Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2018MI251B

Nutrient Loading Forecasting for Western Lake Erie

Institute: Michigan
Year Established: 2018 Start Date: 2018-03-01 End Date: 2019-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $14,358 Total Non-Federal Funds: $4,597

Principal Investigators: Glenn O'Neil, Margaret Kalcic, Rebecca Muenich

Abstract: Problem Lake Erie has long suffered from seasonal harmful algal blooms primarily attributed to nutrient runoff from agricultural lands in its western basin (Scavia, et al. 2014). To mitigate the impacts of those blooms on water quality and habitat, US EPA has set a goal of reducing phosphorus loading to western Lake Erie by 40% (US EPA Great Lake National Program Office 2017). Though there are multiple projects addressing water quality in western Lake Erie, most are focused on implementing agricultural conservation to reduce current pollutant loading rates. There has been less attention to how those rates might change in the long-term. A growing global population and current weather trends that imply an altered agricultural calendar (e.g. longer growing season, multiple harvests a year, alternative crops) could effectively narrow EPA’s goalposts over time. This project will provide an initial exploration of those possibilities, and will inform conservation efforts of both federal, state, and local stakeholders in the region. Methods This project will forecast phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment loading from the River Raisin watershed of southeast Michigan into western Lake Erie. Scientists from the Institute of Water Research at Michigan State University (IWR-MSU) will collaborate with hydrology researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and Ohio State University (OSU) to build upon past and on-going nutrient modeling efforts for the River Raisin watershed. The team will utilize a previously developed and calibrated Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to explore how potential changes in land management and weather patterns may affect water quality in western Lake Erie, and discuss what implications those changes may have on the occurrence of harmful algal blooms there. Objectives 1. Identify potential adaptive agricultural management scenarios for the western Lake Erie region based upon long-term weather trends. 2. Run the model forward using the weather forecasts and the adaptive agricultural management scenarios identified in objective 1. 3. Analyze the impacts of the changing weather patterns and management scenarios on loadings of sediment, phosphorus, and nitrogen to western Lake Erie.