Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012LA84B

Identification of contaminant source locations in Amite River watershed

Institute: Louisiana
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2012-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $16,199 Total Non-Federal Funds: $32,926

Principal Investigators: Zhi-Qiang Deng

Abstract: The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) has played a major role in resolving point source pollution problems through a system of laws, regulations and judicial enforcement. However, pollutants from watershed-wide nonpoint sources are difficult to monitor and nearly impossible to regulate through the conventional CWA-based approach alone, often producing unknown source pollution to water bodies. In fact, the Louisiana’s 2010 Integrated Report for water quality assessment indicated that about 82% of lakes and 16.6% of rivers in Louisiana are impaired by unknown sources, making it challenging to restore the impaired water bodies. The unknown source pollution may also be caused by illegal dumping or discharges. Therefore, the identification of pollution source location is essential to the restoration of water quality and thereby to the compliance with the CWA. The overall goal of this project is to develop new methods for identifying the location of pollution sources, including both point and nonpoint sources. The proposed strategy is to test and demonstrate the new methods by identifying the locations of unknown pollution sources of BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand) in the Amite River watershed. The Amite River, particularly the lower reach of Amite River, is impaired with BOD. Primary objectives of the project are: (1) to provide a simple yet effective method for identification of point contaminant source discharging to a river and (2) to develop a new method for identification of critical source areas of nonpoint source pollution in the Amite River watershed. The objectives will be accomplished by executing three tasks: (1) development of a moment-based method for identification of point pollution source by determining the location and total mass of discharge, (2) mapping watershed time of concentration by using US EPA program BASINS and watershed modeling tool HSPF; and (3) development of a watershed-based method for identification of nonpoint pollution source by locating unknown nonpoint source areas of BOD in the Amite River watershed. The proposed tasks will be implemented by combining PI’s proven variable residence time model for solute transport in rivers, watershed modeling systems BASINS/HSPF, and high resolution NEXRAD radar rainfall data. The proposed project has broader implications for environmental restoration and sustainability in Louisiana and in the nation as well. This project will provide an efficient and cost effective tool for environmental and water resources management agencies to locate unknown pollution sources from both point and distributed discharges and thus reduce the uncertainty in TMDL development and implementation. While this study focuses on the Amite River watershed, the approach to be developed in this study can be easily extended to other watersheds in Louisiana and in the nation. In addition, the project provides research and educational training opportunities for graduate and undergraduate students. This proposal is intended to address the first priority research need: Watershed Education and Research Activities, identified by the Louisiana Water Resources Research Institute (LWRRI) in LWRRI’s Research Priorities for 2012.