Grand Lake water clarity may be monitored by NASA satellite |

Grand Lake water clarity may be monitored by NASA satellite

Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News
Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News
ALL | Sky-Hi Daily News

Water quality monitoring of Grand Lake may go cutting-edge if NASA approves a grant for a remote sensing project.

Remote sensing involves the detection and measurement of radiation of different wavelengths reflected or emitted from distant objects or materials, according to NASA’s definition from the online Earth Observatory.

With a NASA -associated satellite, lake stakeholders should “be able to get a really good picture of what’s happening in the lakes,” Grand County’s Water Quality Specialist Katherine Morris said in a briefing to county commissioners Tuesday.

Morris reached out to scientists in the field to find out if remote sensing could be used as a monitoring tool in light of operational changes with the Colorado-Big Thompson (C-BT) project.

As a water quality experiment this year, the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District and the Bureau of Reclamation, the partners who operate the C-BT, agreed to alter its operation schedule to theoretically curb algae blooms. Pumping from the Farr pumping plant on Lake Granby has been stopped from Aug. 1 to Aug. 22, which allows 20 cubic feet per second of natural flows from Grand Lake to Shadow Mountain Reservoir through the channel.

Dr. Anthony Vodacek of the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Imaging Science became interested in Morris’s query.

He has since assembled a team of specialists who would head up a project focusing on Grand Lake, banking on a Decision Support System grant from NASA.

If the $100,000-plus grant is acquired ” an announcement is expected in February ” a four-year remote sensing project of the lake could launch as early as next summer, Morris said.

The results of the engineering project would provide in-depth hydrologic, hydrodynamic, mathematical and biological growth models of the lake.

The dynamics of the C-BT ” sweeping from grassroots water quality concerns to county, state and federal stakeholders ” were appealing to those interested in conducting the project, Morris said.

Another component of the exercise would be the use of drones, or mini-submarines launched in the water. With their scientific sensors, drones would travel below the surface gathering water-quality data, Morris said.

The study would not be designed to make conclusions about water quality, she added, but rather “provide us access to data to provide our own conclusions.”

Researchers also plan to locate satellite and aerial images of the lakes dating back to 1972, she said.

Northern and the Bureau have agreed to the project, and the county would aid in providing data and helping out where possible, such as coordination and access to boats.

Another benefit of the study would be the opportunity to monitor possible changes wrought by quagga mussels in Lake Granby.

The aquatic nuisance mussel larvae are thought to have been transported by boat to the reservoir this summer, and if they spread they could cause significant problems in water quality and recreation.

“When mussels invade a system, they change everything you knew about that system scientifically, so this should be adaptive to the changes,” Morris said, “…if there are changes. Maybe the mussels won’t find a hospitable neighborhood up here. We’ll cross our fingers.”

” Tonya Bina can be reached at 887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail

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