CHAMPAIGN, Ill., 1/19/21: Through its long history, the Water Survey’s scientific endeavors in collecting and analyzing water samples from precipitation, lakes, rivers, and streams have guided scientific data collection and modeling efforts and informed decisions locally and statewide about water quality and water resources management. Ongoing projects in watershed science continue to contribute to long-term databases, while new projects tackle some of today’s tough challenges.
In the ISWS Watershed Science Section led by Laura Keefer, Illinois State Hydrologist and head of the section, field data are collected year-round. Field personnel and scientists gather and analyze data on-site and remotely, whether analyzing raingage measurements across a precipitation network or wading into surface waters to collect measurements or gather samples for analysis. A few of the Watershed Science Section projects are highlighted.
Starting in early January 2021, Kip Stevenson and Hayden Wennerdahl deployed automatic pump samplers in the Champaign-Urbana community to collect sewer water to look for traces of COVID-19. This is part of a team effort of researchers at ISWS and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, led by Helen Nguyen in the U of I Civil and Environmental Engineering, and includes Departments of Pathobiology, Bioengineering, and Computer Science, along with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health Department and Urbana-Champaign Sanitary District.
Analysis of this wastewater will help monitor the spread of infection. Monitoring infection this way would allow for better target controls, which help to quickly identify the spread (or lack) of infection and allow businesses and schools to reopen more safely.
This information will assist the decision-making processes at the city and county level, as it is necessary to know whether infection spread is continuing within a community. In addition, previous work on sewage monitoring has shown that it can provide an indication of infection a few days before other types of COVID tests return positive results, which could provide an important early warning tool.
Another new project, started in September 2020, is the National Science Foundation-funded Critical Interface Network (CINET), led by U of I’s Praveen Kumar. CINET is investigating the transport of water, sediment, and nutrients through the environment. ISWS researcher Erin Bauer is overseeing the streamgaging and sampling at over eight sites in the Upper Sangamon River watershed with Hayden Wennerdahl as well as assisting with the installation and operation of a “RiverLab” in spring 2021 for a continuous analysis of Sangamon River water chemistry.
CINET researchers and graduate students will use the data to advance the understanding of the Earth’s critical interfaces that include the transport of water, sediment, carbon, and nutrients through the environment to significantly improve the predictability of hydrobiogeochemical phenomena.
Bauer also runs and reports the monthly precipitation from the 19-gage Imperial Valley Water Authority Precipitation Network in Mason and Tazewell County. Farmers in this region rely heavily on irrigation for successful crops due to the high sand content of the soil. Funded by the Imperial Valley Water Authority, ISWS scientists use the precipitation data to develop and improve groundwater models of this region.
ISWS scientists are also collecting nutrient and suspended sediment from the Sangamon River, Long Creek, and Friends Creek to help the City of Decatur develop a watershed management plan to address nitrate and suspended sediment issues in the Lake Decatur watershed.
Funded by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Erin Bauer, Kip Stevenson, Lara Seek, and Elizabeth Hamilton continue the year-round hydrologic, nutrient, and sediment monitoring of eight small watersheds spread across central and south-central Illinois as part of the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program. Some of these stations have been active for 20 years. These data and analyses are used to estimate the reduction of nutrients and sediment leaving these watersheds as select cropland is put into conservation.
Media contacts: Erin Bauer, 217-300-3471, firstname.lastname@example.org; Laura Keefer, 217-333-3468, email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org