State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2008ND170B
Title: Chemical Fingerprinting of Sediments and Water of the Souris River for Identification of Diffuse Pollution Sources
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2008
End Date: 2/28/2009
Congressional District:
Focus Categories: Water Quality, Surface Water, Non Point Pollution
Keywords: Chemical Fingerprinting, Sediment transport in watersheds, Diffuse Pollution, Tracing sediment sources of pollutants
Principal Investigator: Otte, Marinus L. (North Dakota State University)
Federal Funds: $ 10,700
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 21,400
Abstract: Phosphorus is ubiquitous in water, soil and sediments. Excess phosphate in water can lead to eutrophication resulting in over-production of algae and other plants. This may lead to problems regarding water quality. Ecological problems include increased production of biomass of (potentially toxic) phytoplankton, decreased water transparency and depletion of dissolved oxygen. Social problems include the high cost of water treatment, loss of aesthetic quality of the river and reduction of fish species, many of which are economically-important. This project will focus on the environmentally and politically sensitive Souris River, which originates in Saskatchewan, then passes through North Dakota and Manitoba. There is international concern regarding phosphate loading in the water and the cross-border consequences of pollution transport. This river drains a large watershed including land that is used for cattle grazing. Cattle produce large quantities of phosphate in their waste which then washes into the river. However, the geographic origin of the phosphate is undetermined. Pinpointing the sources of polluted suspended sediments is critical for pollution abatement and regulation. In this project the potential for tracing sediments acting as phosphate sources to the Souris River will be assessed using the "chemical fingerprinting" technique. This involves determining the "fingerprint" concentration of many elements simultaneously. The technique provides quality and efficiency of analysis with the introduction of Inductively Coupled Plasma spectrophotometry (ICP). The elements considered pollutants can be analyzed quickly and at very low concentrations. Chemical fingerprinting has been used in plants and in tracing suspended sediment sources in catchments and river systems. The research proposed here will develop a chemical fingerprint for the sediments in the Souris River. This "fingerprint" will then be used to identify pollution sources, ultimately with the aim to improve both water quality and inter-governmental cooperation.

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