Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019AL011B

Sediment transport, nutrient deposition, and water quality through time for the Coosa River: The paleolimnology of Weiss Lake and Lay Lake

Institute: Alabama
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-03-01 End Date: 2020-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $24,635 Total Non-Federal Funds: $49,317

Principal Investigators: Matthew Waters

Abstract: Alabama is a surface water state with most of the large rivers highly fragmented from multiple dams and reservoirs. While many of these dams currently have water quality monitoring programs, the data rarely extend greater than 20 years. Many of Alabama’s dams were constructed decades before water quality monitoring was practiced and some dams in Alabama are over 100 years old. As a result, the sediments behind these dams have recorded land use changes, dam construction, flow releases, nutrient inputs and other events throughout the existence of each dam and prior to monitoring data. As a comprehensive water management plan is being considered for the state, the concentration and quantification of deposited materials (nutrients, metals, organic matter) behind Alabama’s dams need to be characterized to better understand what materials of concern are being accumulated, what materials are being transported down stream, and how altered sediment delivery and nutrient deposition over time has impacted water quality. In addition to the importance of understanding in-state sediment dynamics, Alabama would benefit by characterizing and quantifying materials received from other states that share rivers and watersheds. As one example, the Coosa River begins in Georgia and delivers materials from Georgia landscapes into Weiss Lake, AL. Similar situations occur with Lake Harris and the Tallapoosa River as well as other reservoirs along the Tennessee River. As Alabama is involved in multiple transboundary water situations, the state would profit by possessing data of sediment delivery through time from other states into Alabama to work with transboundary states on water quality as well as prepare for future regulations and negotiations if they arise. Here, my proposal will utilize the sediment record from two Alabama reservoirs, Lay Lake and Weiss Lake, to reconstruct sediment delivery, nutrient deposition, and water quality change through time.