Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2014AR355B

Hydrogeology and Biogeochemical Evolution of groundwater in Big Creek and Buffalo River Basins and Implications for Concentrated Animal-Feeding Operations

Institute: Arkansas
Year Established: 2014 Start Date: 2014-03-01 End Date: 2015-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $5,200 Total Non-Federal Funds: $6,690

Principal Investigators: Phil Hays, John Brahana, Ralph K. Davis, Erik Pollock, Victor Roland II

Abstract: Concentrated Animal-Feeding Operations (CAFOs) pose a potential threat to groundwater and surface-water quality in the Mt. Judea area, Newton County, AR. The problem in Mt. Judea is the permitting of an industrial hog farm lacking essential science addressing potential impacts of the operation on groundwater and surface-water quality in the event waste-management measures in place were to fail. This study uses hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, and carbon isotopes in water as well as specific conductance, temperature and major cations and anions as; (1) tracers of the hydrogeologic connections between groundwater and surface-water, (2) tools to observe the biogeochemical evolution of groundwater discharging into Big Creek and the Buffalo River, and (3) as tools to assess the impacts of concentrated nutrients and easily degradable organic carbon on microbial activity in groundwater. Hydrologic isotopes, geochemical, and biological parameters will be used to construct binary mixing models to calculate fractions of diffuse groundwater flow and quick conduit flow in karst, and to calculate seasonally varying fractions of groundwater in the Buffalo River and Big Creek. Laboratory experiments will be conducted to assess dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration effects on dissolved organic matter (DOM) bioavailability, nutrient attenuation rates, and to quantify changes in biomass quantity. We predict that microbial metabolic activity in groundwater flowing through karstic medium will show a positive relation to increasing DOC concentrations in the event of spillage, leakage, or runoff from the CAFO facility. We also predict that increasing DOC concentrations in groundwater will lead to more rapid attenuation of nitrate and phosphorus in groundwater, and larger quantities of biomass.