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Project ID: NY921

Title: Modeling phosphorus control best management practices on a watershed scale to improve surface drinking water quality

Focus Categories: Non Point Pollution, Water Quality

Keywords: dissolved phosphorus, water quality modeling, best management practices, watershed management, hydrology

Start Date: 09/01/2001

End Date: 08/31/2004

Federal Funds: $84,294

Non-Federal Matching Funds: $130,749

Congressional District: 26

Principal Investigator:
Tammo Steenhuis
Professor, Cornell University


Non-point sources - particularly agriculture - are one of the largest contributors of phosphorus (P) to surface waters, where excess P typically results in eutrophication. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) generally requires filtration for surface drinking water supplies. New York City (NYC) was granted an exemption from the filtration rule provided that an acceptable watershed program plan and protective measures can be achieved, with a significant emphasis on P control. A high priority has been placed on development and implementation of effective best management practices (BMPs). However, no effective modeling tool is available to evaluate the potential impacts of BMPs on P transport in shallow, sloping soils. Models that can be used in these landscapes to find effective and economically feasible methods of reducing contributions of dissolved and particulate P to streams and reservoirs are needed.

The overall goal of this project is to develop and test a model that can predict soluble and particulate P loss from agricultural and forest lands on shallow sloping soils, and then extend the model to determine the most cost-effective ways of reducing P contributions to lakes and reservoirs.

Specific project objectives are to:

Activities for Objective 1 will take place with undisturbed laboratory soil cores and with field experiments in the Town Brook Watershed (TBW) in the Catskills Mountains of NY and in the Irondequoit Creek Watershed (ICW) near Rochester NY. For Objective 2 we will adapt the SMR Model, a spatially-distributed model appropriate for the hydrologic and geologic characteristics of the Catskill region, by incorporating P generation and transport components.

Validation of the proposed model (Objective 3) requires an initial calibration of source and transport factors in the TBW and ICW watersheds followed by an assessment of the relationship between predicted and actual P impacts on water quality. Intensive water quantity/quality monitoring and associated data collection have been (and will be) conducted at varying scales in both watersheds to document the mechanisms controlling water and nutrient loss. In TBW the emphasis is on testing the effect of on-field BMPs in controlling P mobilization and transport while in the ICW the emphasis is on testing structural BMPs, primarily retention basins.

For Objective 4, we will use the model to simulate an array of BMPs to identify those that reduce P contributions to streams at minimum costs. Farmer cooperators will assist in the research process by sharing information about land use practices, perceptions of runoff processes on their fields, and insights of how best to control P without decreasing yields. For ICW, both the hydrologic simulation program fortran (HSPF) model and the SMR distributed model will be run for the same 10 year scenarios to compare how the models predict streamflow and water quality improvement when BMPs are applied. The model will be disseminated by training practitioners in its use.

Progress/Completion Reports PDF

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Maintained by: John Schefter
Last Updated: Thursday June 24, 2004 3:18 PM
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