Water in some Alaskan rivers looks like ‘milky orange juice,’ UC Davis video reveals

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, reported that dozens of Alaska’s most remote waterways are turning from a crystal clear blue color into a cloudy orange hue, and a thawing permafrost may be to blame.

The rust-colored staining of the rivers and streams could be the result of minerals exposed by the thawing permafrost, a new study published in the Nature journal Communications: Earth and Environment has found.

UC Davis released footage showing the degraded rivers and streams, a condition scientists said could have huge implications for drinking water and fisheries in Arctic watersheds amid climate change.

Documenting and sampling the impaired waters in 75 locations in a Texas-sized area of the northern Alaskan Brooks Range was a team of researchers from the National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, the University of California, Davis, and other institutions.

“The more we flew around, we started noticing more and more orange rivers and streams,” lead author Jon O’Donnell, an ecologist for the NPS’ Arctic Inventory and Monitoring Network, said in a UC Davis news release. “There are certain sites that look almost like a milky orange juice. Those orange streams can be problematic both in terms of being toxic but might also prevent migration of fish to spawning areas.”