Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018MI247B

Improving nutrient management through a drainage tile monitoring program

Institute: Michigan
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $18,836 Total Non-Federal Funds: $22,053

Principal Investigators: Jeremiah Asher

Abstract: Lake Erie’s western basin has seen significant increases in dissolved reactive phosphorus (DRP) in the last decade, driving the production of harmful algal blooms (HABs). These HABs pose significant health risks to people and animals and bear extensive cost to communities to treat or prevent contamination to drinking water sources. Agricultural lands and associated practices have been linked to the recent increases of DRP entering the basin. The River Raisin watershed is the largest contributing watershed in Michigan to Lake Erie’s western basin and has over 80% of its land use dedicated to agriculture. It has been shown that conservation practice adoption can minimize the risk of nutrients entering the River Raisin watershed and Western Lake Erie basin. This research seeks to monitor water quality data from tile drains and share this data back with farmers. Offering farmers data regarding nutrient (SRP and nitrates) levels throughout the watershed, as well as from their own tile drains, will offer better motivation to participate versus simply telling them there is a nutrient pollution problem. This data will also be useful for informing/verifying computer-simulated modeling tools used for targeting vulnerable lands. Problem Currently, little water quality data exists (other than at the mouth of the River Raisin) for the purpose of helping farmers make informed decisions regarding best management practice implementation in the River Raisin Watershed. Farmers need further information, in the form of chemical data, concerning nutrient loading in order to increase interest in adopting BMPs. Methods The Michigan State University (MSU) Institute of Water Research (IWR) will collaborate with both the River Raisin Watershed Council (RRWC) and Adrian College. Adrian College will provide a team of undergraduate students to perform the water sampling while under the supervision of a biology professor (Dr. Jim Martin). The RRWC will also contribute data through their adopt-a-stream program. All chemical analysis will be done in a lab at Adrian College. Results will be sent to the Institute of Water Research for further interpretation. The Erb Foundation may provide matching funds to help conduct outreach and education. Objectives Objective A: Objective A is to sample from 6 locations tile drain locations within the River Raisin watershed. This will be done twice a month, as well as during rain events that exceed 0.5 inches. We will collect pH, dissolved oxygen, nitrate, soluble reactive phosphorous, and flow measurements. Objective B: Objective B is to place all data in a format that is simple for farmers or the general public to read. We will have charts demonstrating what nutrient levels are coming off of fields (while keeping farmer information confidential), as well as what levels are in nearby streams and rivers. Objective C: Objective C is to present information to farmers during a field day held in Lenawee County in 2018 where over 100 farmers attended in previous years.