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Elevated Nitrate Levels Associated with Septic Tanks in Carson Valley Groundwater, Nevada –USGS, in cooperation with Nevada's Douglas County and Carson Water Subconservancy District, investigated sources and transport of nitrates in the alluvial aquifer underlying the Carson Valley in Douglas County, Nevada. The study confirms that septic tanks are contaminating groundwater in the region with concentrations of nitrates, posing human health risks from contaminated drinking water. Conducted on a larger scale than previous investigations, the study showed that the amount of nitrate contamination is two times greater in suburban areas dominated by single-family homes with septic tanks, compared to areas that are more rural, with fewer homes on the land. (Press Release)
Tracking Wastewater Contaminants in Red Creek, New York –The USGS New York Water Science Center has begun a pilot program to locate sources of leaking sewage from imperfect infrastructure and misconnection within the sewer system at three locations Milwaukee Estuary, Clinton River and the Rochester Embayment. As wastewater collection infrastructure (sanitary sewers) ages in the Great Lakes region, leakage of wastewater into nearby streams poses a contamination threat from pathogens and toxic contaminants. Locating sources of these leakages is a constant challenge for local wastewater utilities, and in collaboration with Monroe County, USGS will systematically track sources in a small urban basin within the Genesee River basin called Red Creek basin. New optical sensor technology for tracing sanitary sewage leakage to the source is being developed – including for optical properties, dissolved organic matter, eight human viruses, nine bovine viruses, three protozoa, and three pathogens related to fecal contamination, among other constituents. The findings will help local wastewater utilities to plan and implement restoration, and monitor effectiveness of solutions starting at these small tributaries within these larger dynamic systems.
Urban Best Management Practices near Burlington, Vermont –USGS, in cooperation with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation, assessed the effectiveness of urban best management practice structures, including a wet extended detention facility and a shallow marsh wetland, on Englesby Brook in Burlington, Vermont. The purpose of the best management practices was to reduce high streamflows and phosphorus and suspended-sediment loads and concentrations and to increase low streamflows. Evidence was mixed for the effectiveness of the best management practices in reducing phosphorus and suspended-sediment concentrations and loads during the decade of study. (Full report)
Effects of Storm-Water Management on Streamflow and Water Quality in Dane County, Wisconsin –USGS, in cooperation with the City of Middleton, assessed 30 years of data to evaluate the effectiveness of urban stormwater-management practices by the city of Middleton, Wisconsin. Analysis of streamflow and water-quality data collected on Pheasant Branch demonstrates the relation between the changes in the watershed to the structural and nonstructural best management practices put in place during 1975–2008. A comparison of the data from Pheasant Branch with streamflow and water-quality data collected at other nearby streams was made to assist in the determination of the possible causes of the changes in Pheasant Branch over time. The storm-water-management practices in Middleton have been successful in decreasing the suspended-sediment and total phosphorus loads to Lake Mendota from the Pheasant Branch watershed. The city already has met the 40-percent reduction in total suspended solids required by 2013. (Full report)
Water-quality trends and increasing urban land use near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –USGS, in cooperation with the City of Oklahoma City, tracked increasing urban land use and water-quality trends in nitrogen, phosphorus and some pesticides from 1999-2009 in parts of the North Canadian River watershed, downstream of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Press release; Fact Sheet; USGS report). Increases in concentrations in nitrogen, phosphorus, and some pesticides may have been caused by changes in point-source wastewater discharges, urban development, population growth, streamflow, and/or agricultural activities.
Effects of Stormwater Runoff from Bridges on Streams in North Carolina –USGS, in cooperation with North Carolina Department of Transportation, evaluated brick deck runoff and possible effects on water quality and sediment in streams. The findings provide information needed to select the most efficient best management practice at a bridge construction, replacement, or other highway project site. (USGS report)
Nitrate and wastewater compounds in the Barton Springs Zone, South-Central Texas –USGS, in cooperation with the City of Austin, the City of Dripping Springs, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Hays County, and Travis County, released a report characterizing concentrations and isotopic compositions of nitrate and concentrations of wastewater compounds in the Barton Springs zone, and their potential relation to urban development. (Fact sheet, Full report)
Water-quality monitoring in Baltimore, Maryland – USGS, in cooperation with the City of Baltimore, Baltimore County, and Carroll County, Maryland, released a retrospective review of monitoring data from 1981 through 2007 to help identify possible improvements in monitoring for the Baltimore Reservoir system, including Loch Raven, Liberty, and Prettyboy Reservoirs that serve the City of Baltimore, Maryland, and parts of five surrounding counties. Management of the watershed conditions for each reservoir is a shared responsibility by agreement among City, County, and State jurisdictions. The most recent (2005) Baltimore Reservoir Watershed Management Agreement (RWMA) called for continued and improved water-quality monitoring in the reservoirs and selected watershed tributaries.