Team at Los Alamos Lab works to protect water quality

We are what we drink

March 3, 2024

Stonefly larvae, collected recently from the Rio Grande downstream of the Lab, serve as one indicator of a healthy aquatic ecosystem as they generally don't tolerate high levels of disturbance or pollution.

By Steve Story

One of the first things we learn as young students being introduced to the concept of gravity is: Water flows downhill. And while it races toward lower elevations, it takes along whatever is in its path, whether that be downed trees, rocks, debris — and even pollutants.

Los Alamos National Laboratory sits perched atop the Pajarito Plateau, a vast volcanic rise cut deep by canyons carved by water over millennia. These same canyons funnel water from the mesa tops to the Rio Grande below. Because of this, the laboratory proactively monitors potential contaminants in stormwater, surface water and groundwater that could make their way to the river. We do this year-round, not just because it’s our job, but because it impacts us personally — after all, many of us live in the communities that sit downstream from the lab.

Furthermore, every three years, a program at the Lab collects samples for analysis of the river’s sediment and aquatic species — such as fish and crayfish, as well as caddisfly, mayfly and stonefly larvae. These small animal communities can tell us a lot about aquatic ecosystem health.

Read the rest of the story as it appeared in the Santa Fe New Mexican.