Rainbows over water

Integrated Cyberinfrastructure Development and Data Collection

UWRL faculty members are engaged in cutting-edge research and application of cyberinfrastructure to make collections of hydrologic datasets more accessible to the researchers who use the information to extend vital hydrologic research to benefit communities.

As part of this highlighted project, we are combing real time data being collected as part of the Utah EPSCoR Track 1 National Science Foundation project (iUTAH - innovative Urban Transitions and Aridregion Hydro-Sustainability) with synoptic sampling events to provide the foundational information needed to better quantify existing water sources and possible changes due to climate variability and change.

hydroshare workflow
iUTAH logo
HydroShare logo

Principal Investigators:

Jeffery S. Horsburgh
Bethany T. Neilson
David Rosenberg



National Science Foundation, USGS Water Science Center, Utah State EPSCoR Office, University of Utah, Brigham Young University, Weber State University, Utah Education Network, Logan City, and many others.


Caleb Buahin

outline map of Utah showing study locations

Study Area:

Logan River, UT (Cache Co.)
Red Butte Creek, UT (Salt Lake Co.)
Provo River, UT (Utah Co.)

Project Description

Water is critical to sustainable economic development in Utah and to the sustainability of urban and natural ecosystems. Freshwater resources face immediate and long-term challenges due to population pressure and predicted changes in the amount and timing of precipitation. Utah’s population will at least double in the next two decades, with the most growth occurring along the narrow Wasatch Range Metropolitan Area (WRMA). Growth is expected to significantly increase the demand for high quality water, requiring water transfers, infrastructure investments, and efficiency programs. Identifying and quantifying sources, sinks, and residence times of heat and solute mass (e.g., pollutants) within stream networks are critical because of their role in biogeochemical processes and water quality. A key process in mountain streams and rivers is the spatially and temporally variable groundwater exchanges. However, groundwater exchanges are not clearly defined and are widely recognized as being complex. Yet, they are important as they affect both water quality and quantity as well as our ability to deliver high quality water to meet Utah’s growing demands. The interactions between stream flow and subsurface flow can occur in the hyporheic zone, deeper groundwater, parafluvial zone, riparian zone, and alluvial plain. Ongoing work on this project has focused on utilizing and combining flow and mass balances to build a spatial and temporal understanding of groundwater sources and exchanges. Recent groundwater exchange studies in Northern Utah have focused efforts on stream reach scales by using a wide variety of data types, but the need exists for a variable scale investigation on the importance of groundwater gains and losses within high gradient streams in the region.


iUTAH graphic

The data collection supports iUTAH efforts to

  • interpret the biochemical data collected longitudinally within the iUTAH study watersheds, and
  • conduct other variable scale water balance modeling efforts within iUTAH to understand the implications of climate change on hydrology within the state of Utah.

One undergraduate (BS) and four graduate (2 PhD and 2 MS) students are working on this project, and we have joined with a number of collaborators at the University of Utah to complete these efforts.


study area sampling sites

study sampling sites

Data have been gathered at many sites for five different time periods in the Logan River and Red Butte Creek over the last two years. During synoptic events, detailed flow information is collected at each sampling site, along with chemistry samples. These data are combined and analyzed to provide insight regarding groundwater sources and quantities during the critical low flow, groundwater dominated periods. We have additionally collected time series flow information at key tributaries and springs. These data have been combined to provide insight regarding reach scale net groundwater exchanges over 2 years.

Future Work

We are collecting additional data sets, completing analyses of existing and new data sets, and continuing work on the cyber-infrastructure aspects of the iUTAH project, focusing on software systems to enable iUTAH scientists and partners to share and collaborate on water resources data and next-generation, linked models of the state’s hydrologic systems. The data collection activities described above provide the essential inputs to these models. Ongoing research will use collected data (including continuous datasets from stream and terrestrial monitoring sites) to develop a new generation of interdisciplinary coupled models of human mediated hydrology for watersheds like the Logan River, Red Butte Creek, and Provo River.

Benefits to Utah

The innovative and transformational activities in this project include:

  • Development of fully integrated hydrologic and social sciences observatories that encompass whole watersheds along an urbanizing land use gradient;
  • Strategic activities designed to build a community of scholars across the state of Utah capable of addressing hydro-sustainability as a coupled human-natural system; and
  • Integrated education and outreach activities such as participatory and collaborative modeling efforts to ensure that our research directly addresses societal needs and will translate and communicate the scientific findings to stakeholders, policy makers, and the general public.