Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2011SC74B

Sediment Pollution Assessment and Verification of Abandoned Developments Using Volunteered Geographic Information in a Web Mapping Interface

Institute: South Carolina
Year Established: 2011 Start Date: 2011-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $25,170 Total Non-Federal Funds: $50,340

Principal Investigators: Elena Mikhailova, Christopher Post

Abstract: Abandoned and unfinished developments are a significant source of sediment pollution to streams and water bodies in Greenville, Spartanburg, and Pickens counties in upstate SC. Our previous study indicated a potential 300 sites and out of 119 field-verified sites, approximately 46% were contributing sediment via runoff directly to streams. Many of these abandoned sites lie distant from centers of population and exist at the urban rural interface - an area potentially slow to recover due to rising energy costs and distance from jobs. These developments and others remain a critical source of pollution to water resources. There is an urgent need to further identify the extent of this problem in other parts of the state and country and engage the public. We propose to fulfill both of these goals through an online web mapping interface and volunteered geographic information (VGI). The web mapping interface will: 1) display sample photos and sites from the original study, 2) provide an interface for the public to upload photos and attributes for their own subdivisions or local problem areas they are aware of (VGI), 3) allow users to view and comment on other users' submissions, 4) assess real-time risk by linking submissions or user inquiries to their watershed and identify name of and distance to nearest reach, 5) further map and identify the overall extent of sediment pollution from abandoned developments and/or identify hotspots of abandoned developments for further analysis. We have an extensive dataset of these sites over Greenville, Spartanburg, and Pickens counties for validation of this methodology. We also propose to field validate and/or remotely validate a random selection of volunteered data to determine its accuracy and usefulness. The website will contain a component for educating the public on the water quality effects of sediment pollution and connecting people with their government and watershed. This project benefits the public through education, watershed awareness, and a foundation of informed policy decisions.