Water Reservoirs

Water is essential to life as we know it. Man-made water reservoirs store water so we can use it. Although these reservoirs are a necessity to the water we use everyday, scientists have recently discovered that reservoirs around the world are emitting too many greenhouse gases. How is this affecting us and our environment? What can we do to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced by these reservoirs?

Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane trap heat in the earth’s atmosphere. While it keeps the earth from becoming too cold, too much greenhouse gas emission in the past several decades has led to global warming.

According to Popular Science Magazine, scientists already knew that these reservoirs would produce greenhouse gases, but when they conducted a study, they discovered that the amount of produced greenhouse gases was 25% more than they had predicted. Washington Post writes that countries have been trying to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases produced, but that with this new discovery, there will need to be even less production of greenhouse gases to prevent more global warming.

How It Works

Most of the greenhouse gases produced by these water reservoirs is methane. It is less soluble than other greenhouse gases so it is usually seen as rising bubbles. As these bubbles pop, they release methane molecules into the atmosphere (Popular Science).

When water comes into reservoirs, it contains nutrients and sediments. Reservoirs around farmland usually get the most sediment from things like fertilizer, which cause the release of methane.

How It Affects Us: Climate Change

We all need water. We need it to survive, yet it poses a big problem.

If water reservoirs continue to produce this massive amount of greenhouse gases, global warming will continue until the point when humans can no longer live on the earth.

As the earth becomes warmer, species need to learn to adapt to new conditions to survive. As Earth’s climate continuously changes, there will be a point where many species cannot survive anymore.  If a major producer in the food web becomes endangered or extinct, there will not be enough food for other species.

Without these reservoirs, we would have no fresh water to drink, to use. But with these reservoirs giving off so many greenhouse gases, the consequences are huge and it seems like there is no stopping to global warming if we continue to use them.

It seems as if there is no way to stop these greenhouse gases if we still want to live on Earth.

In Class

In the MVHS AP Environmental Science (APES) course, water contamination is a big component of the curriculum. The students learn about water contamination in both natural systems like lakes and in artificial systems like reservoirs. This helps students better understand the water we use everyday, and how we could solve problems like these in the future.

Taking Action

During a discussion with MVHS APES teacher Andrew Goldenkranz, he proposes a few ways we can cut down the amount of methane released into the atmosphere.

“There are a couple of things we can do,” Goldenkranz said. “If we filter the water a little more carefully coming into the reservoir, then we can prevent some of the methane… If we’re following nitrogen or phosphorous from either farming or from urban waste, then the amounts of those nutrients will accelerate the process of methane because it drives down the oxygen level. The reason that methane happens is because of a lack of oxygen in the system. The other way is if you put in an aeration pump. You stick a hose in there [the reservoir] and you spray the hose up in the air. Anytime you churn the water around, it will add oxygen to it. Aeration is good because it does more to prevent the problem.”

He also gives a way we as individuals can help with this conflict.

“Another thing that we want to do is minimize the amount of waste, both agricultural and household, that goes into the system,” Goldenkranz said. “If you’re watering your lawn or using Miracle-Grow, avoid the temptation to use too much.”

Local Problems

Goldenkranz explains some local problems concerning the Stevens Creek water reservoir.

“We [MVHS] are directly downstream from the reservoir. Anything that comes out from the [local] cement plant is gonna intercept a little below where the school is,” he said. “On the [Monte Bello] Ridge, there are a lot of wineries, and that’s what passes for agriculture around here, so have a lot of either wastewater or nutrients that are gonna run off from the hillside and will get into the reservoir.”

These are ways that water is contaminated around us. If we can filter the water that goes into reservoirs better, then there will be less methane produced by these impurities.

“That’s what we can think about, what’s going on with the wineries up there,” he said. “What has been done locally is maintaining the reservoir on down. Now we want to start looking up from the ridge line and the upper Stevens Creek. Students could make a difference by working with the county park system.”
Keeping our environment in good shape is very important since we live in it. We can take little steps each day to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases emitted, whether it’s going to a car wash instead of washing your car on your lawn, using public transportation more often, or even just recycling. By taking action we can make the environment a better place.