Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019IL092B

Assessment of floating gardens to improve the water quality of the Chicago River

Institute: Illinois
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-06-18 End Date: 2020-05-31
Total Federal Funds: $9,998 Total Non-Federal Funds: $20,175

Principal Investigators: Eric W. Peterson

Abstract: Urban streams suffer from point- and nonpoint-source contamination that impairs chemistry, ecology, and/or hydrology. Because of the continuous degradation of the urban streams, the concept of “urban stream syndrome†has been defined. Streams exhibiting elevated temperatures, enhanced nutrients, lower dissolved, oxygen, and loss of animal habitat fall under the classification. The Chicago River, with higher concentrations of nutrients and chlorides, can be classified as suffering from urban stream syndrome. Development of best management practices (BMPs) to improve stream conditions include the use of floating gardens (FGs). FGs have been used to improve stream aesthetics, create aquatic habitat, and to grow food. Microcosm studies have explored the feasibility of FGs to lower nutrient concentrations, but there are few insitu investigations. The proposed project examines the ability of a FG to reduce concentrations of nitrate and chloride in the Chicago River. The project addresses three objectives: 1) Are NO3- concentrations of waters upstream from the FG greater than NO3- concentrations of waters downstream from the FG? 2) Are Cl- concentrations of waters upstream from the FG greater than Cl- concentrations of waters downstream from the FG? 3) Are there seasonal differences in the effectiveness of a FG to remove either NO3- or Cl-? Fifty two samplings will occur, one each week, to examine how concentrations vary upstream from, downstream from, and within a FG in the Chicago River. The FG was installed and is maintained by Urban Rivers, a Chicago-based, nonprofit organization (501(c)(3)), with two primary goals to 1) improve the water quality of urban waterways and 2) increase the natural habitat within their banks. Measured nitrate as nitrogen (NO3-N) and chloride (Cl-) will be statically analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the FGs and to identify if seasonal variations exist. The project serves as a pilot-study to assess the effectiveness of FG and is collaborative project with Urban Rivers. The work will provide the basis for a MS thesis. The results of the work will be used to examine the utility of FGs to improve both urban and agriculture stream. If FG show the ability to reduce nutrients, the concept may be applicable in agricultural streams as a BMP to reduce elevated nutrients associated with agricultural land-use.