The Indiana Water Resources Research Center annually funds small grants that focus on basic and applied research to solve water problems unique to Indiana. Current research projects include (click next to each project title to expand the information):
Can there ever be enough? Analysis of the adoption, penetration and effectiveness of urban stormwater best management practices
- Principal Investigators: Dr. Laura C. Bowling, Purdue University, Department of Agronomy and Dr. Linda S. Prokopy, Purdue University, Department of Forestry & Natural Resources
- September 2014-August 2017
- Abstract: Stormwater management, including the infrastructure for water conveyance, drainage and treatment, is an increasing water problem for communities of all sizes. This project is addressing the need to improve and enhance the nation’s water supply through evaluation of what limits adoption of urban stormwater conservation practices. Stormwater conservation practices, such as rain gardens, rain barrels and permeable pavement offer the potential of decreasing stormwater volumes and reducing water quality impacts, but their utilization is generally lower than their agricultural counterparts. The goal of this proposed work is to improve water quality planning and implementation through recommendations to improve the overall adoption, penetration and permanence of urban stormwater BMPs. Our research approach blends statistical analysis with social science techniques to determine 1) how many BMPs do we need? and 2) how can we get them in the watershed?
Floodplain restoration and nutrient retention in the Wabash River Basin
- Principal Investigator: Dr. Sara K. McMillan, Purdue University, Department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering
- Project Staff/Co-Investigator(s): Dr. Venkatesh Merwade, Purdue University, Lyles School of Civil Engineering
- March 2016-February 2017
- Abstract: Floodplains occupy a small fraction of the total landscape, yet they retain a disproportionate amount of nutrients and sediment. During high flow events, riverine water overtops the channel banks, flowpaths widen causing velocities to slow and retention times to increase, which are critical to sediment and nutrient trapping. Rapidly changing flow conditions directly impact the spatial extent of inundation as well as the magnitude and direction of flow velocities. High resolution of local controls (e.g., topography, vegetation and groundwater flow) are required to accurately predict these changes. Further, in the areas of sustained wetness and high inputs of organic matter, nutrient transformations are maximized. While nitrogen removal via microbial processes is greatest under these conditions, the mechanisms controlling phosphorus removal are highly variable and poorly understood. Floodplain restoration and breaching of levees to re-establish natural flood pulsing is a strategy that shows great promise. In fact, the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Indiana has restored nearly 30,000 acres of riverine floodplains in the Wabash River Basin to improve water quality and other ecosystem functions. However, characterization and prediction of the environmental factors driving successful restoration is needed to find optimal locations that achieve the greatest impact per dollar invested. Therefore, our goal is to develop a robust predictive tool to quantify riverfloodplain connectivity and its impact on sediment and nutrient retention at the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers. We will build a 2-dimensional hydrodynamic model of the system and measure rates of nitrogen and phosphorus transformations in floodplain sediments. We will scale results temporally and spatially to estimate the net impact of floodplain processes on nutrient retention in the Wabash River Basin. Collectively, this will build the foundation for
an integrated and interdisciplinary analysis of the complex environmental controls on nutrient retention in river-floodplain ecosystems.
Nutrient removal efficiency of a combined surface/subsurface flow wetland system
- Principal Investigator: Dr. Pierre-André Jacinthe, Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis, Department of Earth Sciences
- March 2016-February 2017
- Abstract: The impact of nutrients exported from croplands on water quality can be minimized if, instead of being directly discharged directly into nearby streams, agricultural runoff and subsurface tile drainage can be channeled to temporary detention systems such as wetlands where bio-transformation of nutrients can occur. However, this approach could pose operational challenges. First, it could interfere with farming activities if wet soil conditions persist in adjacent crop fields. Thus, wetland operators need to strike a balance between field accessibility and increased system efficiency achievable with longer hydraulic residence time (HRT). Second, removal of NO3– and SRP – the pollutants most commonly present agricultural discharge often requires different redox conditions, suggesting that complete treatment can be accomplished in wetlands with multiple water-flow paths. Information is also lacking regarding the impact of treatment wetlands on air quality, specifically emission of greenhouse gases (GHG; N2O; CH4) into the atmosphere. Thus, the objectives of the proposed studies are to: (i) examine how HRT and water flow paths affect the performance of the constructed wetland, (ii) identify biogeochemical processes controlling nutrient transformation, and (iii) determine if constructed are potentially significant sources of N2O and CH4 emission in agricultural landscapes. The proposed study will be conducted at a constructed wetland (4-yr old) that comprises a surface and a subsurface flow cells. The wetland design also allows experimental adjustments of HRT and flow path (surface vs subsurface), thus making it possible to assess the impact of these parameters on system performance. The wetland is located downslope from a corn/soybean agricultural field that is actively monitored as part of a multi-agency edge-of-field effort. Significant synergies are expected between these two projects. Results of this study will have implications for the design, operations and acceptability of treatment wetlands in agricultural landscapes of the US Midwest.
Pilot investigation of variable contaminant loads in fish as a result of foraging and habitat specialization
- Principal Investigator: Dr. Tomas Höök, Purdue University, Department of Forestry & Natural Resources
- Project Staff/Co-Investigator(s): Timothy D. Malinich, Purdue University, Department of Forestry & Natural Resources
- March 2016-February 2017
- Abstract: Contaminants such as mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are typically quantified as measures of central tendency, i.e. averaged across all sampled fish of the same species within the same body of water. More recent studies suggest that individuals within a population do not all exhibit the same feeding and habitat residence patterns, therefore have varying risks to contaminant exposure and accumulation. If popular sport fish such as yellow perch, Perca flavescens, or black crappie, Pomoxis nigromaculatus, exhibit diet plasticity and specialize for pelagic or benthic habitats, then some groups of fish may pose a greater risk to consumers. Specifically, we hypothesize that diet plasticity and specialization in fish populations could lead to a bi-modal distribution of contaminant loads. Given that different contaminant exposure is likely to manifest through differential foraging strategies and habitat use, we will collect fish of each species within 3 different lakes in Northern Indiana to evaluate potential for relationships between the mercury and PCB loads of individual fish and their diet/habitat specialization. Understanding this relationship and the level of variation of contaminant loads within individual lakes could help federal and state agencies make informed decisions on fish consumption advisories.
Predicting toxic cyanobacteria blooms in the Wabash River Watershed
- Principal Investigator: Dr. Allison R. Rober, Ball State University, Department of Biology
- Project Staff/Co-Investigator(s): Kevin H. Wyatt, Ball State University, Department of Biology
- March 2016-February 2017
- Abstract: The proposed study will assess the effect of temperature on the production and release of microcystin by toxin-producing cyanobacteria to better understand environmental controls on toxin release in eutrophic freshwater ecosystems. This research is significant given the increasing prevalence of harmful algal blooms within the Wabash River Watershed and their influence on water quality and human health. During the proposed study, toxin producing cyanobacteria will be grown at temperatures ranging from 5-30°C (5°C increments) to determine if there is a temperature threshold for productivity and toxin release during laboratory incubation experiments. Laboratory experiments will be coupled with a field survey of temporal variation in cyanotoxin prevalence and concentration in lakes and streams within the Wabash River Watershed. Toxin release among experimental temperature treatments will be related to variation in toxin concentrations along the seasonal temperature gradient captured during the field survey. These data will be used to develop a predictive model that will aid in the development of water quality management strategies to reduce harmful algal blooms and public-health risk.
Water and nutrient recovery from aquaculture effluents through vegetable production
- Principal Investigator: Dr. Hye-Ji Kim, Purdue University, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
- Project Staff/Co-Investigator(s): Dr. Paul Brown and Bob Rode, Purdue University, Department of Forestry & Natural Resources; Dr. Cary Mitchell, Purdue University, Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture
- March 2016-February 2017
- Abstract: Population increases and dietary pattern shifts are placing significant new demands on food production systems, imposing considerable pressure on agricultural resources. Aquaculture provides 50% of all fish consumed worldwide, and it is estimated to account for 62% of the world’s fish supply for human consumption by 2030 (FAO, 2014). However, aquaculture produces huge volumes of wastewater containing nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), considered to be environmental pollutants, leading to eutrophication of surface water and contamination of groundwater. Recent changes to federal regulatory requirements (US EPA, 2004) have placed compliance pressure on the aquaculture industry, and therefore, its future expansion depends on effective management of aquaculture wastewater effluents. Aquaponics is a highly integrated system simultaneously producing two cash crops, fresh fish and plant crops, in a recirculating ecosystem by converting aquaculture wastewater into plant nutrients for crop prodcution. Our objective is to critically explore utilizing aquaculture wastewaters as sustainable water and mineral nutrient sources for food crop production, while minimizing environmental impacts. We will grow vegetable crops with different morphological characteristics and quantify N and P removal by evaluating their conversion efficiency of environmental pollutants into valuable nutrient resources for biomass production. We will also provide scientific evidence to help develop stratgies for economically and environmentally viable food-production systems through critical mass-balance studies using different combinations of crops. The findings will also help aid in developing guidelines for aquaponic design, operation, and management in Indiana and the U.S. as well as other parts of the world. Upon successful completion of this proposed project, it is expected that the socioeconomic status of US farmers and the aquaculture industry can be improved, resulting from reduced dependence on fish import. It will also significantly increase the sustainability of Indiana crop-production systems, while protecting its fragile environment.