Feature Stories

Historically, the spring issue of Minnegram covered the research projects receiving grants from the USGS as administered by the Water Resources Center (WRC). This year, due to budget uncertainties from the sequestration, as well as feedback from faculty regarding the proposal process, the WRC focused on supporting students working on existing WRC grants. The awards cover the salary portion of a twelve month Graduate Research Assistantship (RA).

Three principal investigators (PIs) and their USGS-funded projects were chosen to receive the student grants.

As water flows, so do pollutants, sometimes flowing freely over a surface and directly into a water body, or perhaps soaking deep into the groundwater, not to resurface until 50 years or more in the future. Thus, measurable results from efforts to curb nitrate levels in water bodies may also not be seen for years. Kronholm wants to encourage patience when waiting for positive results. “Flow paths determine the length of time from fertilizer application to introduction of excess fertilizer into a stream bed,” says Kronholm, who hopes that his research will create realistic expectations within the farming community and regulatory agencies. High nitrate levels that were years in the making will take years to abate. Kronholm, who was recently awarded the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship, feels that farmers are often given a bad rap, when many farmers are trying BMPs voluntarily, often at their own expense. “Hopefully, my research will help scientists, legislators, famers and other stakeholders set realistic goals and expectations for reducing nitrate levels in our water.”

The wet wipes clogging the equipment that University of Minnesota’s Onsite Sewage Treatment Program researchers use to study septic system effectiveness were the first clue as to why systems serving adult foster homes experience system failure at a greater rate than other residential treatment systems. Results of a study conducted by staff from the University of Minnesota’s Onsite Sewage Treatment Program at six foster homes in Chisago county show that adult foster care homes produce wastewater that is different than typical residential wastewater, with higher levels of contaminates that may contribute to decreased septic system performance. Bleach and other strong cleaning products for example, interfere with organisms required to break down solids in the wastewater.

Recently the USACE called upon a group of researchers, including Dr. Deborah Swackhamer and Marc Dettman from the University of Minnesota, to determine how adaptive management is currently being utilized in the USACE, and also to make recommendations for improving adaptive management practices within the USACE. The research team conducted several interviews of USACE personnel in an effort to determine how adaptive management is being used in a variety of USACE natural resource management projects.

The USGBC of Minnesota approached UMD Continuing Education about developing an online educational course focusing on stormwater management. In response to this request, UMD Continuing Education partnered with Jesse Schomberg from the Minnesota Sea Grant program to design the Stormwater Management in Cold Climates course. While this course was designed for LEED professionals, anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of the issues related to stormwater management will benefit.

Two research projects were awarded funding by the WRC in the 2012 grant competition.

The projects tackle water challenges in Minnesota and the Gulf of Mexico. Pinpointing the sources of excessive nitrogen in the Gulf and creating a framework for sustainable water management in Minnesota will be explored by the projects’ Principle Investigators (PI’s).

An environmental engineer who investigates how infrastructure can protect public health and the environment, LaPara’s recent work has zeroed in on the most pressing threat to modern medicine—the rise of antibiotic resistance in the environment. 

About 300 people crowded into a University of Minnesota theater Tuesday, February 12, 2013, to hear a stimulating, informative – and, ultimately, inspiring — lecture by Sandra Postel, an author and advocate for protecting and conserving the world’s water.

The Freshwater Society interviewed Postel about her work, her goals for the lecture and her hopes for the future. The following is a transcript of the interview, edited for clarity and brevity.

In the land of 10,000 lakes, one lake has been the starting place for research with implications for big lakes around the world. According to a study published online this week in Science, University of Minnesota researchers, building from studies of nitrogen levels in Lake Superior, uncovered a good news/bad news scenario for lake health that has long-term, global implications for pollution control efforts.

The project will first develop a protocol for system assessment and then implement the assessment on five sites. The assessment will include evaluating the current system components, identify any deficiencies and provide recommendations for improvements, if needed. Initial grab sampling of wastewater characteristics including flow and effluent quality will be obtained, if accessible, and a sampling protocol developed for the system operator. The first five sites to be evaluated will help develop a risk-based assessment model focusing on site and wastewater characteristics specifically for the MnDOT sites. The remaining 46 sites will be evaluated based on the procedures developed and prioritized based on the risk-based assessment model.

Pages