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2014 USGS 104b Program Grants


Project Number: 2014TN106B, 2014
Title: Recalibrating the SAGT SPARROW to Accommodate Changes in Agricultural Inputs
Team: Dayton Lambert, Christopher Boyer, and Christopher Clark, UT Agricultural and Resource Economics; John Schwartz, UT Civil and Environmental Engineering

The United States Geological Survey’s SPAtially Referenced Regression on Watershed Attributes (SPARROW) is a convenient model for forecasting the impacts land use has on water quality through changes in source and non-source point nutrient loading. SPARROW uses nonlinear regression to explain nutrient mass balance in watershed networks as a function of land use, pollution point sources, nutrient runoff from agriculture and urban activities, geophysical features, and climatic factors. Nutrient loading predictions are generated using the stream network configuration of basins. The SPARROW model has been used extensively to forecast changes in nutrient loading in the Mississippi and Tennessee River basins. Our research modifies the South Atlantic-Gulf-Tennessee (SAGT) basin system SPARROW model (developed by Hoos et al. and calibrated and applied by Hoos and McMahon) to examine the impacts land use change resulting from a mature cellulosic biofuel industry (including fiber, wood, and forest residue feedstock) will have on water quality in this region. The challenge we face is updating the agricultural input use and forest land coverage data generously provided by the USGS to inform our counterfactual scenarios. The funding request will provide an opportunity to enhance the modeling capability of SPARROW for the SAGT basin.

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Project Number: 2014TN105B, 2014
Title: Underground Reactive Barrier to Attenuate Contaminants from Agricultural Drainage
Team: Jaehoon Lee, John Buchanan, Jennifer De - Bruyn, Shawn Hawkins, Andrea Ludwig, and Forbes Walker, UT Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science

There is a great need for cost-effective and proven best management practices to mediate contaminants (e.g. excess nutrients, pathogens, veterinary pharmaceuti - cals, etc.) in agricultural drainage. One technology for remediating agricultural chemicals, such as nitrogen (N), is by promoting denitrification using denitrifica - tion beds, also called underground reactive barriers. A denitrification bed is constructed by mixing an organic carbon (C) source (typically sawdust or woodchips) into soil below the water table in order to intercept groundwater flow. The increased and continued supply of C to denitrifiers enhances denitrification of the water, thus reducing NO3- in the discharge. The purpose of this proposal is to carry out field studies evaluating an advanced underground reactive barrier using a combination of woodchips and charcoal/biochar. Our preliminary study showed that the addition of biochar/ charcoal was very effective in removing phosphorus (P) as well as veterinary antibiotics, which are emerging contaminants. We propose to install underground reactive barriers in the new UT Little River Animal and Environmental Unit located in Walland, Tennessee. The research and education center is bounded by streams on three sides and lies in the floodplain of a state-declared exceptional waterway. This is a unique opportunity, because the data from this study will enable us to advance the underground reactive barrier technology to treat various contaminants in agricultural drainage while utilizing byproducts from bio-energy production. We will determine if these barriers will help to reduce N, P, and veterinary antibiotics as well as pathogen/ fecal bacteria.

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Project Number: 2014TN103B, 2014
Title: Assessment of Watershed Land Use Stressors on the Biological Integrity of the Nolichucky River in Tennessee
PI: J. Brian Alford, UT Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries

In the Nolichucky River watershed of east Tennessee, there are five fish and seven mussel species listed as endangered or threatened by the State or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, making it one of the most critically important “hot spots” for North American biodiversity. There is concern that pesticide runoff from tomato farming may have caused acute and chronic effects that cause fish mortality and may degrade biotic integrity and ecosystem function. The purpose of this project is to assess the influence of land use stressors in the Nolichucky River watershed on (1) bioindicators of population health in representative fish and benthic invertebrate species and (2) the biological integrity of fish and invertebrate communities. The results of this proposed study will help non-governmental conservation groups and state and federal agencies to better monitor the potential impacts of non-point runoff contaminants to aquatic biota in the Nolichucky watershed. In addition, predictive models developed by this research will enable these groups to more efficiently allocate resources and restoration priorities to improving water quality in one of the Nation’s most historic and ecologically diverse ecosystems.

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Project Number: 2014TN104B
Title: High Resolution Monitoring of Urban Stormwater Quality
Team:  Jon M.Hathaway and Kimberly E. Carter, UT Civil and Environmental Engineering

Modeling is an integral part of watershed restoration efforts, as is an understanding of the pollutant of concern’s fate and transport, and what factors influence the pollutant’s variability. High resolution data can aid in such efforts, offering a preliminary investigation of the variability of pollutants in stormwater and what factors influence this variability. In addition, pollutants such as E. coli and organic chemicals have not been extensively characterized in stormwater runoff, resulting in a lack of understanding as to the potential threat these pollutants pose to public and ecological health. The overall goal of this research is to better understand urban stormwater and provide sustainable ways to reduce its contribution to surface water degradation. This testing will take place in three urban streams in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Progress: Since sampling began in September 2014 at Second Creek, samples from eleven storm events have been collected. Samples from an additional three storms each have been collected for Third and Williams Creeks where monitoring began in June 2015. Over 10 samples per storm event were typically collected, resulting in well-defined pollutagraphs for the storm events monitored. The data collected thus far confirm high concentrations of sediments, indicator bacteria, and some forms of nitrogen (nitrate) in the storm samples. For instance, E. coli concentrations reached as high as 18,000 MPN/100 ml during the storm event on 9/11/2014. This is over 140 times the average concentration desirable for primary contact in recreational waters. Organics analysis failed to result in positive identification of organic pollutants in the storm flows sampled in the latter part of 2014 and the beginning of 2015, However, phenol was found in trace amounts during the samplings from June and July of 2015 and may be from the vegetation near the stream. Additional analysis were performed to determine the presence of other organic species, including perfluorinated compounds, but showed no detectable amounts using the methods available. Further analyses are being performed to determine the concentration of any other potential contaminants. Future analyses will relate pollutant magnitudes and variability to various antecedent environmental conditions, allowing an understanding of factors influencing fate and transport in urban systems.

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