In 2012, a collaborative group of water researchers from northern Utah had the idea for a new project that would allow researchers to integrate and share social and biophysical water data and would create an infrastructure (human, observational, and cyber) that would lay a foundation for addressing water, population growth, and climate change issues that will confront the State of Utah in the coming years.

iUtah and GAMUT

The resulting EPSCoR (Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) program funding award from the National Science Foundation launched iUTAH (innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion HydroSustainability): a 5-year, multi-institution, interdisciplinary project focused on water sustainability in Utah.

Over the past five years, iUTAH has been widely recognized for its well-established network of environmental observations via the GAMUT (Gradients Along Mountain to Urban Transitions) network; one of the project’s lasting legacies.  In the Logan River Basin, there are 8 GAMUT aquatic stations and and 4 climate sensor stations that measure, record, and publicly distribute a wide range of climate (e.g., precipitation, snow depth, air temperature, relative humidity), hydrology (e.g., water depth, flow rates), and water quality (e.g., water temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, turbidity, nitrate) information. From diagnostics and restoration of impaired urban rivers to modeling future water availability, these data help identify factors controlling the movement of water and other substances through rivers and streams. The sensor network logs and transmits the data, which is then stored in databases and made publicly available via web-based open access tools and an online data repository. The networks and information streams established by iUTAH have laid a solid foundation for better water management in Cache Valley, but also provide a perfect opportunity to study the impacts of rapidly growing rural counties on water use and quality across the state of Utah.

“One of the weaknesses that we as a city face is having good quality data to evaluate water quality impacts,” says Lance Houser, City of Logan Assistant City Engineer. “The advantage of collaborating with iUTAH is that they provide us with a data management source for collecting data, including quality control. Then they store and warehouse it so that it is not just available to Logan City, but also to all of the irrigation and canal companies, state agencies, the EPA, and researchers who are concerned about water quality.”

The Logan River Observatory

Now as the iUTAH project comes to a close, the Logan GAMUT network is transitioning to become the Logan River Observatory (LRO).  The goals of the LRO are to provide a long-term comprehensive hydrologic data to inform future state-wide water management decisions based on detailed observations and Utah specific hydrologic research. Drs. Bethany Neilson, Jeffery Horsburgh, and Michelle Baker have worked to maintain and expand the partnerships forged over the past five years to ensure that the wealth of data continues to benefit the stakeholders who rely on it.

The Logan River Observatory team has initiated conversations with various local stakeholders to build and support existing infrastructure including Cache Water District, Logan City, Cache County, and Utah State University. They have also been working with the Logan River Task Force to coordinate efforts and have identified the Task Force’s current dependencies on the LRO data. Other entities that are interested that have identified needs for ongoing data collection within the Logan River basin include the Nature Conservancy, the Utah Division of Water Quality, and the Utah Division of Water Resources.