Hydrometric and Hydrochemical Runoff Characterization and Modeling across Multiple Land Covers in Panama

Title

Hydrometric and Hydrochemical Runoff Characterization and Modeling across Multiple Land Covers in Panama

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Research Question

Panama Canal operations depend entirely on secure freshwater supplies to its reservoirs, however this critical natural resource's flow is sensitive to land management decisions. To better manage water resources, hydrological investigations are needed to quantify how runoff and groundwater supplies differ between different tropical land covers.

Significance

As the Panama Canal finalizes expansion in 2016, managing its seasonally scarce water resources becomes more critical to satisfy global shipping industry needs. Litt works with a team of hydrologists, geochemists, and geophysicists to quantify water supplied from different tropical land covers. This critical information will be applied towards an economic study estimating the economic costs and benefits to water supplied from different land uses. This hydrological and economical framework would enable a Payment for Ecosystem Services scheme, where the benefactor (Panama Canal Authority) would compensate private landowners who participate in a water conservation program.

Methods Used

Through stream, rain, groundwater, water chemistry and geophysical sampling campaigns, Litt draws upon results from these field studies to trace water moving through different land covers. He investigates how water runs off and infiltrates through the ground and identifies how this water movement differs across multiple tropical land management scenarios.

Conclusions/Outcomes

While old growth tropical forests yield the best outcomes for flood reduction and drought mitigation, alternative land management approaches to traditional grazing and subsistence agriculture provide a more realistic solution for private landowners in securing reliable water supply for Panama Canal operations.

Publication Date

Spring 2016

Hydrometric and Hydrochemical Runoff Characterization and Modeling across Multiple Land Covers in Panama

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