This project is being conducted to investigate the watershed in which we live. Ultimately, we are discovery how we, as humans, affect the watershed and in what ways we affect it. One creek, the one running through Pfeffer Park, is the site of our study. We are studying the seasonal trends and human impact on the environment. As a result of our lab, we hope to provide a greater understanding of water quality to our peers and ourselves.
The watershed in which we live affects each and every one of us. It is where we get the most vital substance in our life, water. In 1995 alone, an estimated 745 million gallons per day was drawn from surface water and ground water aquifers of the Great and Little Miami River Basins. Three hundred and fifty eight million gallons, roughly 48% of the total water withdrawn, was from streams alone. However, the total number of gallons withdrawn has increased due to the rise in population in and around the Great and Little Miami River Basins.
The purpose of our student-generated lab is to determine the environmental affects of Miami University and the community of Oxford on the local, Lower Great Miami, watershed. We want to determine how we affect the watershed, how our university affects it, and how others in the area affect the Lower Great Miami. While doing this, we will take into consideration the affects of the seasons upon the chemical composition of the water.
To be able to gain a well-developed sense of the water quality, we decided that it would be advantageous for our group to narrow down the sample size of the watershed to a few sample locations. However, we will complete multiple surveys at repeated intervals at the same sample sites. Collins Creek, the steam that runs through Pfeffer Park, is the stream in which we will conduct our surveys. This stream is one that has changes in urban environments, rural environments, agricultural runoff, vegetation variance, soil variance, and will provide us with many factors to examine as we try to understand the entire Lower Great Miami watershed.
In general, we hypothesize that there will be general correlations between the changing seasons and the chemical status of the water in Collins Creek. In particular, we predict that the temperature, nitrogen, and phosphorous are going to decrease while Dissolved Oxygen and pH will increase. As a whole, the water quality in and around Oxford will increase as the season’s change. We believe that this will be caused by the lack of rainfall and agricultural runoff as well as the decrease in temperature which, usually, causes DO levels to increase.
Using the data we collected, we want to inform ourselves and our classmates of the pros and cons of our water, which aspects meet national standards, and which fall short, we will propose ways in which to improve the water quality surrounding Oxford. As a result of our student-generated lab, we want to draw attention and awareness to the watershed in which we all reside.
II. Relevance of your research question
We are living in an era in which water quality is gaining awareness. In the seventies, point source distribution was recognized as the major source of pollution to our streams. Hundreds of thousands of tests and a few decades later, scientists have concluded that the non-point source distribution is the primary influencing factor to watershed health. Non-point source distribution includes agricultural runoff, sediment deposition caused by urbanization and vegetation degradation, and precipitation that becomes polluted with chemicals when it has to travel across impermeable surfaces before reaching an estuary.
According to the United States Geological Survey, USGS, the Great and Little Miami River Basins drain approximately 7,350 square miles of Ohio and Indiana. Eighty percent of the area is in southwestern Ohio. In 1995, 2.8 million people lived within the basins. Over 5,800 square miles, around 79% of the total land is used for agricultural activities. The other 21% of use is divided into three categories. 13% of the area is for residential, commercial, and industrial land, 7% forests, and 1% wetlands.
Since the watershed affects a large population and affects vast tracts of land, the Lower Great Miami, as part of the Great and Little Miami River Basins, is monitored frequently compared to other watersheds within the state of Ohio. When the National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program was implemented in 1991, the Miami River Basins were selected as part of the study. The overall goals of the NAWQA Program are to describe current water-quality conditions for a large part of the Nation's freshwater streams and aquifers (water-bearing sediments and rocks), describe how water quality is changing over time, and improve our understanding of the principal natural and human factors affecting water quality (http://www-oh.er.usgs.gov/MIAM/miam.nawqa.facts.html).
The United States Environmental Protection Agency, USEPA, identified the Lower Great Miami as one of 529 watersheds that has a “high level of potential impact caused by agricultural runoff.” A series of pesticide, nitrogen, and sediment tests were conducted between 1990 to 1995. The Miami region received a high composite score indicating that there is a greater risk of water quality impairment in the area.
In October 1991, the Lower Great Miami was given a score of 4 out of a 6 point IWI, Index of Watershed Indicators, score for overall water resource quality. A four means that there are less serious problems, but the watershed has a high vulnerability none the less.
III. Materials and Methods
Methodology of our lab includes water sampling from test sites will be upstream from Pfeffer Park, inside the park’s boundaries, and downstream from the park. To obtain a well-rounded water assessment, we will test for pH, nitrates, phosphorous, Dissolved Oxygen (DO), and temperature. All of these variables will be compared to the season and the location of the sampling.
To conduct these experiments, we have obtained test instruments from Western’s Peer Science Tutoring Center. All of our tests will be conducted using probes, except phosphorous, that attach to a Texas Instruments Graphing calculator. The phosphorous levels will be tested by the means of a series of chemical reactions in a phosphorous test kit.
The information will be gathered in a group with a minimum of two people on a weekly basis. This will ensure that there is always someone to double check data gained. As soon as the data is gathered it will be placed in the attached data table that will later appear as graphs in the results portion of this write-up.
To expand knowledge of water quality, we will ask for class involvement in our study. We want them to learn how to conduct the experiments and how to compare the results to what is “normal.” If possible we would like them to keep track of how much water our class uses in a given day and then translate that into the amount of water that we use from the Lower Great Miami watershed.
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