Water in Colorado streams and rivers can be anywhere from days to thousands of years old, according to a new, first-of-its-kind study published this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
Scientists used a supercomputer to make calculations based off existing data sets, explained Reed Maxwell, a professor of hydrology at the Colorado School of Mines. He says the findings will be key for future researchers who study how long it takes contaminants—like nitrate—to work through a river system.
“If we think about how long the impact of these spills or water contamination might be to small fractions it could be really long lived—thousands of years to move naturally through the system,” Maxwell said.
Maxwell says most water takes one to ten years to work its way through rivers. But small fractions of water make the journey very slowly. The study was published