Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016VT80B

Developing high frequency in-situ methods to accurately quantify riverine phosphorus loading to Lake Champlain

Institute: Vermont
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2017-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $9,994 Total Non-Federal Funds: $20,204

Principal Investigators: Beverley Wemple, Matthew Vaughan, Beverley Wemple, Andrew Vermilyea

Abstract: Phosphorus pollution has been identified as a major concern for Lake Champlain by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which has recently proposed a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for total phosphorus into the lake. Millions of state and federal dollars have been invested to curb phosphorus loading into Lake Champlain, though phosphorus levels have not decreased. To date, the State of Vermont’s methods for monitoring phosphorus pollution have relied on collecting intermittent grab samples for laboratory analysis. This method provides low resolution data, which could misrepresent actual phosphorus loads, especially during storms when concentrations change rapidly and hysteresis effects can introduce significant uncertainty to flow-based estimates. We propose to use state of the art water quality sensors of the Northeast Water Resources Network (NEWRnet) to measure total phosphorus and soluble phosphorus concentrations in-situ and at sub-hourly intervals. UV-Visible spectrophotometers and nephelometric turbidity sensors are currently in place in streams draining agricultural, forested, and urban land uses. Correlating these measurements with laboratory phosphorus measurements will allow for rapid, inexpensive, and high quality phosphorus concentration data that would inform Vermont State’s TMDL goals and adaptive phosphorus management practices.