project Description: A strategic goal of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) is to understand the environmental consequences from the development of our mineral resources. Understanding the environmental processes surrounding both mined and undeveloped mineral deposits will lead to a better understanding of how to remediate sites influenced by mining activities on public lands. Recent research efforts at the USGS have developed geologic, hydrologic, biologic, and geochemical models (conceptual and quantitative) based on extensive data sets from selected individual watersheds with historical mining activity (

Red Mountain #2   Red Mountain #2

A holistic modeling approach will build upon existing model components developed at the USGS to further our understanding of complex environmental systems. Using a multidisciplinary approach, holistic modeling efforts will assist in answering the following questions; 1) Are the models in each discipline adequately defined, and 2) How can the existing data and individual models be integrated into a holistic model that will quantitatively interpret complex environmental systems?

Limited subsurface information is available for most alpine watersheds because drilling is expensive and access is often limited. Therefore, the ground-water component of the hydrology in alpine watersheds is still poorly understood. This ground-water component must be understood more fully before it can be incorporated into a holistic model. The first year of this research will focus on understanding and modeling the ground-water flow in a selected alpine basin affected by historical mining activity. This effort will include the addition of surface-water information in order to provide a hydrologic budget for the selected basin. The second year will focus on developing a holistic modeling approach, which will combine the data and understanding from a variety of disciplines to provide the additional understanding of how individual models might interact in combination with one another. Any inaccuracies discovered in calibrating the holistic model will assist in refining the holistic and individual models and indicate where further information is needed.

Rock weathering that produces acidic drainage   Rock weathering that produces acidic drainage

The objectives of a holistic model of a watershed affected by mining are to determine pre-mining conditions and to predict future environmental conditions based on a variety of remedial scenarios. These objectives allow for an examination of the actual impact of mining on the environment and lead to realistic remediation efforts. Quantitative holistic modeling will allow land managers to make informed decisions on the most appropriate options for returning a watershed to conditions that are reasonably similar to undeveloped conditions.

Road to Hurricane Pass with a view of the Mogul Mine   Road to Hurricane Pass with a view of the Mogul Mine

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Last modified: 16:08:29 Thu 13 Dec 2012