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Other Publications (8)

Articles by Keith Schilling in JoVE

 JoVE Biology

Spatial Multiobjective Optimization of Agricultural Conservation Practices using a SWAT Model and an Evolutionary Algorithm

1School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington, 2Center for Agricultural and Rural Development, Department of Economics, Iowa State University, 3Department of Civil, Architectural, and Environmental Engineering, North Carolina A&T University, 4Iowa Geological and Water Survey


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This work demonstrates an integration of a water quality model with an optimization component utilizing evolutionary algorithms to solve for optimal (lowest-cost) placement of agricultural conservation practices for a specified set of water quality improvement objectives. The solutions are generated using a multi-objective approach, allowing for explicit quantification of tradeoffs.

Other articles by Keith Schilling on PubMed

Occurrence and Distribution of Ammonium in Iowa Groundwater

Excess ammonium in groundwater may lead to nitrification or loss of chlorine residuals in public drinking water supplies. In Iowa, where groundwater supplies nearly 75% of all drinking water used in the state, naturally occurring ammonium is found in all major aquifers, including two unconsolidated units and five bedrock aquifers. An evaluation of ammonium concentrations in 841 municipal water supply wells indicated highest concentrations were found most often in Quaternary wells. More than one-half of all Quaternary wells sampled in Iowa showed ammonium concentrations greater than 2 mg/L, and more than 5% had concentrations greater than 5 mg/L. Nearly 5% of all bedrock wells used in this study showed ammonium concentrations greater than 2 mg/L. Aquifers overlain by carbon-rich Pennsylvanian strata or glacial drift seemed most vulnerable to elevated ammonium. Alluvial aquifers were least vulnerable to elevated ammonium concentrations in Iowa municipal water supplies. Ammonium concentrations tended to be higher in wells that screened groundwater containing more dissolved solids, including sulfate, chloride and iron.

Chemical Transport from Paired Agricultural and Restored Prairie Watersheds

A five-year record of streamflow and chemical sampling data was evaluated to assess the effects of large-scale prairie restoration on transport of NO3-N, Cl, and SO4 loads from paired 5,000-ha watersheds located in Jasper County, Iowa. Water quality conditions monitored during land use conversion from row crop agriculture to native prairie in the Walnut Creek watershed were compared with a highly agricultural control watershed (Squaw Creek). Combining hydrograph separation with a load estimation program, baseflow and stormflow loads of NO3-N, Cl, and SO4 were estimated at upstream and downstream sites on Walnut Creek and a downstream site on Squaw Creek. Chemical export in both watersheds was found to occur primarily with baseflow, with baseflow transport greatest during the late summer and fall. Lower Walnut Creek watershed, which contained the restored prairie areas, exported less NO3-N and Cl compared with upper Walnut Creek and Squaw Creek watersheds. Average flow-weighted concentrations of NO3-N exceeded 10 mg/L in upper Walnut Creek and Squaw Creek, but were estimated to be 6.6 mg/L in lower Walnut Creek. Study results demonstrate the utility of partitioning loads into baseflow and stormflow components to identify sources of pollutant loading to streams.

Effects of Watershed-scale Land Use Change on Stream Nitrate Concentrations

The Walnut Creek Watershed Monitoring Project was conducted from 1995 through 2005 to evaluate the response of stream nitrate concentrations to changing land use patterns in paired 5000-ha Iowa watersheds. A large portion of the Walnut Creek watershed is being converted from row crop agriculture to native prairie and savanna by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the Neal Smith National Wildlife Refuge (NSNWR). Before restoration, land use in both Walnut Creek (treatment) and Squaw Creek (control) watersheds consisted of 70% row crops. Between 1990 and 2005, row crop area decreased 25.4% in Walnut Creek due to prairie restoration but increased 9.2% in Squaw Creek due to Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grassland conversion back to row crop. Nitrate concentrations ranged between <0.5 to 14 mg L(-1) at the Walnut Creek outlet and 2.1 to 15 mg L(-1) at the downstream Squaw Creek outlet. Nitrate concentrations decreased 1.2 mg L(-1) over 10 yr in the Walnut Creek watershed but increased 1.9 mg L(-1) over 10 yr in Squaw Creek. Changes in nitrate were easier to detect and more pronounced in monitored subbasins, decreasing 1.2 to 3.4 mg L(-1) in three Walnut Creek subbasins, but increasing up to 8.0 and 11.6 mg L(-1) in 10 yr in two Squaw Creek subbasins. Converting row crop lands to grass reduced stream nitrate levels over time in Walnut Creek, but stream nitrate rapidly increased in Squaw Creek when CRP grasslands were converted back to row crop. Study results highlight the close association of stream nitrate to land use change and emphasize that grasslands or other perennial vegetation placed in agricultural settings should be part of a long-term solution to water quality problems.

Modeling Nitrate-nitrogen Load Reduction Strategies for the Des Moines River, Iowa Using SWAT

The Des Moines River that drains a watershed of 16,175 km(2) in portions of Iowa and Minnesota is impaired for nitrate-nitrogen (nitrate) due to concentrations that exceed regulatory limits for public water supplies. The Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was used to model streamflow and nitrate loads and evaluate a suite of basin-wide changes and targeting configurations to potentially reduce nitrate loads in the river. The SWAT model comprised 173 subbasins and 2,516 hydrologic response units and included point and nonpoint nitrogen sources. The model was calibrated for an 11-year period and three basin-wide and four targeting strategies were evaluated. Results indicated that nonpoint sources accounted for 95% of the total nitrate export. Reduction in fertilizer applications from 170 to 50 kg/ha achieved the 38% reduction in nitrate loads, exceeding the 34% reduction required. In terms of targeting, the most efficient load reductions occurred when fertilizer applications were reduced in subbasins nearest the watershed outlet. The greatest load reduction for the area of land treated was associated with reducing loads from 55 subbasins with the highest nitrate loads, achieving a 14% reduction in nitrate loads achieved by reducing applications on 30% of the land area. SWAT model results provide much needed guidance on how to begin implementing load reduction strategies most efficiently in the Des Moines River watershed.

Assessment of Total Maximum Daily Load Implementation Strategies for Nitrate Impairment of the Raccoon River, Iowa

The state of Iowa requires developing total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) for over 400 water bodies that are listed on the 303(d) list of the impaired waters. The Raccoon River watershed, which covers approximately 9400 km2 of prime agriculture land and represents a typical Midwestern corn-belt region in west-central Iowa, was found to have three stream segments impaired by nitrate-N. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was applied to this watershed to facilitate the development of a TMDL. The modeling framework integrates SWAT with supporting software and databases on topography, land use and management, soil, and weather information. Annual and monthly simulated and measured streamflow and nitrate loads were strongly correlated. The watershed response was evaluated for a suite of watershed management scenarios where land use and management changes were made uniformly across the watershed. A scenario of changing the entire land to row crop resulted in an increased nitrate load of about 12% over the baseline condition at the watershed outlet. Results from the 15 nitrate load reduction strategies were found to reduce nitrate from < 1% to about 85%, with the greatest potential reduction associated with changing the row crops to grassland. This research demonstrated the use of a modeling system to facilitate the analyses of TMDL implementation strategies, including the ability to target the most efficient allocation of alternative practices on a subwatershed basis.

From Agricultural Intensification to Conservation: Sediment Transport in the Raccoon River, Iowa, 1916-2009

Fluvial sediment is a ubiquitous pollutant that negatively affects surface water quality and municipal water supply treatment. As part of its routine water supply monitoring, the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) has been measuring turbidity daily in the Raccoon River since 1916. For this study, we calibrated daily turbidity readings to modern total suspended solid (TSS) concentrations to develop an estimation of daily sediment concentrations in the river from 1916 to 2009. Our objectives were to evaluate long-term TSS patterns and trends, and relate these to changes in climate, land use, and agricultural practices that occurred during the 93-yr monitoring period. Results showed that while TSS concentrations and estimated sediment loads varied greatly from year to year, TSS concentrations were much greater in the early 20th century despite drier conditions and less discharge, and declined throughout the century. Against a backdrop of increasing discharge in the Raccoon River and widespread agricultural adaptations by farmers, sediment loads increased and peaked in the early 1970s, and then have slowly declined or remained steady throughout the 1980s to present. With annual sediment load concentrated during extreme events in the spring and early summer, continued sediment reductions in the Raccoon River watershed should be focused on conservation practices to reduce rainfall impacts and sediment mobilization. Overall, results from this study suggest that efforts to reduce sediment load from the watershed appear to be working.

Temporal Scaling of Groundwater Level Fluctuations Near a Stream

Temporal scaling in stream discharge and hydraulic heads in riparian wells was evaluated to determine the feasibility of using spectral analysis to identify potential surface and groundwater interaction. In floodplains where groundwater levels respond rapidly to precipitation recharge, potential interaction is established if the hydraulic head (h) spectrum of riparian groundwater has a power spectral density similar to stream discharge (Q), exhibiting a characteristic breakpoint between high and low frequencies. At a field site in Walnut Creek watershed in central Iowa, spectral analysis of h in wells located 1 m from the channel edge showed a breakpoint in scaling very similar to the spectrum of Q (∼20 h), whereas h in wells located 20 and 40 m from the channel showed temporal scaling from 1 to 10,000 h without a well-defined breakpoint. The spectral exponent (β) in the riparian zone decreased systematically from the channel into the floodplain as groundwater levels were increasingly dominated by white noise groundwater recharge. The scaling pattern of hydraulic head was not affected by land cover type, although the number of analyses was limited and site conditions were variable among sites. Spectral analysis would not replace quantitative tracer or modeling studies, but the method may provide a simple means of confirming potential interaction at some sites.

Dynamic Regression Modeling of Daily Nitrate-nitrogen Concentrations in a Large Agricultural Watershed

Nitrate-nitrogen concentrations in rivers represent challenges for water supplies that use surface water sources. Nitrate concentrations are often modeled using time-series approaches, but previous efforts have typically relied on monthly time steps. In this study, we developed a dynamic regression model of daily nitrate concentrations in the Raccoon River, Iowa, that incorporated contemporaneous and lags of precipitation and discharge occurring at several locations around the basin. Results suggested that 95 % of the variation in daily nitrate concentrations measured at the outlet of a large agricultural watershed can be explained by time-series patterns of precipitation and discharge occurring in the basin. Discharge was found to be a more important regression variable than precipitation in our model but both regression parameters were strongly correlated with nitrate concentrations. The time-series model was consistent with known patterns of nitrate behavior in the watershed, successfully identifying contemporaneous dilution mechanisms from higher relief and urban areas of the basin while incorporating the delayed contribution of nitrate from tile-drained regions in a lagged response. The first difference of the model errors were modeled as an AR(16) process and suggest that daily nitrate concentration changes remain temporally correlated for more than 2 weeks although temporal correlation was stronger in the first few days before tapering off. Consequently, daily nitrate concentrations are non-stationary, i.e. of strong memory. Using time-series models to reliably forecast daily nitrate concentrations in a river based on patterns of precipitation and discharge occurring in its basin may be of great interest to water suppliers.

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