Clean Water Legacy Act Effectiveness Tracking and Reporting Project

Clean Water Legacy Act Effectiveness Tracking and Reporting Project

Project Staff:

Principal Investigator: Faye Sleeper, WRC Co-Director

Research Associate: Stephanie Grayzeck

Research Assistant: Shannon Wing

Funding:

Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

Project Duration:

October 2007 – October 2008

Summary:

The goal of this project is to develop a framework and metrics for tracking and reporting the effectiveness of impaired waters activities under the Clean Water Legacy Act. The framework must include measures for all aspects of the process, including monitoring and assessment, Total Maximum Daily Load Studies and both point source and nonpoint source implementation activities. Representatives of the state agencies, several federal agencies and local governments convened to review the current data collected by agencies, to develop a framework and measures and to finalize a framework that would address the needs of all agencies and partners.

The Clean Water Legacy Effectiveness Tracking Framework is a matrix that documents measure within four major categories Partnerships/Leveraging, Environmental Indicators, Social Indicators, and Organizational Performance, at various natural and political scales, including state, major watersheds (8-digit hydrologic unit codes) and local units of government such as city or county.

Draft measures that were developed will be further refined by the state agencies in August and September 2008 and the framework with measures will be finalized in late Fall 2008. Continued development and implementation of this framework relies on commitment from state agencies, the Clean Water Council and other partners.

Biocomplexity: Coupled Nutrient, Water, and Salt Cycles in Urban and Agricultural Ecosystems

Biocomplexity: Coupled Nutrient, Water, and Salt Cycles in Urban and Agricultural Ecosystems

Project Staff:

Principal Investigator: Patrick L. Brezonik, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

Additional Staff: Robert Sterner, Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; David Mulla, Professor, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate; and Heinz Stefan, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Minnesota

Funding:

National Science Foundation

Project Duration:

September 2001 - August 2003

Summary:

Humans dominate the world's nitrogen cycle: about half of the world's nitrogen fixation is mediated by human activities. On an areal basis, N fixation in cropland and urban areas is 100-200 times higher than in the rest of the world's surface. Much of this fixed N becomes pollution, with major impacts on drinking water supply, urban air quality, estuarine fisheries, recreational use of lakes and rivers, and forest health. Despite this, we have very limited knowledge of nitrogen cycling in human-dominated ecosystems, and there is a paucity of knowledge regarding the coupling of nitrogen with other biogeochemical cycles: C, P, water and salts.

The goal of this study is to develop an approach for studying coupled biogeochemical cycles in urban and agricultural ecosystems, with a primary focus on nitrogen. The project will include a series of focused workshops leading to the development of a conceptual plan for initiating this research and for integrating research into graduate education. Workshop topics will include:

  1. identification of knowledge gaps regarding key processes
  2. issues regarding temporal and spatial scales
  3. developing a modeling framework
  4. integration and education

Concurrently, data from both study areas will be synthesized to develop initial comparisons regarding nitrogen cycling and hydrology between the two regions.

Two study regions comprise the full-scale research program: the Central Arizona-Phoenix ecosystem and the Minnesota River-Twin Cities ecosystem. Both include major urban and agricultural components, but they vary with respect to climate and hydrology. Both regions have been the subject of intensive ecological studies, including most of the members of this research team. Over the past 3-4 years, the Central Arizona-Phoenix ecosystem has been studied through a NSF-supported Long-Term Ecological Research Project. The Minnesota River Basin has been the subject of an EPA/NSF "Water and Watersheds" study, as well as extensive state-sponsored research. The Twin Cities-Minnesota River area has also been the focus of a USGS NAWQA study. The extensive databases from these studies and the integration of these data into knowledge facilitate the initiation of this study.

This project will contribute substantially to our emerging conceptualization of farms and cities as "ecosystems." Understanding coupled biogeochemical cycles in human ecosystems could revolutionize our approach for managing pollution, ending an era of "end-of-pipe" strategies and beginning an era of holistic, integrated approaches that would make effective use of emerging information technologies to increase effectiveness and decrease the cost of pollution control.

Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles in Human Ecosystems

Coupled Biogeochemical Cycles in Human Ecosystems

Project Staff:

Principal Investigators: Lawrence A. Baker, Senior Fellow, Water Resources Center and Patrick L. Brezonik, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering

Additional Staff: Dave Mulla, Professor, Soil, Water, and Climate; Robert Sterner, Professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior; and Heinz Stefan, Professor, Department of Civil Engineering; Marvin Bauer, Professor, Forest Resources, University of Minnesota

Funding:

National Science Foundation

Project Duration:

September 2001 - August 2006

Summary:

Human ecosystems—the cities where most of us live and the farms that sustain us—cover a small fraction of the Earth’s surface, but are sites of intensive biogeochemical activity. One consequence of this intensification is that pollution of major elements remains widespread. Despite this, very little is known about biogeochemical cycles of human ecosystems. Developing an ecosystem framework for understanding biogeochemical cycles in human ecosystems holds promise for revealing new approaches for pollution control. We can reasonably postulate that pollution control strategies developed with an ecosystem framework will be cheaper, more effective, and fairer than current policies, which were often developed reflexively. The goal of this project is to develop a conceptual framework for studying human ecosystems. This is being done through a series of workshops with researchers from the University of Minnesota and Arizona State University. The conceptual framework that has evolved is based on four “couples”: stoichiometric coupling; coupling between elements and hydrology; spatial couples at various scales; and coupling between elemental cycles and sociocultural processes. The workshop groups also have developed an approach for embarking on regional-scale studies of human ecosystems. A key component of this development is the identification of information databases and types of satellite imagery that were available for studying biogeochemical cycles in cities and agricultural areas.

Hotspots of Landscape Change: Identifying Key Linkages between Water Quality and Land Development Patterns in Riparian Areas

Hotspots of Landscape Change: Identifying Key Linkages between Water Quality and Land Development Patterns in Riparian Areas

Project Staff:

Principal Investigators: Lawrence Baker, Senior Fellow and Mary Renwick, Senior Fellow, Water Resources Center, University of Minnesota

Additional Staff: Stephanie Snyder and Robert Potts, U.S. Forest Service, North Central Research Station; Johanna Schussler, Graduate Program in Water Resources Science, University of Minnesota

Funding:

U.S. Forest Service

Project Duration:

July 2002 - June 2004

Summary:

Recreational and urban development has been occurring rapidly in watersheds of lakes throughout the Upper Midwest. These changes may have negative impacts on lakes due to increased nutrient inputs and other changes associated with development. However, negative impacts do not always occur. We hypothesize that the spatial distribution and nature of land development is as important as the absolute magnitude of development (e.g., total population or total acreage of residential/urban land) in altering lake water quality. In this project we will identify a subset of lakes in Minnesota that have undergone substantial land development in their watersheds over the past two decades. These high-development lakes will be further subdivided into pairs, where one lake in each pair has undergone water quality degradation and the other has not. The development patterns in the watersheds of these lakes then will be analyzed to determine patterns of development that lead to water quality degradation. Conversely, we hope to identify patterns of development that do not lead to water quality degradation. This project is in its first quarter. The major tasks have been acquisition of data and development of the initial screening protocol.

Impact Assessment of the Irrigation Development in the Uda Walawe River Basin, Sri Lanka

Impact Assessment of the Irrigation Development in the Uda Walawe River Basin, Sri Lanka

Project Staff:

Principal Investigator: Mary Renwick, Senior Fellow, Water Resources Center, University of Minnesota

Funding:

International Water Management Institute

Project Duration:

June 2001 - December 2002

Summary:

While proposed irrigation projects are subjected to extensive study, ex post analyses are rarely conducted, particularly in developing countries. Ex post analyses can provide valuable information for future irrigation investment decisions. Quite simply, they can help identify what worked, what did not, and why. This project examines irrigation development over the past 50 years in the Uda Walawe River Basin, Sri Lanka. The outcomes of this research reinforce the importance of integrated planning, realistic expectations of farmers, and contingency planning for unanticipated events.