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Conference Proceeding

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Density currents are commonly formed in reservoirs because of temperature or salinity induced density differences between inflowing and receiving waters. Anderson and Pritchard (1951) were among the first to demonstrate this in their investigations of density currents in Lake Mead. They found that the Colorado River formed an underflow in Lake Mead during the winter, an overflow in the spring and an interflow in the summer and fall. Wunderlich and Elder (1973) have since described the hydromechanics of these types of flow patterns, and density currents have been reported for several other large reservoirs (Carmack et al. 1979, Johnson and Merritt 1979).

The importance of density currents in determining circulation patterns in reservoirs has long been known (Anderson and Pritchard 1951), but only recently have studies demonstrated their significance as mechanisms for transport of heat (Carmack et al. 1979) and nutrients (Gloss, Mayer and Kidd 1980). The vertical distribution and degree of mixing of a density current can directly influence nutrient availability to phytoplankton in the euphotic zone. In this paper, we describe how another density current in Lake Mead, the saline, nutrient rich Las Vegas Wash inflow, affects nutrient availability and phytoplankton growth in Las Vegas Bay.


Density currents; Fluid dynamics; Hydrodynamics; Lake Mead (Ariz. and Nev.); Las Vegas Bay (Nev.); Las Vegas Wash (Nev.); Phytoplankton; Salinity; Water temperature


Biology | Desert Ecology | Environmental Chemistry | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Monitoring | Environmental Sciences | Fluid Dynamics | Fresh Water Studies | Geochemistry | Soil Science | Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology




From the Lake Mead Limnological Research Center, University of Nevada, Las Vegas. “Reprinted from the Proceedings of the Symposium on Surface Water Impoundments ASCE / June 2-5, 1980 / Minneapolis, Minnesota.”—P. 1638