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Auburn Speaks

On Water

Auburn Speaks: On Water

Copyright Š 2013 by Auburn University All rights reserved. Auburn University is a registered trademark. Auburn Speaks is a project of Auburn University’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Vice President for Research: John Mason, Jr. Editor: B. Graeme Lockaby Associate Editors: Kelly Alley, Claude E. Boyd, T. Prabhakar Clement, Mark Dougherty, Diana Hite, Elise Irwin, John Aho, Latif Kalin, Charlene LeBleu, Puneet Srivastava Managing Editors: Jay Lamar, Jacqueline Kochak Editorial Assistants: Jake Blocker, Rachel Rimes, Laurie Nix Art Director: Al Eiland Graphic Designer: Lori Wallace Photographers: Jeffrey Etheridge, Melissa Humble

Sponsoring offices Research Program Development Office Executive Director: Larry Fillmer Business Operations, Marketing, Communications, Public Relations: Leslie Parsons Office of University Writing Director: Margaret Marshall Office of the Provost Director of Special Projects: Jay Lamar Auburn Speaks is produced in cooperation with the Office of Communications and Marketing. Project Manager: Lucy LaMar Auburn University is an equal opportunity employer/educational institution.

Auburn Speaks

On Water

Office of the Vice President for Research

Contents Foreword by Jay Gogue, President of Auburn University .............................................................................................................. 1 Preface by John M. Mason Jr., Associate Provost and Vice President for Research at Auburn University.................................... 2 Editor’s Note by Graeme Lockaby, Clinton-McClure Endowed Professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and Director of the Center for Forest Sustainability at Auburn University .................................................. 4 Introduction: Water: A Matter of National Security by R. A. Norton, Auburn Cyber Initiative ............................................. 6 On Water by Claude E. Boyd, Butler Cunningham Eminent Professor, Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures Department at Auburn University ............................................................................................................................ 10 The Aral Sea Crisis: Ancient Problem, Ancient Solutions by Elizabeth Baker Brite ............................................................ 16 It Takes More than Mussels to Win a Water War by Donn Rodekohr, Elise Irwin, Eve Brantley, Samuel R. Fowler, and Kelly Alley................................................................................................................................. 24 Beyond the Pit (of Democracy): The Reclamation and Emergence of a Post-Mined Landscape by Daniel Ballard............................................................................................................................................................... 34 Current Water Issues: The Road to Privatization by John Koehler............................................................................................ 40 Poison: Arsenic Contamination in Groundwater by Ming-Kuo Lee, James Saunders, and Ashraf Uddin............................... 46 Land Change: Implications for Human Health by Krisztian Magori and Graeme Lockaby.................................................. 52

Nanotechnologies: Hope for Contaminated Groundwater by Man Zhang, Qiqi Liang, Yanyan Gong, Xiao Zhao, and Dongye Zhao................................................................................................................ 54 Saltwater Intrusion: Problems on Alabama’s Gulf Coast by Sunwoo Chang, Katherine Petty, Latif Kalin, and T. Prabhakar Clement.................................................................................................................. 60 Forecasting: Climate Variability and Drought in the Southeast by Vaishali Sharda and Puneet Srivastava ...................... 66 How Climate Change Could Affect Alabama’s Rainfall—And Why It Matters by Golbahar Mirhosseini and Puneet Srivastava................................................................................................................................ 72 Salt and Sunlight: A Recipe for Clean Water by Thomas Baginski, Emile C. Ewing, Thaddeus Roppel, and Robert Dean Jr................................................................................................................................................. 78 Valentin Abe: An Agent of Change by Katie Jackson ................................................................................................................... 86 International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments by David Rouse ........................................................ 92 Watering Alabama’s Rural Economy: The Alabama Universities Irrigation Initiative by Samuel R. Fowler and Richard McNider ....................................................................................................................................... 94 E. W. Shell Fisheries Center by David Rouse............................................................................................................................. 102 Catfish Farming: Commercial Aquaculture in Alabama by Terry Hanson and Jesse Chappell.......................................... 106 Ponds: Alabama Fish Ponds by Claude E. Boyd and Philip L. Chaney ..................................................................................... 114 Alabama Fish Farming Center by David Rouse......................................................................................................................... 122 Farming the Coastal Waters: Oyster Farming in the Gulf of Mexico by William C. Walton and LaDon Swann.......... 124 Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center by LaDon Swann and William C. Walton .................... 134 A Tale of Two Animals: The Importance of Aquatic Habitat and Flow by Dennis DeVries .............................................. 136 Wetlands: Earth’s Kidneys by Amirreza Sharifi, Latif Kalin, Mohamed Hantush, and Sabahattin Isik.................................. 140 Ric Smith: Fishing for Stories by Leigh Hinton........................................................................................................................................ 144

Stormwater and Streams: Understanding Opportunities to Improve, Involve, and Evolve by Eve Brantley, Katie Dylewski, Kaye Christian, Amy Wright, and Charlene LeBleu................................................................................................................. 146 One Plus One Does Not Always Equal Two: Combined Impacts of Land Use/Land Cover and Climate Change on Basin Hydrology and Water by Ruoyu Wang and Latif Kalin............................................................... 154 Examining the Influence of Shoreline Development on Salt Marsh Habitat for Estuarine Fish by Madeline Wedge and Christopher J. Anderson................................................................................................. 158 The Impact of Human Activities on Flooding: Does It Matter Where We Develop? by Navideh Noori, Latif Kalin, Charlene LeBleu, and Puneet Srivastava............................................................................................. 162 Conversion of Forest to Urban Cover in Aquifer Recharge Zones: Effects on Drinking Water Quality and Willingness to Pay for Protection by Graeme Lockaby, David LaBand, and Marlon Cook.......................................................... 168 Concrete Jungles: The Case of Mobile by Domini Cunningham....................................................................................................... 172 Rain Barrel Program Teaches Coastal Residents How to Reduce Stormwater Impacts by Christian Miller........... 182 Land Use and Land Cover: A Study Through Time and Over Space by Andrew Morrison and Latif Kalin..................... 184 Finding the Source of Sediments and Nutrients in the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed by Rewati Niraula, Latif Kalin, Puneet Srivastava, and Christopher J. Anderson......................................... 188 Green For Life! Implementing Low Impact Development in Auburn, Alabama by Charlene LeBleu, Rebecca O’Neal Dagg, and Carla Jackson Bell.................................................................. 192 Headwater Wetlands: A Study of Land Use and Land Change by W. Flynt Barksdale and Christopher J. Anderson ................................................................................................................................... 194 Amphibians: The Effects of Land Use Change on Amphibian Community Composition and Larval Development in Coastal Alabama by Diane Alix and Christopher J. Anderson......................................................... 198 Pervious Concrete: Evaluation for LID Water Quality Improvement by Michael Hein, Mark Dougherty, and Charlene LeBleu......................................................................................................................... 202 Mobile Green Streets Initiative by Charlene LeBleu, Judd M. Langham, and Robert Stuart Wilkerson.............................. 206

Rain Gardens: The Magic of Rain Gardens by Mark Dougherty, Charlene LeBleu, Eve Brantley, and Christy H. Francis...................................................................................... 210 Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis for Improving Land Cover Mapping and Water Resource Management by Rajesh Sawant and Luke Marzen................................................................................................................................... 216 Mollie Smith: Years of Floundering Lead Grad Student to Fisheries by Jamie Creamer.......................................................... 220 Watershed Services: The Ecology, Business, Politics, and Social Impacts of Managing Inland Water Systems by Wayde Morse, Christopher J. Anderson, and Quint Newcomer.............................................................. 222 Water Challenges: Designing Sustainable Systems in a Water-Limited World by Mark Dougherty.................................... 224 Watershed: An Investigation of Hydrological Characteristics of a Watershed in Eastern Alabama by Kyle Moynihan and Jose G. Vasconcelos.................................................................................................................................. 228 The Sacred River Ganga: Water Issues in India by Kelly Alley.......................................................................................................... 234 Reflections of a Researcher by Kelly Alley .............................................................................................................................................. 240 Mapping Hydropower Across the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau: A Geographic, Political, and Socioeconomic Initiative by Stephanie Canington......................................................................................................... 242 Creative Artistry: Liquid Metamorphoses by Adrienne Wilson, Ann Knipschild, Haley Grant, and Paula Bobrowski.................................................................................................................................................................. 244 Point Source Discharge: Using Seasonal to Inter-Annual Climate Variability for Permitting in a Complex River System by Suresh Sharma, Puneet Srivastava, and Latif Kalin................................................. 250 Alabama Water Watch and Global Water Watch: Models of Community-Based Watershed Stewardship by William G. Deutsch......................................................................................................................................... 256 Adaptive Management of Flows from Dams: A Win–Win Framework for Water Users by Elise Irwin.......................... 264 Works Cited.......................................................................................................................................................................................................... 272 Acknowledgments............................................................................................................................................................................................ 272 Contributor Biographies............................................................................................................................................................................... 274


Photo by Rebecca Long

Dr. Jay Gogue President of Auburn University “Anyone who can solve the problems of water will be worthy of two Nobel prizes—one for peace and one for science.” John F. Kennedy Welcome to Auburn Speaks, our annual book series highlighting Auburn research. Produced jointly by the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Office of University Writing, and the Office of the Provost, Auburn Speaks brings you images and articles capturing the university’s role in addressing complex issues facing the state, nation, and world. This, our second issue, focuses on Auburn University’s ongoing research in areas related to water. As you will discover, Auburn has an

extensive history of work in this area that can trace its roots to our founding. Over the decades, researchers have considered water from a variety of perspectives. Highlights of this research are chronicled here and range in topical diversity from ecosystem services and low-impact development to policy issues. The water-related challenges facing our planet are undeniable. So, too, are the opportunities. Auburn University researchers are poised to serve as catalysts for developing new and innovative approaches to water resource issues, and to help communities at home and around the world capitalize on emerging water-based economic opportunity. These are their stories. I am pleased to share them with you.




Photo by Jason Adams

Dr. John M. Mason Jr. Associate Provost and Vice President for Research of Auburn University In April of 2012, Auburn University released Auburn Speaks: The Oil Spill of 2010, the first edition of an annual book series highlighting the outstanding work of Auburn researchers. Our goal was not to create an anthology of material about Auburn research taken from the news media, but to share the stories behind the headlines and introduce you to our experts. As the title suggests, the first edition focused on the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill—an environmental and economic disaster of such tremendous scope that faculty from nearly every area of campus were called on to assist in addressing the crisis. As a topic for the second edition, we have

selected a related subject that represents an equal, if not greater, number of critical issues for consideration—issues that are not limited to the region, but are present throughout the world. The subject is water. Once available in such abundance as to be considered commonplace, water is increasingly scarce. Water consumption has outpaced population growth for the past three decades, leaving more than one billion people without access to adequate supplies of fresh drinking water. In the coming decade, concerns regarding shortages of potable water will, in all likelihood, supersede those for petroleum. The challenges related to water quality and water availability are incredibly complex and, thus, not likely to yield to single-faceted solutions. Solving today’s water problems requires integration of

expertise from across the physical, chemical, biological, and social sciences. As a land-grant, comprehensive research institution with a significant history of work in water, Auburn University is uniquely positioned to facilitate the kind of collaboration and integration necessary to address these challenges and to implement practical solutions. In the articles that follow, we profile researchers from a strikingly large number of disciplines who have both the will and the capacity to help society manage this most critical of natural resources. Thank you for your interest in our experts and their efforts. To learn more about Auburn University research, visit us online at www.auburn. edu/research.


Editor’s Note By B. Graeme Lockaby Clinton-McClure Endowed Professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences

Welcome to Auburn Speaks: On Water


Photo by Jeff Etheridge

Most people would agree that thirst, in moderate to severe form, reflects one of the most overwhelming and uncompromising of basic human predicaments. Even in humid regions, most people have felt that instinctual urge and know that, as thirst intensifies, it becomes undeniable—impossible to set aside. We can survive only three to five days without water. Couple the threat and fear of thirst with the effects of water scarcity on food production, health, and economic well-being, and the cumulative result is an irresistible force that has the potential to destabilize most human activities. This scenario is already at play in some portions of the world and will become much more common as human

populations, water pollution, climate variability, and development increase. Although the earth is amply supplied with water, 97 percent of it is in the oceans. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, only 15 percent of our population lives in regions where water is abundant, while 65 percent have low to moderate supplies and 20 percent exist under conditions of water scarcity. From 1960 to 2000, water use increased by 15 to 32 percent per decade, depending on regional differences in development and population trends. Consequently, intelligence agencies, the United Nations, and many scientific organizations anticipate much greater civil and political strife related to water in the coming decades, a trend that may be particularly strong in the Middle East and Central Asia. In the past, those of us in the Southeast have had little reason for concern about water supply.

However, as the severe drought of 2004 - 2006 vividly demonstrated, complacency may be replaced by uncertainty in the future. During that drought, major cities instituted rationing, supplies of hydroelectric power were threatened, water levels in reservoirs fell precipitously, crop and cattle production plummeted, and intense concerns about future water supplies drove interstate conflicts. The latter was exemplified by the proposal to shift Georgia’s boundary line north further into Tennessee in order to access the Tennessee River and satisfy Georgia’s (i.e., Atlanta’s) needs. Conversely, in contrast to water-shortage concerns, the impacts of development alone can be profound during wet years as increased impervious surfaces stimulate flooding. Clearly, as populations increase and land development continues in the Southeast, the impacts and social/political implications of unstable water supplies will become increasingly harsh in the future. Against this backdrop, there is the good news that many people, including students and faculty at Auburn University, are working to find solutions to several critical water problems. In this second edition of Auburn Speaks, we present more than fifty articles on topics ranging from climate influences to low-impact development to land-use issues. They also range from Alabama to India and from the

distant past to the future. And while they represent only a portion of the university’s activity, they do provide a clear indication of the array of expertise and intensity of effort related to water at Auburn. Strong research, education, and outreach activities related to many water issues are under way in almost every academic unit, and it is apparent that water represents a major interest and focal arena on our campus. In addition, working on water issues closely ties Auburn to the challenge of meeting major societal needs, a highly appropriate role for the university. The success of this issue is partly due to the efforts of the ten faculty members who served as associate editors and ensured that every article is substantive and factual. They are: • Kelly Alley, Alumni Professor and Director of Anthropology in the Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work Department • Claude Boyd, Butler Cunningham Eminent Scholar in the College of Agriculture • Prabhakar Clement, Arthur H. Feagin Professor in Civil Engineering • Mark Dougherty, Associate Professor in Biosystems Engineering • Diane Hite, Professor in Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology

• Elise Irwin, Fish and Wildlife Unit of the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service • John Aho, Associate Professor in Biology at Auburn University Montgomery • Latif Kalin, Associate Professor in Forestry and Wildlife Sciences • Charlene LeBleu, Associate Professor in the School of Architecture • Puneet Srivastava, Associate Professor in Biosystems Engineering The reputations and qualifications of those faculty, each an established expert on some key aspect of water science, greatly enhanced the credibility of the process and resulting outputs, and to those 5 persons we are indebted. We thank Katie Jackson, Leslie Parsons, Jacqueline Kochak, Jake Blocker, and Jay Lamar for organizing the process and editing the issue, as well as Lucy LaMar, Al Eiland, Jeff Etheridge, and Lori Wallace in the AU Office of Communications and Marketing for the design, photography, and outstanding organizational abilities. Finally, thanks to all of the faculty, staff, and students who authored or co-authored manuscripts. It is our hope that all readers will find the reflected talents and energies of Auburn water specialists as inspiring as we do, and will develop a real interest in water activities at Auburn.

Water: A Matter of National Security by R. A. Norton, Auburn University Cyber Initiative The wars of the future might be fought over water, not oil. That seems incomprehensible, because much of the world is covered with water— but some 97 percent of the world’s supply is saltwater, undrinkable unless treated at a relatively high cost. Only 3 percent of the total supply is fresh 6 water, and almost 70 percent of that is unavailable, trapped in icecaps or glaciers. Just 30 percent or so of our fresh water is groundwater, and some of that lies deep below the surface, accessible only with great effort. Some 60 percent of the human body consists of water, with healthy adults requiring up to three liters of water a day. In many parts of the world, however, that much water is becoming increasingly scarce or expensive. Supplies are dwindling in some parts of the Middle East and Africa because of localized climate change, desertification, infiltration by salt or other pollutants, and withdrawal

of underground water faster than supplies can be recharged. In strife-torn areas, groups seek control by blocking access to water, magnifying scarcity and exacerbating competition, creating a vicious circle. Before the terrorist attack on 9-11, the Central Intelligence Agency saw the handwriting on the wall. “By 2015 nearly half the world’s population— more than 3 billion people—will live in countries that are ‘water-stressed’—have less than 1,700 cubic meters of water per capita per year —mostly in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and northern China,” noted the agency’s Global Trends 2015: A Dialogue About the Future with Non-Government Experts. “In the developing world, 80 percent of water usage goes into agriculture, a proportion that is not sustainable; and in 2015 a number of developing countries will be unable to maintain their levels of irrigated agriculture. Over-pumping

of groundwater in many of the world’s important grain-growing regions will be an increasing problem; about 1,000 tons of water are needed to produce a ton of grain.” Most alarming, perhaps, the report added: “The water table under some of the major grain-producing areas in northern China is falling at a rate of five feet per year, and water tables throughout India are falling an average of three to ten feet per year.” Since the report was written in 2000, the problem has only escalated as groundwater continues to be drawn off in increasing amounts because population, agricultural, and industrial needs for water intensify. What does this mean for the United States? Put simply, an already dangerous world is likely to become more dangerous. Areas of the world that are most stressed due to water shortages are the same areas most likely to experience conflict

for other reasons; water scarcity just makes the problems worse and the solutions more difficult to find. And the problem of water availability is not limited to the poorer regions of the world. Even industrialized countries like the United States and parts of Europe and Asia are experiencing localized problems, likely to increase as these regions experience competition between direct water consumption needs, industrialization, and agriculture. Multinational corporations are also acquiring water supplies, increasing the likelihood that more expensive water will become the norm. Pushed too far, even industrialized nations are not immune to water-borne conflict or worse, particularly where heavily used aquifers cross national boundaries. Conservation programs are widespread, but conservation and recycling programs must increase significantly to maximize supplies of drinkable water and decrease the risk of conflict. Agriculture will have to be allowed its share of water, since nothing causes conflict faster than famine, never far away in many parts of the world. Because so many places are likely to suffer, the U.S. military and Intelligence Community will have to be particularly vigilant in spotting water shortages. Experts will be needed to closely monitor regions where “water wars” could emerge. Water security is, after all, everyone’s problem, since any conflict

can lead to war. And any war, no matter how far away, can lead to U.S. involvement.

A Closer Look at Problems That Confront the U.S. The National Intelligence Council reports to the Director of National Intelligence (the head of all the vast Intelligence Community) on issues of foreign policy of interest to the President and senior policymakers. Recently, a subcommittee of the group published an unclassified version of a briefing entitled National Intelligence Council Water Research, authored by Maj. Gen. Rich Engel, USAF (Ret). The 2012 briefing, which summarizes a longer report, doesn’t mince words in describing the depth and breadth of the world’s water problems. The summary statement is particularly chilling: “Bottom line: During the next 10 years, many countries important to the United States will experience water problems—shortages, poor water quality, or floods—that will risk instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important U.S. policy objectives. Between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources. Water problems will hinder the

ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth.” The committee then provides a series of judgments or estimations based on the facts currently known to the Intelligence Community, further defining the complex issues. Some are particularly disturbing when considered in the context of existing global conflicts, such as those between Iran and Israel and the United States. Iran faces a particularly dire future because of overdrawing of groundwater aquifers (some of which take 125 years to recharge) and saline penetration into existing water supplies. An extraordinarily dangerous situation is likely to evolve should Iran achieve the goal of nuclear weapons while facing the threat of no water.

Key Judgments According to the report, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national security interests. While the report doesn’t single out particular countries, it likely refers to most of the Middle East, Africa, and parts of Asia. Water issues alone are unlikely to result in state failure, but water problems combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions


together can create the kind of social disruptions that result in state failure. Water-related state-on-state conflict is unlikely during the next ten years, according to the intelligence report. After that, however, the prognosis is grim. Beyond the next ten years, we can expect to see water used as leverage and possibly as a weapon by terrorists. Water-related conflict is possible. “Water wars” are just one grim facet of the problem. The report notes that during the next ten years, depletion of groundwater supplies in some agricultural areas—caused by poor management—would threaten both national and global food markets. Nearly all countries in the Middle 8 East and North Africa have overpumped their groundwater, and the exhaustion of groundwater sources will cause declining food production if action is not taken. The demand for food in these countries will have to be satisfied through increasingly stressed global markets. From now through 2040, water shortages and pollution will negatively affect the economic performance of U.S. trading partners, the report adds. This statement doubtless refers to, among others, China. Economic output will suffer without sufficient clean water to generate electrical power, maintain and expand manufacturing, and extract resources. The briefing notes that fifteen of the

developing countries generate 80 percent or more of their electrical power from hydropower and that water demand is increasing.

Cause for Optimism? The committee’s judgments are not all negative. The briefing ends on a positive note, indicating that we are, thankfully, not yet at a point of no return. To avoid the chasm, however, things have to change rapidly, particularly in regions most likely to be stressed by shortages. Improved water management is the best solution, particularly when associated with agriculture, since agriculture uses some 70 percent of the global fresh water supply. The briefing notes that simple and inexpensive agricultural water management improvements, such as improved irrigation practices and land leveling, are most likely to stretch existing water supplies. The committee warns, however, that engineering solutions to water shortages can increase tensions between organizations trying to implement solutions and those who might be harmed by those solutions. The idea of “solutions” causing harm seems counterintuitive, but changing the availability and control of water supplies from one group to another can cause a shift of power. Introducing something as simple as a new well drawing off an already stressed aquifer can lead

to unintended consequences and conflict as new powerbrokers emerge. In a very complex world, discerning the right thing to do is not always easy. Acting correctly can sometimes inadvertently lead to new problems. Are there future opportunities for better water management? The answer is clearly yes, but these changes will cost—at a time when investment capital is scarce because of severe economic downturn. The developing world inevitably will look to the United States, both directly for investment and indirectly for its ability to leverage the global community. The U.S. is going to be limited in its ability to provide funding, particularly if sequestration becomes a reality and the U.S. military is appreciably downsized. Agencies like USAID are often dependent on the military to provide stability and delivery of supplies and personnel. Limitations mean that the U.S. will have to make sure that every dollar counts. A dollar spent on the wrong choice is a dollar not spent on the right choice. The United States will depend even more on the Intelligence Community to discern the “ground truth,” what is really happening in places where there are few Americans or perhaps even few allies. Local solutions will have to be substituted for solutions depending on American dollars. This is a good thing, because locally generated solutions

often avoid the pitfalls inherent in solutions forced from outside. Even underdeveloped countries are going to have to realize that new realities mean local and regional investment will be required. Leaders in these countries will have to learn to

answer to their constituents, rather than to U.S. agencies that previously poured money into their coffers. This alone can be a game changer, since new priorities will have to be set. Old animosities will have to be set aside, or instability will

continue to increase as water supplies decrease. Solutions are available. Changes are needed and needed quickly. The sad alternative is a much thirstier world.


On Water by Claude E. Boyd, Butler Cunningham Eminent Professor, Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures


ater is a major component of living things; humans are about two-thirds water, and most other organisms contain equal or greater proportions. Water plays an essential role in temperature control of organisms. It is a solvent, and 10 dissolved substances move between the cells and within the bodies of organisms via fluids comprised mostly of water. Water is a reactant in biochemical reactions, the turgidity of cells depends upon water, and water is essential in excretory functions. Water is important ecologically. It is the medium in which aquatic organisms live, and the distribution of terrestrial organisms is greatly influenced by the availability of water. Well-watered areas have abundant vegetation, while vegetation is scarce in arid regions. The amount of precipitation in a region is a major determinant of climate, and large water bodies retain and slowly release heat to exert

considerable control over air temperature of surrounding land masses. Water plays a major role in shaping the earth’s surface through the processes of dissolution, erosion, and deposition. Raindrops initiate the erosion process by dislodging particles, and flowing water suspends these particles and cuts into the land surface to suspend more particles. Suspended particles are transported downgrade by flowing water, and they are deposited where water velocity declines. Humans use water for domestic purposes such as food preparation, washing clothes, and sanitation. Early human settlements developed in areas with dependable supplies of water from lakes or streams. Water bodies also have traditionally afforded a convenient means of transportation. Gradually, humans learned to tap underground water supplies, store water, convey water, and

irrigate crops. This permitted humans to spread into previously dry and uninhabitable areas. Even today, population growth in a region depends upon water availability. Humans also find water bodies to be aesthetically pleasing, and many recreational activities are conducted in and around them. Many aquatic animals and some aquatic plants have long been an essential part of mankind’s food supply. Traditional agriculture depends upon adequate rainfall or a source of water for use in irrigation. Water is a key ingredient in industry for power generation through direct use of the energy of flowing water to turn water wheels or turbines, steam generation, cooling, and processing. In processing, water may be used as an ingredient, solvent, or reagent. It also may be used for washing or conveying substances, and wastes from processing often are disposed of in water.

Properties of Water Pure water at room temperature is a clear, odorless, colorless liquid of simple molecules each consisting of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. Because of the unique arrangement of these atoms, the water molecule has a small negative charge on one side and two positively charged sites on the other side. Positively charged sites on water molecules attract the negatively charged sites of other water molecules to form bonds known as hydrogen bonds. Because of hydrogen bonding, the degree of attraction among water molecules is much greater than would be expected, and this attraction among water molecules imparts unique – almost magical – properties to water. Freezing and boiling points, 32o and 212oF o (0 C and 100oC), respectively, for water at normal atmospheric pressure are much higher than those of other hydrogen compounds of low molecular weight. Water freezes when its energy content declines and molecular motion slows so that hydrogen bonds form to produce the crystalline structure of ice. Ice melts when its energy content rises, molecular motion increases, and too few hydrogen bonds are present to maintain the crystalline structure of ice. At the freezing point, 80 calories of heat must be removed from or added

to each gram of water to cause it to freeze or melt with no change in temperature. Once melted, only 1 calorie per gram of water is needed to increase temperature by 1oC. Nevertheless, the heat-holding capacity of water is high compared to other substances found on the landscape. Water changes from liquid to vapor when it attains enough internal energy and molecular motion to break all hydrogen bonds. Water vapor condenses to form liquid water when it loses energy and molecular motion decreases to permit formation of hydrogen bonds. The amount of energy necessary to change liquid water to vapor (or vice versa) at the boiling point is 540 calories per gram. If a water surface is exposed to dry air, water molecules enter the air until it is saturated. The pressure of the water molecules in the air acting down on the water surface is the vapor pressure of water. Vapor pressure increases as temperature rises, and when it becomes equal to atmospheric pressure, bubbles form and push back the atmosphere – the water boils. The relative humidity of air is the percentage of the moisture-holding capacity of air that is filled with water vapor at a particular time. Low relative humidity favors evaporation. Decreasing air temperature will increase relative humidity and vice versa. When air reaches 100 percent relative

humidity, condensation of water vapor contained in it will occur. Clouds result when air rises, cools, becomes saturated with water vapor, and condensation occurs. Moisture droplets of clouds may grow until they are heavy enough to fall as rain or frozen precipitation. The spacing of molecules in the crystalline lattice of ice creates a void, and a volume of ice weighs about 1/11 less than the same volume of liquid water, allowing ice to float. The specific gravity of water increases as temperature rises until maximum specific gravity of 1.000 is attained at about 390F (40C). Further warming decreases the specific gravity of water. The dissolved mineral content or salinity influences the specific gravity of water. 11 Thus, seawater is slightly heavier than freshwater. Water molecules are cohesive when they form hydrogen bonds with each other, but they are adhesive when they form hydrogen bonds with molecules of other substances. Water adheres to a solid surface if its molecules have a greater tendency to form hydrogen bonds with the surface than with other water molecules – such a surface is called hydrophilic because it wets easily. If cohesive forces between water molecules tend to be greater than the attraction of water molecules to the solid surface, water will bead on the surface and not wet it – such a surface is called hydrophobic.

For example, raw wood wets readily, but a coat of paint will cause the wood to shed water. Water molecules at a water surface are subjected to an inward cohesive force from molecules below the surface, but there is no such attraction above the surface. This causes surface molecules to act as a skin, a phenomenon known as surface tension. Surface tension is strong enough to permit certain insects and spiders to walk on the surface of water, and to allow needles and razor blades to float. Capillary action is the combined effects of surface tension, adhesion, and cohesion. In a thin tube inserted into a container of water, water 12 adheres to the walls of the tube and spreads upward. Water moving up the wall is attached by cohesion to the surface film, and molecules in the surface film are joined by cohesion to molecules below. As adhesion drags the surface film upward, the surface film – because of cohesion to molecules below – pulls water up the tube against the force of gravity. The height that water rises in a thin tube is inversely proportional to tube diameter. In the soil, open space exists because soil particles do not fit together perfectly. Interconnected pore space in soil functions in the same manner as a capillary tube, permitting water to rise above the water table in a dry soil.

Water has little or no elasticity of shape and conforms to the shape of its container. Unless completely confined, water has a free surface that is horizontal except at the edges. The pressure of water in a vessel is equal to the weight of the water pressing down on the bottom, but in practice water pressure often is given in terms of water depth and called the head. As everyone knows, water flows downhill, from higher head to lower head. Water has viscosity or internal resistance to flow resulting from cohesion between water molecules, interchange of particles between layers of different velocities, and friction between the fluid and solid surfaces. In laminar flow, water moves in layers with little exchange of molecules among layers. When flow becomes turbulent, the molecules no longer flow in layers, and the movement of water becomes more complex. Salt crystals maintain their structure in air because of electrical attraction between their component ions. For example, a crystal of table salt – sodium chloride – is comprised of positive sodium ions and negative chloride ions attracted to each other. Salt dissolves readily in water because the attractive forces between negative ions and positive ions are less in water than in air. Negative ions attract the positive sites on several water molecules, and positive ions attract the negative sites

of other water molecules. This attraction of water molecules insulates the charges on ions and lessens the degree of attraction between them. Thus, water is an excellent solvent for most inorganic salts and many organic substances. Conductivity is the ability of a substance to convey an electrical current. In water, electrical current is conveyed by the dissolved ions. Pure water does not conduct electricity well, because it contains only a few hydrogen and hydroxide ions. Natural waters, however, contain more dissolved ions, and they conduct electricity very well. Conductivity increases in direct proportion to dissolved ion concentrations. Part of the sunlight striking natural water bodies does not penetrate the surface. A portion of the light is reflected, the amount depending upon the roughness of the water surface and the angle of the sun’s rays. The smoother the surface and the more vertical the sun’s rays, the greater is the percentage of light penetrating the water surface. In pure water, roughly 50 percent of incident light is transformed into heat within the first three feet. Natural waters contain substances that further interfere with light penetration. The color of natural water results from the unabsorbed light rays remaining from the original light. Substances in solution or in colloidal suspension cause true color in water. Apparent color

is caused by suspended matter, which interferes with light penetration. During the day, photosynthesis by aquatic plants increases as light increases and decreases as light wanes. Clouds can reduce the amount of sunlight striking water surfaces and immediately lower the rate of photosynthesis. Turbidity refers to the decreased ability of water to transmit light caused by suspended particulate matter – usually soil particles, minute living plants and animals (plankton), and particles of decaying plankton or other organic remains. Water bodies on cultivated or otherwise disturbed watersheds often are turbid with suspended soil particles. Woodland water bodies usually are stained with organic substances such as humic acid from the decay of vegetative material. Eutrophic (nutrient enriched) water bodies are turbid with phytoplankton that grows in response to an abundance of nutrients. Water temperature closely follows air temperature in ponds, small lakes, and streams, and in Alabama, it changes markedly with season. At the end of winter, the water column in a lake or pond has a relatively uniform temperature and density. Although heat is absorbed at the surface on sunny days, there is little resistance to mixing by wind, and the entire volume of the water body circulates and warms uniformly. As spring progresses, the

upper stratum heats more rapidly than heat is distributed from the upper stratum to the lower stratum by mixing. Waters of the upper stratum become considerably warmer and lighter than those of the lower stratum. Winds that normally decrease in velocity as weather warms are no longer powerful enough to mix the two strata because of the difference in density. The upper stratum is called the epilimnion and the lower stratum the hypolimnion. The stratum between the epilimnion and the hypolimnion has a marked temperature differential. This layer is termed the thermocline. Lakes usually do not destratify until autumn, when air temperatures decline and surface waters cool and become heavier, but some ponds may destratify suddenly during summer in response to heavy rains or strong winds.

The Hydrologic Cycle The familiar and continuous motion of the earth’s water in the hydrologic cycle is depicted in Figure 1. This cycle has long been recognized. A passage of the Old Testament refers to the rivers flowing into the ocean but the ocean not being full. Water evaporates from the ocean, lakes, ponds, and streams and from moist soil; water also is transpired by plants. The sun provides energy to change liquid water to water vapor, so solar radiation is

the engine that drives the hydrologic cycle. Water vapor is caught up in the general atmospheric circulation, and in places where there is uplifting and cooling of air, water vapor condenses to solid or liquid water and is returned to the earth’s surface as dew, frost, sleet, snow, hail, or rain. A portion of the water reaching the earth’s surface evaporates back into the atmosphere almost immediately, but another part runs over the land surface as storm runoff, collects in streams, rivers, and lakes, and finally enters the ocean. Water is continually evaporating as the runoff flows toward the oceans, and it continually evaporates from the ocean. Some water infiltrates into the ground and becomes soil water or reaches saturated strata to enter groundwater 13 aquifers. Soil water can be returned to the atmosphere by transpiration of plants. Groundwater seeps into streams, lakes, and the ocean, and it may be removed by wells for use by humankind.

The World’s Water The world’s water often is collectively referred to as the hydrosphere. The hydrosphere consists of several major compartments (Table 1). The ocean has a volume of 323 million cubic miles (1 cubic mile is about 1.1 trillion gallons) and comprises 97.40 percent of the earth’s water. The remaining 8.6 million cubic miles 2.60 percent of water


Fig. 1. The water cycle.

is contained in several freshwater compartments. The largest proportion of freshwater is unavailable for direct use by mankind because it is either bound in ice, occurs as groundwater too deep to be economically accessible by wells, or flows to the ocean as flood water. Humans rely on well water, water from lakes, non-flood stage stream flow, river

impoundments, and captured rainfall for domestic uses. Of course, it is becoming more economically feasible to desalinate ocean water, and this is an importance source of water in several Middle Eastern countries. The residence time of water in freshwater compartments is shorter than the average residence

time of 37,000 years for water in the ocean. For example, the volume of water in the atmosphere is only 3,450 cubic miles at a particular time. Because the residence time is only nine days, water vapor of the atmosphere can be recycled 1.5 million times during the 37,000 years necessary to recycle the ocean water. The amount of water cycling through the atmosphere in 37,000 years is 5 trillion cubic miles, or roughly sixteen times the volume of the ocean. Thus, the volumes of water in the different compartments of the hydrosphere at any given time are not directly related to their comparative importance as sources of water for ecological systems or humans. The amount of precipitation falling on the earth’s land surface each year is about 26,654 cubic miles. Of this, 17,130 cubic miles returns to the air through evaporation and transpiration, and 9,525 cubic miles becomes runoff or stream flow. Global stream flow consists of 6,695 cubic miles of water per year that flows over the land surface to enter streams, and 2,831 cubic miles of water per year that infiltrate the land surface to enter underground aquifers and finally enter streams when streams cut below the water table. The global supply of renewable freshwater is equal to annual stream flow, but about 75 percent of stream flow is flood water not available for human use unless

captured in reservoirs. Moreover, only 70 percent of available stream flow is geographically assessable by humans. The global, accessible, renewable freshwater is estimated at 3,242 cubic miles per year.

Water Use Currently, global water use by humans for producing goods and service – excluding rain water that evaporates from agricultural land – is 576 cubic miles per year or about 20 percent of the renewable, assessable freshwater. However, most countries may have continuous, frequent, or occasional water shortages because they are “water poor” or have “water poor” regions, experience droughts, have inferior water supply infrastructure and management, or civil disruption. Water shortages are expected to increase because world population will increase to around 9 billion by 2050. The World Health Organization considers that households need about fifteen gallons of water per capita per day to maintain stable, healthy living conditions, though thirty to sixty gallons per capita per day is optimal. The world average for household water use is around fifty-seven gallons per day, but the amount varies drastically. Household water use in gallons per capita per day for several countries follows: Canada, 202; United States, 157; France, 76; Japan 98; China, 19; Pakistan, 15.

Water use in Alabama is slightly greater than the national average for the United States. Better water management and conservation is critical, because most countries have an increasing population but no feasible way to increase their water supply. Using less water also will lessen environmental impacts associated with extracting, Compartment Volume(mi3) Oceans 323,402,400 Freshwater Polar ice, icebergs, and glaciers 6,673,900 Groundwater (800 4,000 m depth) 1,066,900 Groundwater (to 800 m depth) 851,900 Lakes 30,230 Soil moisture 14,660 Atmosphere (water vapor) 3,450 Rivers 260 Plants, animals, humans 260 Hydrated minerals 90 Total freshwater (8,641,650)

storing, and conveying water. However, conserving water in a “water rich” area is of little benefit to a “water poor” or drought stricken one. Water shortages seem to result mainly from a natural scarcity of water or from the useful water being at the wrong place or at the right place but at the wrong time.

Proportion of total(%) 97.40

Renewal or residence time 37,000 years


16,000 years 15

0.32 0.26 0.009 0.004

300 years 1-100 years 280 days

0.001 0.00008 0.00008 0.00002 (2.60)

9 days 12-20 days

Table 1. Volumes of ocean water and different compartments of freshwater. Renewal times are provided for selected compartments. Note: 1 cubic mile is 1.1 trillion gallons.

The Aral Sea Crisis By Elizabeth Baker Brite 16

Ancient Problem, Ancient Solutions


eginning in the 1960s, one of the largest inland bodies of water in Asia, the Aral Sea, began to disappear. Soviet engineers had turned the region around the Aral Sea, once largely desert, into fertile agricultural land. In order to make this possible, they had to divert the waters of the two rivers that feed the Aral Sea, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, to the agricultural plains. The results were dramatic. The desert regions of the Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan were transformed into lush fields of cotton and grain, but the Aral Sea itself rapidly declined. Without water from the rivers, the shoreline of the Aral Sea receded and the water level dropped. Marine life died off. Today, the Aral Sea is approximately one-tenth of its original size, a cumulative water loss that is roughly equivalent to draining both Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. The loss of the Aral Sea has had other, far more detrimental consequences than a simple change in sea level. For instance, the use of water for

irrigation has increased evaporation rates. This has resulted in severe droughts and water scarcity that threatens all forms of life in the region, including the agricultural sector. Intense climate change has also occurred because the waters of the Aral Sea were the main temperature-regulating mechanism in this desert region. Local temperatures have changed by up to 6â °C, such that summers are now far hotter and winters far colder. Also, with the former sea bed now exposed, salt and dust particles are regularly released into the air, causing an epidemic of respiratory diseases in the region. Included among these air-borne particulates are the many agricultural pesticides such as DDT that have accumulated in field run-off and travelled down to the sea. The severity of the situation has led the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, to declare the Aral Sea one of the worst and most shocking environmental disasters in the world. It is now widely considered one of the greatest environmental catastrophes ever produced

by humans in modern times, on par with the nuclear fallout of Chernobyl and worse in many respects than events like the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the Aral Sea will ever return to its former state. The sheer volume of water that has been lost may be too great to replenish in our lifetime, even if the current irrigation systems were completely dismantled. What is more, 17 the now independent nations of the former Soviet republics are economically dependent on these systems and are invested in continuing to reallocate the Aral Sea’s water resources. Most development work has instead focused on mitigation of the current problems. Some successes have included the restoration of a small portion of the Aral Sea’s northern end in Kazakhstan and the re-development of local fishing industries; the planting of vegetation in the former sea bed of the Aral to ameliorate harmful dust storms; hydraulic changes to the irrigation networks to reduce water loss and regulate flows to the sea; and economic initiatives


Remains of carbonized ancient seeds from the household at Kara-tepe, mid-excavation.

that have encouraged the region’s nation-states to move away from growing crops such as cotton that have extremely high watering requirements. Scientists also continue to study the Aral Sea environment in hopes of finding better solutions to the current crisis. One recent insight is the realization that this is not the first time that the Aral Sea has fallen into decline. In fact, many times in the past it has retreated to much smaller extents than those known in the 1960s. Scientists have been able to reconstruct this history by examining the local geology and by using sediment cores—long tubular columns of soil extracted from the earth that provide a detailed record of change over time in climate-related soil chemistry and microbiota. These data strongly suggest that the Aral Sea has nearly disappeared more than once in the past, and that the whole region has periodically experienced major changes in climate and water availability. Based on the models produced from the sediment core data, it is apparent that some of these other recessions occurred during the Holocene (within the last 12,000 years), when people were actively engaged in agriculture in this region. What is significant about these studies is that they suggest that humans have had to face these water problems in the Aral Sea region in the past. The remains of ancient societies may therefore be

able to tell us a great deal about the ways people have successfully (and unsuccessfully) adapted to environmental change and water loss in this region. Archaeology is the science that allows us to examine these past lifeways through the study of material remains. Archaeological research in the Aral Sea region may thus provide new perspectives on how to mitigate the current crisis, and suggest creative and previously unconsidered ways that modern populations might address regional environmental change.

The Many Aral Sea Crises The Aral Sea’s tendency to grow and shrink over time is primarily a result of the dynamic interplay between topography, climate, and hydrology. The Aral Sea is in fact not a sea at all but rather a large lake that is formed by a topographic feature known as an endorheic basin, defined as a closed drainage basin that retains water but has no outflow to rivers or oceans. Basically, it is a large topographic depression that collects water in the interior of a large land mass. The absence of outflow means that water only leaves the system via evaporation or seepage, leaving behind salts and other particulate matter and creating salt lakes or (if all the water disappears) salt pans at the bottom. When water inflow is

abundant and the water level is high, there is less salt and more freshwater. When the water level begins to drop, the water-to-salt balance changes and the water becomes more brackish. Endorheic basins, sometimes called terminal lakes or sink lakes, are found throughout the world but are especially common in the arid desert regions of interior Asia, where snow-capped mountain peaks descend into flat terrain in the middle of a vast continent with few outlets to the sea. The Aral Sea is fed by rivers that flow down from the Pamir and Tien Shan mountains near the ranges of the Himalayas. The topography that surrounds the Aral Sea is extremely flat, and the land is relatively smooth because there is very little rainfall to carve permanent drainage patterns (the region generally receives less than 200 millimeters of rain per year). Since the local terrain offers few features that direct water flow in any particular direction, the rivers’ courses are not permanently set and can move over time, sometimes into the Aral Sea but at other times discharging their waters elsewhere. Imagine this as the water that collects in your bathtub basin after a shower: the puddles of water will collect in the low-lying area at the center of the tub, but the sleek, flat surface means that the patterns it forms to get there can take innumerable shapes.

In the recent past, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers discharged their waters directly into the Aral Sea. Hundreds and thousands of years before this, however, the waters flowed in different directions. During at least one period in the ancient past, the Amu Darya River bypassed the Aral Sea altogether and dispensed its waters instead into the Caspian Sea to the west. The levels of salt in the Aral Sea varied depending on the patterns of water inflow, and measuring the salts in sediment cores is one way that scientists have been able to reconstruct the sea’s variable history. Beyond the change in flow patterns, the different forms of the landscape also affect the local climate, the salt content of the lake, and the kinds 19 of species that could successfully live in this environment. We now know that humans can exacerbate these dynamics by drawing water from the rivers before they reach the Aral Sea; however, it is also clear that many of these processes can happen naturally, with or without human intervention.

Humans and the Aral Sea In spite of its changeable nature, the Aral Sea and its rivers are a rare source of abundant water in an otherwise barren desert environment. For this reason, they have attracted human populations for millennia. Agriculture began around 6000 B.C.


Excavating a hearth in the household at Kara-tepe.

and has continued largely uninterrupted ever since. However, throughout that time people have had to contend with some challenging conditions. Rivers and streams could change their course unpredictably, making it difficult for people to settle down in permanent habitations. Continual changes in the abundance and quality of the Aral Sea’s water resources affected people’s abilities to farm, fish, and survive. At timescales of decades or sometimes even centuries, humans could rely on enough stability in the local environment to build communities and feed their families. But at other times, the Aral Sea changed in so dramatic a fashion as to undermine people’s way of life in more fundamental ways. Russian archaeologists were intensely interested in the ancient history of the Aral Sea basin and conducted extensive research there between the 1940s and 1980s. Landscape reconnaissance surveys by these researchers revealed habitation sites and irrigation systems of different periods, and showed that both the places where people lived and the ways they used water could be extremely different from one major historic phase to the next. Working with teams of geographers and geologists, they uncovered dry river beds and flooded habitation sites, suggesting that the catalyst for these differences were major shifts in the Aral Sea’s water resources.

Until recently, it was extremely difficult to directly connect the patterns that these archaeologists documented in the human record with specific events of environmental change. However, data from sediment cores and geological studies now allow us to better pinpoint when major environmental changes occurred in the Aral Sea region. Some of the more momentous of these past Aral Sea crises occurred in the second millennium B.C. (in the Bronze Age), in the fourth or fifth century A.D. (the Early Middle Ages), in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries A.D. (the Islamic Medieval Period), and in the sixteenth century A.D. (the late Islamic Period). At these times, water levels in the Aral Sea decreased dramatically and soil salinity levels rose significantly. The region surrounding the Aral Sea likely experienced notable increases in water scarcity and other changes due to increased salt content in the air and water. As it happens, these intervals correspond almost exactly with changes in human societies documented in the archaeological and historical records.

question as a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles. Working with a team of researchers from the University of Sydney and the Karakalpak Branch of the Uzbek Academy of Sciences, I focused on a small, seemingly unre-

markable archaeological site known as Kara-tepe, located in the northwestern region of Uzbekistan. The site is essentially a large mound of earth approximately 2.5 acres (1 hectare) in area that sits about 23 feet (7 meters) above an otherwise flat


Ancient Solutions to a New Crisis? How did ancient people make adjustments to the unique features of the Aral Sea landscape? In the summer of 2008, I set out to explore this

The site of Kara-tepe, northwestern Uzbekistan. The large, square mound of the site is visible in the background near the horizon, rising above the agricultural plain below.

terrain. It stands out in the landscape as an unusual feature because it is large, fairly well-planned in appearance, and has no significant modern occupation in or around it. The top of the mound is covered with broken pieces of pottery and slag (the waste material produced when people fire ceramics or metals). The kinds of clay used, the shape of the vessels, and the decorations on the sherds suggest that the site was inhabited sometime between the third and eighth centuries A.D. These centuries span a length of time before and after the Early Middle Ages Aral Sea crisis, which occurred sometime around the fourth or fifth century A.D. People tended to move around in the Early 22 Middle Ages and therefore left fewer remains for archaeologists to study. Kara-tepe, as it turns out, is a somewhat rare and very rich site for this reason. We spent two summers excavating the site of Kara-tepe and documenting the materials it contained. Among the more important things that we found was a household belonging to some of the site’s former occupants, complete with many of the materials they must have used on a daily basis. The household had burned while people were still using it, thus carbonizing and preserving many items in their original locations. These items included cooking, storage, and serving vessels,

stone tools, food remains, and the household’s stores of harvested crops. Our research shows that one of the main sources of food at Kara-tepe was millet, a smallseeded cereal crop that is grown throughout Asia and Africa. Unlike wheat and rice, which are grown extensively in the region today, millet is a hardy grain that can tolerate drought conditions and still provide a plentiful food source. Along with this staple crop, the people of Kara-tepe also grew other drought-tolerant crops including barley, alfalfa, and grass pea to feed themselves and their animals. In the household, we found evidence that people were raising cows, sheep, goats, pigs, and possibly horses. They also hunted wild game, including Bukhara deer, local rabbits, tortoises, birds, and perhaps wild boar. Catfish bones suggest that, in spite of water scarcity, fishing probably also remained an important activity. Residents apparently depended on a wide range of diverse species for meat and milk, all of which could be raised on local resources or which could be found roaming wild in their immediate environment. Surprisingly, we also found cotton seeds among the many materials in this household. This suggests that people were growing cotton and making textile goods at Kara-tepe after the fifth century

A.D. Aral Sea crisis. Cotton is widely viewed as one of the main culprits in the current Aral Sea disaster. Its presence at Kara-tepe suggests, however, that cotton agriculture may not be inherently incompatible with life in the Aral Sea basin, but rather its sustainability may depend upon how cotton is grown and the species of plants used. Kara-tepe’s inhabitants were able to grow cotton at the height of water scarcity in the Early Middle Ages because they used local varieties that were far more tolerant of drought conditions and salty soils. Kara-tepe’s inhabitants also grew cotton in a different way, relying on it less as a cash crop and making it only one of several plants they grew to meet their basic needs.

Lessons Learned The information gleaned about life during and after an ancient Aral Sea crisis offers several lessons. First, growing the right kinds of crops may produce enough food to live on, even when water is extremely scarce and soil quality is poor. Second, food diversity is important in helping people to meet their needs. If any one crop or animal species did not do well in a particular year, people could fall back on other food sources. Essential to this strategy was the local biodiversity of the Aral Sea region, where a variety of wild

animals and fish were available. Unfortunately, some of these animals, including the Bukhara deer and the saiga antelope, are now critically endangered species. Fish populations are also threatened by the increasing water scarcity. Efforts aimed at finding solutions for people in the current Aral Sea crisis should therefore focus in part on preserving this local biodiversity. A final important lesson to be learned from the ancient inhabitants of Kara-tepe is that people do not have to totally abandon their economic pursuits in the face of environmental change. Instead, they need to find more sustainable solutions if these industries are to continue. At Kara-tepe, people found a way to grow cotton in the local environment in spite of the conditions of water scarcity that they faced. This did require some sacrifices in terms of the amount of cotton they could grow and its quality, but it was ultimately a more sustainable industry over the long term. People living in the Aral Sea region today may be facing a similarly hard reality and some trade-offs may need to be made to accommodate environmental change. The archaeological remains from Kara-tepe suggest that feasible alternatives exist. Advances in plant breeding could help to improve local cotton varieties, but the sheer quantity of cotton being grown today also needs to be reduced to make more water available to all.

Future Directions The remains of Kara-tepe are a small window on the activities of humans who have lived in the Aral Sea basin for millennia. At different times and in different places, people probably used a range of other techniques to adapt to environmental changes. Further research in the Aral Sea basin should focus on gathering data from

Terra MODIS satellite image of the Aral Sea taken on August 26, 2010. The approximate shoreline of the sea in 1960 is indicated by the black outline. Image courtesy of NASA Visible Earth.

archaeological sites inhabited during different periods of crisis. We need to explore in greater detail how people farmed, the foods they ate, and the ways they used water at different times. These practices were designed to respond to environmental changes very similar to those taking place in the region today and should be seen as a repository of valuable knowledge for present generations. Lastly, how we choose to use this new knowledge is an issue, and we should be mindful of the ways it can be best applied. The archaeological record can provide a wealth of insights on the ways people have adapted to past environmental disasters, but whether ancient techniques can work in modern times is not clear. The environmental dynamics that underlie the many Aral Sea crises may be the same, but the social and historical contexts in which they occur differ widely. Ancient people chose certain strategies not simply because they made the most sense, but because they made the most sense in the times in which they lived. Whether strategies from the ancient past can make sense in the times in which we live, when globalization, environmental pollution, and new technologies play a far larger role in shaping our successes and failures, is a question we have yet to answer.


It Takes More Than Mussels to Win a Water War By Donn Rodekohr, 24

Elise Irwin, Eve Brantley, Samuel R . Fowler, and Kelly Alley

Whiskey’s for Drinkin’, water’s for fightin’ Over… Never bring a knife to a gunfight.

Who and What Started the War? Shell in the chamber; hammer cocked, safety off. All he needed to do was to lock the target in his crosshairs. Targets were not a problem. Everywhere he looked there was another candidate. Pull the trigger—start a war. The physical act is fairly rudimentary, but the decision to force an opponent to his knees should not be taken lightly. After all, it is the spring of 1990, a time when peace and understanding filled the cultural psyche. Compromise, give-and-take, and mutually agreed upon outcomes were the norm. But this was water we were talking about, not ideology. While Alabama is usually swimming in water (bad pun), a state with more water than nearly any other state in the country, we are also experiencing a dry spell that has lasted a couple of years and lowered water levels, portending something that is threatening our economic well-being. Then we

found out that the Corps of Engineers was making releases from Buford Dam to supply drinking water for Atlanta, an act that was believed to be outside of designated uses for water from that structure.

Target acquired! U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the State of Georgia Florida joined the state of Alabama in a lawsuit claiming Georgia was taking more water than reasonable, thus causing damage and possible loss to the $70 million oyster industry in the Apalachicola Bay. The lawsuit encompassed the Apalachicola– Chattahoochee–Flint (ACF) drainage basin. Later, the state of Georgia announced plans to increase its water storage capacity by placing dams on streams feeding the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers essentially at the state borders. Alabama extended its suit against Georgia to include these activities. The early ’90s were indeed tumultuous.

Immovable Objects—Water Resources The rivers begin with their headwaters in the north Georgia mountains and flow southwesterly. After 400 miles, the Chattahoochee intersects with the Flint River near the Alabama and Florida borders where it becomes the Apalachicola River, which continues to run south through the Florida panhandle before 25 emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola. The ACF drainage encompasses approximately 12.5 million acres, the ACT 15.5 million acres. Referring to the map in Figure 1, one can see that the basins are not equally distributed among the three states. Each state has management authority for the watershed portion that falls within the state’s boundaries. Management of the Chattahoochee and Flint fall mostly under the purview of Georgia. The headwaters of the Chattahoochee and the entirety of the Flint are Georgia’s exclusively. Florida has management authority over the Apalachicola River. Alabama has


Fig. 1. The basins are not equally distributed among the three states.

management authority over the tributaries of the Chattahoochee only to the point where they join the river. The boundary between Alabama and Georgia is defined as the “high water mark of the western bank of the Chattahoochee.” Once the water hits the ’Hooch, it is Georgia’s water, under Georgia’s management authority. The inverse is the case with the ACT basin. Alabama does not have management authority over the headwaters of the Coosa and Tallapoosa but does have authority over 78 percent of all the watershed. Conversely, Georgia has management responsibility over 22 percent of the land area of the ACT, but authority over 100 percent of the headwater water area, thus controlling all the volume of both the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers before they cross the boundary. Where does the water for the Chattahoochee, Flint, Coosa, and Tallapoosa originate? From the sky. As is the case with all Southeastern streams, none of the water originates as snowpack; it all originates as rain that falls over the drainage basin. Large volumes come in the form of runoff. Some of the water percolates into fractured rock formations and soils of the southern Appalachians and is released more slowly into the streams as baseflow. The upshot is that there is a finite amount of water within a year that can flow down the

Fig. 2. The annual rainfall for Alabama and Georgia.

Chattahoochee, Coosa, and Tallapoosa rivers and for the flows of the Apalachicola and Alabama rivers. Figure 2 graphs the annual rainfall for Alabama and Georgia. Precipitation for the two states is notably high, at times approaching 80 inches as a statewide average. Also of note is that statewide precipitation amounts are decreasing for Georgia while statewide precipitation amounts are increasing (slightly) for Alabama when using volumes from 1958 through 2011. These large volumes of precipitation are the envy western and midwestern agricultural states. Droughts in Alabama and Georgia in 2007 both had more than thirty-five inches of moisture. These large volumes of precipitation have some consequences, however. Historically, water management in the Southeast has been somewhat non-existent (except in

Florida). The Eastern Water Doctrine of Riparian Rights is predicated on the assumption that water is a nearly infinite resource and assumes that every water shortage will be rectified with time and compromise. Figure 2 illustrates that this assumption has some merit in normal and wet years. However, the immovable object in this scene is the fact that water is finite and, in some cases, decreasing.

Irresistible Forces—Water Uses We have been improving the Chattahoochee River for decades, culminating in the construction of Buford Dam forming Lake Lanier in 1957. The river is dammed, levied, locked, and revetted so that water can be used for navigation, power production, and flood control. Once past Atlanta, western Georgia and southeastern Alabama rely upon the Chattahoochee for drinking, industry, agriculture, and recreation water. Florida relies upon the waters of the Chattahoochee to fertilize the rich oyster beds found in Apalachicola Bay. Florida has a $70 million-per-year oyster industry, 90 percent of which comes from Apalachicola Bay. From the ’70s to the ’90s, metro Atlanta was the fastest growing area in the nation. Couple Atlanta growth with the rapid irrigation development in Georgia in the Flint and lower Chattahoochee basins, and we have some really large demands

Fig. 3. Droughts increased in frequency in the 21st century, which exacerbated the problems of water distribution, storage, and long-term planning.

on a system. Drought events resulted in increased withdrawals from surface waters in the ACF basin. Expanded use and decreasing supplies exacerbated reduced flows in the ACF basin. Unlike the ACF basin, Alabama did not have as much explosive growth that demanded more water in the ACT basin. However, Alabama did have demands, driven by drought, on the resource that, in some cases, exceeded supplies. Droughts (apparently) increased in frequency in the 21st century, which exacerbated a problem of water distribution, storage, and long-term planning (Figure 3). The largest withdrawals of water in Alabama are for power production, both thermal and hydroelectric. If flows are reduced below a threshold, power

production will be forced to cease at thermoelectric (nuclear or coal-fired) facilities. Hydroelectric facilities have reduced capacities as head (the distance that water falls to spin turbines) is lost, and will cease operations altogether if reservoir levels drop to or below conservation pool levels. Inexpensive power is a main economic driver in Alabama, making stream-flow maintenance an irresistible force. The only control that Alabama has on the water flowing out of Georgia is the injunction against any new diversions until the lawsuit is finally settled. Historically, the ACT basin has had consistently high stream flows coupled with a series of reservoirs that are normally full. The drought 27 of 2006-2007 reduced flows in several rivers to the point that power production was curtailed. Reservoir levels were dropped to the point that power generating capacities were diminished, as well. The situation looked desperate, and then it rained. Which points out another immovable object in Alabama: complacency. Our water policy assumes that water is an inexhaustible resource, assumes that the “reasonable use” clause in the Riparian Rights Doctrine will prevent withdrawals in neighboring states, and assumes that if it is dry this year, we can just wait because next year will be wetter than normal.

Proactive water management becomes paramount during times of scarcity. Water usually does not become scarce overnight. One of the most insidious aspects of a drought is that it sneaks up on us.

We welcome the first clear day after a rainy spell. Rainless days continue for a time and we are pleased to have a long dry spell of such fine weather. It keeps on and we are a little worried.

A few days more and we are really in trouble. The first rainless day in a spell of fine weather contributes as much to the drought as the last, but, no one knows how serious it will be until the last dry day is gone and the rains have come again. (Tannehill, 1947) Alabama initiated the lawsuit reactively, following the path outlined by the Riparian Rights Doctrine.

Stakeholders and What Is at Stake One of the keystones of the Eastern Water Doctrine is that riparian landowners (the only ones who can legally use water) use water reasonably and, like reasonable people ought, can mutually agree to reduce demands on water during times of scarcity. Those who have the most at stake are the ones who are to decide how to share the resource. A diverse group of people in the Chattahoochee and Flint drainages started an organization called the ACF Stakeholders.


Photo by Donn Rodekohr

Drought swimming hole.

…Incorporated as a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization in September 2009, ACF Stakeholders, Inc. (ACFS) is a diverse group representing sectors in all three states—working together for the first time to achieve a common goal. ACFS’s mission is to achieve equitable water-

sharing solutions among stakeholders that balance economic, ecological, and social values, while ensuring sustainability for current and future generations. After developing a strong organizational infrastructure and completing a forward-thinking strategic planning process, ACFS is now ready to move forward with the critical next steps, centered around developing a Sustainable Water Management Plan for the Basin. Through scientific modeling and a shared vision process, ACFS will work to achieve a sustainable solution that works for everyone in the ACF Basin. (ACFS, 2009) Stakeholders could include people from a range of interests, including those in water supply and quality; hydro and thermal power; farm and urban agriculture industry, manufacturing, and business; recreational, historical, and cultural arenas; local government; navigation; and environmental and conservation efforts. Representatives of Auburn University, namely Elise Irwin, Sam Fowler, and Donn Rodekohr, along with representatives from the University of Georgia and Florida State University, served as advisors to the ACFS Executive Committee. The three universities signed agreements to form The University Collaborative (TUC) so that the ACFS board, eager

for cooperative projects with the states’ universities, would have a mechanism with which to work. TUC will identify and evaluate institutional models that would allow for effective multi-state planning and management of the ACF basin. The ACFS is a grassroots organization. As such, it has no authority to enable any recommendations, only the political weight of numbers. Judge Magnusun’s 2009 ruling that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers erred when it determined that it could store and release water in Lake Lanier for the purpose of municipal water supply for Atlanta or any other downstream city meant that Georgia had to make (reactive) water-management decisions to ensure sufficient flows would reach the Apalachicola River. Sufficient flow was defined as 5,000 cubic feet per second (cfs) released from Woodruff Reservoir. The ACFS was in a position to broker water-sharing decisions. Then the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling overturned the Magnusun decision and essentially gave “Total Victory to Georgia” (WSB, 2011). In the ruling, the court panel said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which operates Lake Lanier and Buford Dam, has the final decision on how much water metro Atlanta may draw. It also stated that water supply is one of several permissible uses of the reservoir. The Circuit Court’s ruling allows Georgia to manage

and use water as she sees fit with few or no obligations to her downstream neighbors. The role of the ACFS is greatly diminished under this scenario, relegating the ACFS to public comments on the Corps of Engineers release plans. Does the Tri-State Water War have a winner? Not yet. Undoubtedly, the states of Alabama and Florida will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. Even then there may not be a resolution to the issue of having a “water-sharing plan” that works among the three states. What we have learned is that Sir Isaac Newton had it right: Every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. A corollary to Newton’s Third Law would be Water’s First Law of Allocation: Every water use has an equal and opposite water demand. Every water war through history has been spawned by this law. The Tri-State War is no exception. Every time Atlanta added a new industry that used water, there surfaced a downstream demand for that water. Every time a new irrigation system was installed and water was consumed by crops in the Flint basin, some mussels and oysters were left demanding that water remain in the stream. Sometimes water demands are voiced by stakeholders from private industry, while at other times water demands are voiced by entities representing the


voiceless flora and fauna impacted by changes in water quantity and quality. Every water right produces an equal and opposite water wrong. Every water user assumes a right to use water. After all, water is essential for life as we know it. The Eastern Water Doctrine does not recognize a water right per se, but ties access to water to owning land adjoining water. Therefore, when a landowner exercises his “right” to use the water, someone who does not adjoin a body of water is “wronged.” Under the Western Water Doctrine of prior appropriation, a water right is a legal document that grants the holder legal use of water as long as certain conditions are met. If those conditions are not met, 30 the water right becomes a water non-right (water wrong?) and the person executing that water right must cease and desist. The most prevalent reason for issuing a cease-and-desist order is to reduce withdrawals from the newest (junior) users so that older (senior) users have enough water to perfect their right. The adage “first in time is first in right” was coined to describe Western water rights. When someone acquires a water right, he does so with the full knowledge of the circumstances that can cause him to receive a cease-and-desist order. The recipient of the order may consider this a water wrong, but it is in fact a very effective water-management tool.

Who’s on First? Florida has the tool of a water right; Georgia and Alabama do not. Florida has the ability to allocate water not only to individual users but also to a specific use. Georgia and Alabama cannot allocate water to anyone for any use. Florida, using water rights as a tool (among other tools), has written long-term management plans for the waters of the state. Georgia has written a water plan but is finding it very difficult to implement because water use is governed by reasonable use, not a water right. Alabama does not have a water plan. Florida is first with a plan and first with a means of executing the plan. The outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision will have little bearing on Florida’s water plan, only that it may have to find another way of suing Georgia to maintain flows in the Apalachicola.

What’s the Name of the Guy on Second? Georgia is second with a plan, but the state does not have an effective means of executing the plan. In the 1990s and mid-2000s, Georgia went through several iterations revamping groundwater pumping rules. The rules changed from:

 No restrictions  To requiring meters, with no withdrawal restrictions  To requiring meters, potential restrictions in drought years  To requiring meters, annual permission  Some new wells not permitted Surface water rules were unchanged, meaning that the concept of reasonable use by landowners was unchallenged. Georgia has no means of restricting surface water withdrawals, and groundwater withdrawals can only be restricted on wells permitted after the third iteration of groundwater rules. It is relying on water-conservation measures applied by municipal, industrial, and agricultural users to consume less water, thus allowing more water to stay within the Chattahoochee River. Georgia is also pursuing moving the boundary between Georgia and Tennessee one mile north. Georgia contends that the original surveyor made an error, placing the boundary markers in their current location. Moving the boundary marker one mile north would give Georgia riparian access to the Tennessee River. If the Supreme Court upholds the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling giving Georgia “total victory” in the water war and approves moving the boundary to include a portion

(or even a hint of starting one) and has not examined the possibility of managing water. Alabama, it seems, has chosen to allow the courts to make decisions for it. Alabama has experienced several severe droughts that have caused significant economic loss. Some municipalities have had to implement water-conservation measures, restricting landscape irrigation, for instance, in order to prolong their water supply. Counties bordering the Tennessee River have passed legislation that prohibits transfer of water from the Tennessee basin, legislation that has no bearing across state boundaries. Water can be a hot topic, but as soon as it rains, the heat dis31 sipates and life goes back to normal. Fig. 4. The minimum discharges from Woodruff Dam at the junction where the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers form the Apalachicola.

of the Tennessee River as part of Georgia, there

I Don’t Know Is on Third…

is nothing except topography and acquiring the

Florida has a fully appropriated water system with a prior appropriation (Western) water policy and it has a plan. Georgia is trending towards a western policy on groundwater and it, too, has a Plan. Alabama, the original instigator of the lawsuit, is the only state of the three that has no plan

necessary interstate right of way to prevent Georgia from using Tennessee River water to supply water demands in Atlanta and associated environs. Who is on second? Georgia. Tenaciously claiming the second court rulings.

Unanswered Questions Is there enough water to support all its uses in the Apalachicola–Chattahoochee–Flint basin? Figure 4 shows the minimum discharges from Woodruff Dam at the junction where the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers form the Apalachicola. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that a minimum of 5,000 cfs is required to support the oyster industry (highlighted area). The dashed line describes the trend of

the minimum flows since 1958. This curve is much steeper than the curve describing the decrease in rainfall in Georgia in the same period. One could interpret that increased frequency of releases less than 5,000 cfs may be related to increased frequency of droughts and/or increased water consumption within the ACF basin. A “total victory” for Georgia will not add any water to the flows of the Apalachicola. However, neither will a “total victory” for Alabama. A victory for Alabama could only put more flows in the Apalachicola if Alabama would force the other two states into negotiating a water-allocation plan ensuring that 5,000 cfs be released from Woodruff. 32 Alabama cannot abide by that allocation since neither Alabama nor Georgia has a means of allocating surface water flows. Catch-22. Is there enough water to support all the uses in the ACT? Under the current levels of water use, probably there is more than enough water in Alabama. There are scenarios in which that could change, however. If Georgia is awarded victory, then the most probable scenario would be diminished flows coming into Alabama from Georgia. The effect would be restricted growth in Alabama and a negative impact on water quality. As long as Alabama refuses to address issues regarding water management, the

state will have no recourse but to accept what Georgia chooses to release. What can Auburn University do to answer water questions in the Tri-State conflict? Dr. Elise Irwin teaches a graduate class each fall in cooperation with the University of Georgia and Florida State University. In this class the students are challenged to examine the Tri-State Water War from the perspective of multiple stakeholders. This class provides a foundation of understanding the planning and management of river basins as a system from a biological/ecological, hydrological, and geo-political basis. Special emphasis is focused on the planning and management of trans-boundary basins (interstate and among countries). The class is focused on river basins throughout the world and has a special emphasis on ongoing management issues in the ACF basin. The class is designed to introduce students to technical tools and concepts that help us understand and manage river basins from a system-wide context, including negotiation and math simulation tools. The students are tasked with developing a solution to the water-allocation issue by balancing flows, withdrawals, water quality, and demands. Auburn continues its membership in TUC and is a participant with the ACF Stakeholders group.

We are in a position to help evaluate the effectiveness and the impacts of water-management plans put forward by the State of Georgia, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the states of Florida and Alabama. Dr. Eve Brantley, working in conjunction with stakeholders in the Mill Creek watershed of Lee and Russell counties, is drafting a watershedmanagement plan. Mill Creek flows from Smiths Station through Phenix City, where it is tributary to the Chattahoochee River. The watershed-management plan has the primary goal of improving water quality but will have the impact of stabilizing flows throughout the length of the creek. Stable, high-quality water flows from even a single watershed in Alabama would be a major contribution to flow management in the ACF basin. Dr. Brantley is looking for stakeholder groups in other Alabama watersheds in the ACF basin to expand the program. There is hope. Auburn University, as land-grant university, has a strong record of water instruction, research, and extension. Whether it is local, basin, state, regional, national, or international in scale there are numerous Auburn-led programs, projects, and people working toward science-based water plans and policy. We all have a say in this future path for Alabama water resources.




istorically, water management in the Southeast has been nonexistent...predicated on the assumption that water is nearly an infinite resource.



Beyond the Pit

(of Democracy) By Daniel Ballard

The Reclamation and Emergence of a Post-Mined Landscape


n his essay “The Tragedy of the Commons,” Garret Hardin provides an apocalyptic prophecy for planet earth. He refers to two categories of resources as “the commons”: renewable resources, such as trees, and finite resources such as water. Hardin foretells the end of civilization because of the depletion of resources necessary for the continued existence of humankind, arguing that technological innovations are merely prolonging the inevitable. There will never be a “technical solution,” he says, to deter us from our fate, because relying on finite resource management is futile. He does not explain, however, how we can change without being forced to change, or how to encourage an outcome that won’t “bring ruin to all.” The idea that some problems have no technical solution is contrary to the contemporary model of land development, in which trillions of dollars are spent each year to increase precision, efficiency, and technique. Mining operations are arguably at

the forefront of this race, utilizing everything from ground-penetrating radar to modern excavators that can displace 12,000 cubic meters of material every hour. So how do we begin to explore nontechnical solutions to a resource management complex so synonymous with technological prowess? Better yet, how do we reshape social and cultural perspectives about finite resource management so we may avoid Hardin’s apocalyptic prediction? It is imperative to human civilization that these questions be answered.

One way to change social and cultural perspectives, and encourage an outcome that won’t bring destruction to all, is to utilize a democratic process. Since the 1960s, “participatory design” has tried to involve stakeholders in decision-making to ensure their needs are met and solutions are usable. This theoretical project goes a step further, exploring how participatory design could be expanded to become a democratic process. The process could be used to address the problem of reclaiming an open-pit aggregate mine in such a way as to change

Fig. 1. West to east panarama of Martin Marietta Aggregate Quarry.


people’s understanding of finite resource management. In participatory design, stakeholders typically are pulled together for a specific design process or a single project. They might come up with good ideas, but the process ends when the project ends. A true democratic process would go beyond token gestures of participation, not just gathering feedback but encouraging further participation.

The Pit: Martin Marietta Quarry Fig. 2. Karst detail.


Fig. 3. New karst section.

The setting for this theoretical exercise is an open-pit, hard-rock surface mine operated by Martin Marietta Materials, Inc. right on the edge of Auburn, a medium-sized, rapidly growing city in Lee County, Alabama. Because the quarry is just 4.5 miles south of Auburn—on the edge of Chewacla State Park—it is very much in the public’s awareness and could be an ideal candidate for a future reclamation project utilizing a democratic process. Martin Marietta currently operates the quarry under a mineral lease from three landowners, collectively forming an approximately 482-acre property (Figure 1). The property is surrounded by mostly mixed hardwood and coniferous forest, with the exception of two agricultural fields abutting the southernmost boundary. Chewacla Creek, a large fifth- to sixth-order perennial

in what is known as “karst topography,� because the acidic liquid eats away at the bedrock, causing sinkholes (Figure 2). Local environmental groups have expressed concerns over the potential of mining activities to accelerate these formations around Chewacla Creek. They also argue that considerable loss of baseflows occurs, resulting in loss of suitable habitat for critically impaired freshwater mussel species. To minimize loss of habitat, Martin Marietta, the City of Auburn, and several surrounding property owners entered a Safe Harbor Agreement in 2003, requiring independent conservation measures to maintain a two million gallon-per-day average baseflow in Chewacla 37 Creek. Martin Marietta is also required to repair sinkholes that occur in Chewacla Creek or within ten feet of its banks.

Reclamation and Design: A Theory

Fig. 4. Stage water storage curve.

stream, forms the northern property boundary and flows generally east to west. Chewacla Creek also forms the boundary between the quarry and the 696-acre park designed and built by the Civilian Conservation Corp between 1935 and 1939. Chewacla marble is quarried at this site. The fine-grained, dolomitic marble is formed

mostly of calcium carbonate minerals that, like other limestone formations, are susceptible to dissolution when the rock comes into contact with acidic solutions. The quarry is located in the piedmont physiographic region, where many of the soils are slightly acidic, and, therefore, much of the surface and groundwater are also acidic, resulting

The very existence of a mining operation presumes that the value of the minerals below the surface is more important than the value of the pre-mined landscape. The landscape is removed, not just transformed, with the actively mined area reduced to an open pit. A cavernous hole in the earth remains, surrounded by rolling hills of soil strippings and mine tailings. What potential


Fig. 5. Stream engagement.

value does a landscape offer when that landscape has already been so reduced, so degraded, and so devalued for all other purposes? The answer lies, perhaps, in the very “nothingness” that exists, which equals unbounded opportunity. The designer is freed of preconceived expectations (internal and external) about what the landscape should be, in terms of both form and function. Such a site may then serve as an “incubator for design research” that pushes the envelope of how we perceive the landscape and what value it may sustain. Interest in both “participatory design” and mine reclamation emerged during the 1960s and 1970s. Unlike restoration, reclamation gives no hierarchical importance to what “was” in the history of the preexisting landform, and very little attempt is made to return the landscape to its former condition. Case study analysis provides evidence of endless strategies for utilizing mine sites, including turning them into nature preserves; water supply reservoirs; hiking, biking, and equestrian paths; gardens; research facilities; and sites for scuba diving, boating, and industrial development. Each solution, however, presumes a relatively static design process in which stakeholder engagement ends too soon. “Mine reclamation” implies that once plans for a quarry are completed,

the process is finished. The site will not change. There is an endless array of potential post-mine uses for the Auburn quarry, but the realization of the site’s capacity to support them may only be found by initiating an ongoing, democratic, stakeholder process that allows the possibility for something completely new. Involvement in such a process will allow each stakeholder an opportunity to re-imagine how we view finite resource management, the landscapes they create, and the ways in which we value them. These new understandings of value could translate to positive changes in lifestyle habits. Utilizing the democratic process will help the public understand the nature of finite resource management, and help stakeholders find common objectives. Objectives may, in fact, conflict on a number of levels, and a democratic process will help stakeholders with widely varying interests come together to re-imagine the reclamation process. The process will be an ongoing and collaborative process in which open discourse and feedback are valued. A democratic, continuing process could use persistent engagement, 3-D visualizations, and strategic partnerships to address a host of problems, including tensions between industry and environmentalists. Drawings such as those shown

in Figures 3 through 6 could help stakeholders visualize possibilities. Scientists and designers will have ample opportunity to address the obstacles to combining mine reclamation with a democratic process. The demand for mined materials is greater today than it has ever been. Actively mined sites will grow more numerous, and so will the need for reclamation. At the same time, our urban areas will continue to expand outwardly toward once-isolated mining sites. Society, scientists, and designers will have to decide what to do with these sites when we no longer can hide them. Existing Roads

Proposed Standards



Fig. 6. Haul road alternatives.

Current Water Issues 40

By John Koehler

The Road to Privatization


he issue of water scarcity is one that hardly ever enters the minds of Americans. Growing up in South Florida during the hot summers, on numerous occasions our community was directed to limit our usage of water for irrigation. We were told to water our lawns only once a week so as to maintain the water supply for more essential needs. Most communities, including Auburn, have similar protocols in place in preparation for a water shortage. The city of Auburn uses around 6 million gallons of water per day. However, without water conservation protocols that number could be as high as 11.6 million gallons per day. Furthermore, the city has an agreement with Opelika Utilities that allows it to purchase up to 3.6 million gallons per day if necessary. It seems that the city of Auburn, except in unusual circumstances, is capable of supplying its citizens with high-quality and affordable water under the Water Resource Management Department. Not every community,

however, is so fortunate, and we are not immune to water quality concerns in Alabama. Estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that 1.1 billion people lack access to suitable drinking water. Lacking clean water accounts for roughly 1.6 million deaths per year, 90 percent of which are children under the age of five, and numerous intestinal and infectious diseases are estimated to be contracted by a number of people

in the hundreds of millions. The issue of water contamination is not one which we should assign to far away lands of developing nations. The waterways of Alabama are among the top ten states in the United States that are high in toxic chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental disorders. While we need more regulation on corporate waste disposal in our lakes and rivers, 41 developing and rural areas need pipelines to bring


water within half a mile, and purification systems to reduce contaminants. While our lakes and rivers may be contaminated, our drinking water is surely safe. Many people insist that the inclusion of fluoride in tap water is an added benefit, and, indeed, the inclusion has been declared by the Centers for Disease Control as one of the top ten public health achievements of the 20th century. However, other agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), have warned that excessive fluoride could cause bone disease, among other problems. Controversy over the use of tap water prompts many people to use home filtration methods or drinking bottled water instead. Although extremely rare, virus outbreaks have occurred in bottled water with some bottles being contaminated at the water site, and others during the bottling process, shipping, or storage. Over the past several years, bottled water sales have increased greatly in developing countries where the public water is so polluted that some people do not even use it to take baths. This highlights two problems: public water management and supply and the environmental impact of the increasing use of bottled water. According to the EPA, over 1,125,000,000 pints of bottled water were sold in the U.S. with an estimation that less than 15 percent of the plastic

bottles were recycled. Several national parks, including the Grand Canyon National Park, have banned the sale of bottled water within the park and have installed stations where patrons can refill their reusable bottles. Similar initiatives have been taken on college campuses, including Auburn University, where “Weagle Water� is a welcome success. Most recently, Iowa State is considering banning the sale of bottled water on campus after earning over $200,000 in revenue in 2011 from these sales alone. There is certainly a price to pay for eliminating the sale of water, but, environmental benefits aside, should businesses profit so much off of commodity so necessary and widely available for free (not taking tax dollars into account, of course)? While bottled water has become a commodity in the U.S., most people still view water as a stateprovided public good. Reduced or non-existent public financing in many developing countries and rural areas has allowed the argument for private investment to prevail. One of the most controversial issues today is that of water management. Most commonly the issue is described as a conflict between privatization and public ownership, but the issue is much more complicated than this. Two important distinctions to make are between water supply systems and water resources, as well as

between ownership and governance. Most of the literature on the subject focuses on management of water and sewer systems rather than the issue of marketing water resources in the form of bottled water. As for the distinction between ownership and governance, most privatizing of water facilities are partnerships where the private company may or may not own the facility and may just manage it. Private water management is not new, but it has seen a resurgence in the past two decades. Private water companies date back to the 17th century; in 1850, 60 percent of U.S. pipelines were privately owned. By 1924, only 30 percent of U.S. water

companies were private. Companies were known to abuse their monopolistic position and neglect service quality, which caused the naturalization of most water utilities worldwide. The emergence of the conservative movement of the 1980s initiated the expansion of privatization we see today. Spain and France pioneered partnerships where private companies managed publicly owned utilities. The reasons for alternative methods of water supply are certainly valid. One researcher notes that there is an urban water supply crisis that is socio-economic and ecological in nature. Pollution, over-exploitation, and poor governance have made water scarce in some areas. The researcher also suggests that the issue is one of distribution rather than availability. We are not running out of water; we merely need to improve purification and transportation. It is no surprise that many believe the private sector is the key to solving this dilemma. Others voice concern about increased prices, the lack of accountability, and the loss of democratic and cultural values tied with water management. Elinor Ostrom notes that “examples exist of both successful and unsuccessful efforts to govern and manage common-pool resources by governments, communal groups, cooperatives, voluntary associations, and private individuals or firms.” The issue as to whether or not to privatize any aspect of water

supply is a decision unique to each community, and the appropriateness of the decision will vary depending upon the context of the situation. The public–private distinction is misleading. While there are cases of full concessions to private companies, this is more common in Europe than the U.S., where most privatizing is in the form of public–private partnerships (PPPs). There are numerous types of PPPs consisting of any number or combination of the following duties for a facility: design, building, financing, operation and maintenance. The arguments for privatization have been based on concern for those communities where the state is incapable of funding efficient water utili43 ties. Most commonly, supporters cite developing nations where there is absolutely no state funding whatsoever. The argument that private investment is the most viable option for developing areas is difficult to dispute but there are ethical concerns about full concessions and studies show that while some private ventures have been helpful, many projects have not improved to acceptable levels and privatization is not a permanent solution to our problems. Concerns with privatization include arguments by indigenous cultures who claim water rights based on their identification with their water

supply. Water may be tied with a culture’s myths, customs, and rituals. Many cultures, some of which survive in developing areas that we seek to help, discourage the sale of water. Buying and selling water is seen as a violation of religious principles in some cultures. For these communities, a community effort is needed to construct sanitary methods of water distribution, an effort which non-governmental organizations (NGOs), not private interests, could help with. Though it is true that undeveloped areas do need investment while financing from outside governments and NGOs is very limited, these undeveloped areas are the same areas where governments are unable 44 to monitor these investments and mandates. A third concern with privatization is the desire of businesses to attain profits. Supporters of privatization attempt to reduce fears of corporate takeover by noting that water management is not very profitable. Free-market theory requires competition to lower costs and profit as an incentive for businesses to maintain good service. If privatization of utilities is unprofitable, companies have no incentive to do well and have more reason to cut costs and reduce the quality of the product. Under the right circumstances, however, private interests are beneficial to consumers, particularly when they encourage better service from the

public sector. The mere presence of private interests encourages the entire sector to perform at higher levels. Some public utilities have improved by implementing commercial management principles while emphasizing financial viability, accountability, and customer service. Many of the large concessions in developing areas have failed to provide the target amount of investment agreed upon in their contracts. Studies show that the concessions that more closely reached their target investments are those where private and public financing were complemented. There is concern that private interests will not serve poorer areas where there is no incentive of profit in doing business. Partnerships are essential where both the public and private sectors contribute something and monitor each other. It is difficult, if not impossible, to take this position considering failed governments. NGOs and supranational organizations are helpful but limited options in these difficult circumstances. A study conducted by World Bank used expanded access, quality of service, operational efficiency, and tariff levels as variables in analyzing the performance of privately managed water companies in the developing world. While operational efficiency has been the most consistent success for these companies, there were mixed

signs of success within each category. It is clear that private concessions are not always the right solution. While the World Bank suggests that PPPs are a viable option for developing countries, these findings should not be generalized to the developed world, where focus has been turning towards attracting private financing rather than on efficient and quality service. The lesson to be learned is that there is no universal solution to the public–private debate. Some public–private partnerships have been successful, while others have not, and the debate over privatization has been clouded by ideology. Objective studies have shown that private partnerships could be beneficial to many communities. If the option of drawing private interests into a community’s water utilities should arise, the question to be asked is not about the appropriateness of having private interests, but what role private companies should play. Communities should be involved as much as possible because, economics and performance aside, water is a communal resource undeniably essential to life and identity. The focus, as with any public good, must be on quality and efficiency while maintaining concern for the meaning of the service.




labama is among the top ten states whose waterways are high in toxic chemicals that cause cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental disorders.



By Ming-Kuo Lee, James Saunders, and Ashraf Uddin


Arsenic Contamination in Groundwater Threatens the Health of Millions of People Worldwide


n the last few decades, pollution of major rivers throughout the world, principally by human and livestock wastes, has led people to increasingly use shallow groundwater in river floodplain sediments. This shift to groundwater has occurred particularly in such developing nations as Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Pakistan, where large numbers of people, especially children, are dying from diarrhea and other waterborne diseases. As a result, shallow (less than about seventy meters deep) groundwater wells, known as tube wells, have been hand-drilled and exploited for drinking water by millions of people. Unfortunately, high arsenic (As) concentrations from naturally occurring sources are often present in the groundwater of alluvial aquifers. In Bangladesh alone, about 27 percent of tested tube wells contain greater than 0.05 ppm (parts per million) of arsenic in their water (Figure 1). The result is a major public health crisis, with an estimated 35 to 77 million inhabitants possibly

at risk of arsenic poisoning. Coordinated efforts are urgently needed to find safe and sustainable water resources for millions of people. Our work has focused on the sources, mobility, and treatment of arsenic in some of the worst-affected groundwaters in Bangladesh, West Bengal, and Taiwan.

Where Does Arsenic Come From?

Fig. 1. Simplified geologic map of Bangladesh and surrounding areas. Solid dots show groundwater arsenic levels in more than 3,000 tube wells tested by the National Hydrochemical Survey.

Arsenic is a common metal contaminant found in soils and groundwaters from both natural and anthropogenic (human) sources. However, widespread geologic “nonpoint� sources of arsenic represent a greater threat to water quality worldwide. For example, arsenic is a common constituent in a variety of metallic sulfide ores, coal deposits, and metamorphic/igneous rocks. Although these arsenic sources lead to contamination of groundwater at the local scale, it is the shallow alluvial aquifer setting that is currently exposing tens of millions of people to high levels of arsenic in groundwater.


and ultimately ends up in alluvial sediments. While the exact mechanism by which arsenic is transferred from hosting alluvial sediments into groundwater (a process known as mobilization) is not yet fully understood, the general consensus among scientists is that the bacterial reduction of arsenic-absorbing oxides in alluvial sediments plays an important role.

Arsenic and Human Health


Geology graduate student Mohammad Huq investigates groundwater arsenic contamination in an affected alluvial floodplain in Bangladesh.

Our research group has documented a number of tectonically active settings around the world where weathering of arsenic-rich minerals associated with mountain belts and/or glacial deposits serve as the primary source of arsenic. Arsenic released from chemical weathering is absorbed by hydrous iron oxides transported by surface streams

Arsenic has various health effects on human, including skin pigmentation changes on the upper chest, arms, legs, palms, and soles of the feet. The first cases of arsenic-induced skin lesions were reported in 1983 in Calcutta, India, forty years after the first tube well appeared in the region. Similar diseases have also been reported in Taiwan, Chile, and Mexico. One of the most extensively studied manifestations of arsenic intoxication is known as Blackfoot Disease (BFD). The disease, endemic in southwest Taiwan in the 1960s, is characterized by its most striking clinical presentation during the late stage—black discoloration caused by gangrenous changes in the extremities, mostly in the feet. BFD patients often suffer pain, numbness, tingling, infection, and cyanosis of the affected limb. The progression of BFD makes surgical amputation of part or all of the affected limb necessary to relieve

Graduate student Mohammad Shamsudduha calculates findings in the field.

pain and ensure survival. In addition, increased risk of diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular diseases are often observed among people consuming arsenic-contaminated water in Bangladesh, Taiwan, Argentina, Chile, and the United States. Reports linking arsenic-contaminated drinking water to human cancer began to appear more than a century ago. Recent studies show that one in ten people who have had decades of exposure to drinking water containing more than 0.5 ppm of arsenic may ultimately die from skin, lung, bladder, kidney, liver, and probably colon and prostate cancers. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) used data gathered from BFD-affected areas as the basis of assessing cancer risk for arsenic.

In particular, the EPA used the data to adjust the enforceable maximum contaminant level (MCL) from 0.05 to 0.01 ppm for arsenic. Beginning in January 2006, all public water supply systems in the U.S. had to comply with the new standard to protect consumers from long-term, chronic exposure to arsenic.

Public Awareness Scientists who collect field data and investigate the sources and distribution of arsenic in groundwater aquifers are profoundly aware of its dangers. Local villagers, however, are primarily concerned about accessing safe drinking water. Awareness of the life-threatening dangers of long-term arsenic exposure is still very low in countries such as Bangladesh, where large numbers of people continue to consume water from contaminated tube wells. In fact, millions of tube wells in Bangladesh, especially in rural areas, have yet to be tested for arsenic. Coordinated efforts to develop and implement reliable field water-testing methods would help identify arsenic hotspots. Distributing field-testing kits that can detect concentrations of 0.05 ppm (Bangladesh’s national drinking water standard) or more would provide timely warning and prompt action to reduce exposure or find

alternative water sources. Once the hotspots are identified, informing local inhabitants is crucial and might extend to encouraging owners of arsenicfree wells to share their safe water. However, even though many arsenic-free wells have been painted green to signal their safety, villagers may be reluctant to use these clean wells for logistical reasons; many must often travel long distances to reach these wells. Alternatively, a cost-effective, short-term water treatment with chemical packets or filtration systems could be implemented in hotspots where safe water sources are not available.

Treatment of Arsenic-Rich Groundwater There is only one real solution to this crisis: Provide clean, arsenic-free water for local villagers. In fact, a variety of treatment methods have been used for removing arsenic in water, including conventional co-precipitation using iron coagulants, adsorption by iron oxide, filtration using ion exchange resins, activated alumina, membrane filtration, and biological treatment (bioremediation). However, the effectiveness of any method depends on its costs and the chemical conditions of the water in question. The coagulation/filtration systems can be clogged easily when solids aggregate in the open

flow channel and require safe disposal of toxic arsenic sludge in the environment. Iron oxide with a positive surface charge has a high capacity to bind, or adsorb, negative-charged anions of arsenic (e.g., H2AsO4- , AsO43-), or arsenate, in water. The sorbent or extractant will react with arsenic in solution to produce sludge or spent sorbents. Again, disposing of the toxic sludge is a problem. In fact, most ion exchange, adsorption, and membrane filter systems are only effective in removing the anionic forms of arsenic, but not its neutral species, arsenite. Arsenite—arsenic in its neutral form (e.g., H3AsO3)—is known to be more toxic and mobile than arsenate species; however, it passes through 49 the ion exchange column or iron oxide medium untreated. Finally, most traditional chemical treatment methods that employ costly “pump and treat” approaches are generally too expensive for most villagers.

Field Bioremediation Experiments: Lessons Learned Luckily, effective, inexpensive alternatives are being explored. One method involves the injection of aerated water or oxygen into an affected aquifer to create an oxidation zone where iron oxides are formed to sorb arsenic. The injected, aerated

water may be amended with nutrients to boost the activity of the natural arsenic-oxidizing bacteria, which also oxidizes toxic arsenite to the less toxic form of arsenate. No sludge disposal is needed for this treatment because arsenic-sorbed oxides are deposited and rendered in the subsurface; however, long-term monitoring and maintaining of the oxidation zone is required. Natural microbes may provide more cost-effective solutions for remediating metal contaminants in groundwater than current chemical treatment methods. Arsenic dissolved in groundwater may also be removed by its adsorption on the surface of sulfide solids (particularly Fe-sulfides) formed 50 by sulfate-reducing bacteria (SRB). This approach requires “engineering” natural SRB to make appropriate “biominerals” of Fe-sulfide with high-surface areas for arsenic adsorption. We have conducted field bioremediation pilot experiments in both the United States and Bangladesh to investigate various in situ bioremediation methods. The first experiment was conducted at an industrial site in Oklahoma, where shallow oxidizing groundwater is contaminated by cadmium (Cd), zinc (Zn), and other metals from an old zinc smelter (see Figure 2). Natural SRB were stimulated to remediate metals-contaminated groundwater. A mixture of methanol (84 mg/L)

Fig. 2. Location map for the pilot bioremediation demonstration project at Blackwell, Oklahoma. The project is located at the site of an old zinc smelter.

and sucrose (108 mg/L) were pumped into injection well PTIW-2 (Figure 3) at a rate of 114 L/ min for two days in the approximate center of the contaminated groundwater plume. Seven multiport monitoring wells were installed to intercept the plume of amended groundwater along the flow path. Water samples were collected from the monitoring wells for approximately six months after injection and analyzed for Cd, Zn, Fe, As, and sulfate. The results show that Cd and Zn decreased dramatically as a consequence of biogenic sulfate reduction. Once biogenic sulfate reduction began, concentrations of dissolved As and Fe also dropped,

due to the formation of Fe-sulfides. Concentrations of dissolved metals (Cd, Zn, Fe, and As) remained very low, provided that Fe-sulfides continued to adsorb these trace metals. The field injection experiment in Bangladesh was conducted in the Manikganj area where alluvial aquifers contain dissolved arsenic concentrations up to 200 µg/L (Figure 3). A tube well that yielded the highest arsenic concentration in the area was selected for the bioremediation experiment. The well was amended with approximately ~11 kg of molasses and a source of sulfate (4 kg of Epsom’s salt, MgSO4•7H2O) to stimulate sulfate reducing

Fig. 3. Map showing tube well locations sampled in the Manikganj district of Bangladesh and their relative dissolved arsenic concentrations. The location of our injection well (IW-2) for the Bangladesh bioremediation experiment is also shown.

Fig. 4. Scanning Electron Microscope image of framboidal pyrite formed by sulfate-reducing bacteria. Framboidal texture with uniformly sized microcrystal aggregates has a high capacity for adsorbing arsenic and other toxic metals.

bacteria. Groundwater was sampled periodically over the next six months for chemical analyses. The Bangladesh experiment yielded results very similar to the Oklahoma remediation; concentrations of arsenic decreased dramatically approximately five months after injection, as it was microbiologically immobilized from groundwater by sulfate-reducing bacteria (see Figure 4). Although field experiments indicate that dissolved arsenic concentrations can be effectively

lowered by sulfate reducers at low cost, this in situ treatment will work only when the sulfatereducing condition is maintained over time and Fe-sulfide biominerals continue to remove dissolved arsenic by sorption. Long-term monitoring of treated wells should be done to evaluate whether the microbial process remains effective. Dissolved arsenic levels should remain low, provided that sulfate-reducing conditions can be maintained by amending groundwater with appropriate organic carbon and sulfate. The risk of future re-oxidation and re-mobilization of arsenic requires a trained operator to monitor the aquifer conditions. Again, no toxic sludge disposal is needed for this in situ reduction treatment.

Emergency Response and Mitigation Arsenic contamination and its tragic human health consequences in many countries demand the need for testing toxic metals for all groundwater sources used for drinking water. The magnitude of the arsenic public health crisis has expedited a rapid response from the United Nations, local governments, and various scientific communities. However, the overall progress has been slow so far. Simple, cost-effective, and reliable field testing is urgently needed to identify the worst-affected zones among millions of well sites.

High-risk populations with long-term exposure should be examined and screened for medical treatment if needed. Education and intervention efforts should also reach out to younger populations who have relatively short histories of exposure, since those who do not have signs of illness may not be easily convinced about long-term health impacts of consuming the clear-looking well water. Solving the arsenic crisis requires the participation of a number of disciplinary sciences and needs innovative community-based education and intervention to reduce exposure. Delay would be a mistake; many high-risk populations simply cannot wait for the results of advanced 51 scientific research and the implementation of long-term health plans and policies. Future mitigation efforts should focus on reducing continuous exposure, implementing sustainable and cost-effective water treatment methods, providing alternative safe water sources, and delivering required medical/nutrient treatments to arseniccontaminated populations. In short, public education and intervention have to be co-developed among various stakeholders, including water consumers, local water authority, policymakers, and scientists, who can help identify contaminated areas and bridge the information gap.


Land Change: Implications for Human Health by Krisztian Magori and Graeme Lockaby


Urban streams and the areas around them, including stream banks and ponds, are important and valuable components of our cities. They offer beauty, recreational opportunities, and habitat for wildlife. Unfortunately, when land changes from a natural system to an urban environment— which we refer to as land-use land-cover (LULC) change—there can be detrimental consequences for streams in terms of both the complex ways in which they function (their hydrology) and their water quality. One of the most significant consequences is increased mosquito populations, which can lead to increased transmission of such diseases as West Nile virus (WNv). Between its introduction to North America, in 1999, and 2009, West Nile fever led to 16,161 West Nile fever and 11,439

West Nile neuroinvasive disease cases, both particularly dangerous for patients over fifty years of age. Culex pipiens and Culex quinquefasciatus are the most important carriers, or vectors, of WNv in eastern North America, and they prefer nutrient-rich and disturbed breeding sites, such as pools along urban streams. Previous studies that examined the link between urbanization and West Nile virus infection simply do not provide a clear picture of the factors affecting risk. In fact, they contribute to some controversy about, for instance, whether highly urbanized areas are more or less likely to have WNv infections than less urbanized areas. Furthermore, these studies are restricted in their scope and cannot be used to explain the reasons behind these associations. Working with Dr. Latif Kalin and others in the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, as well as researchers at the Georgia Department of Community Health, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the Centers for Disease Control, and Wayne C. Zipperer at the Southern Research Station of the USDA Forest Service, we aim to gather more and better data and resolve the apparent controversy. Using data on WNv-positive mosquitoes, horses, and dead birds, we will test the

hypothesis that decreasing urban tree cover in a watershed increases the risk of West Nile virus infection and that increased risk is associated with increased urbanization and degradation of water quality and unstable hydrology in urban streams. We will also test whether there is a critical threshold of impervious surfaces above which there is a disproportionate increase in WNv transmission levels. Initially, we will concentrate on the Columbus and Atlanta metropolitan areas in Georgia. Many of the prior studies on the effects of urbanization on WNv transmission risk relied on remotely sensed data, typically grouping all types of areas containing trees, such as gardens, parks, and forests, into one broad category. While all of these areas are characterized by the presence of a vegetation canopy, they may be very different in terms of understory, species composition, and spatial arrangements and, consequently, in their habitat suitability for the birds that are the main hosts of WNv. In order to provide a more detailed description of the potential for WNv transmission in different types of areas, we will collect data regarding specific descriptors of forest fragments around mosquito traps. We will also determine whether people protect themselves

against mosquito bites by using mosquito repellents or simply by having intact screen doors and air-conditioning. This means that we will place our research into a social context and incorporate population demographics into our analysis. In short, we believe that our project will help resolve the controversy regarding whether increased urbanization and subsequent loss of tree cover and degradation of urban streams leads to heightened WNv transmission. Urban planners and watershed managers need a tool to evaluate the level of current WNv transmission risk and the potential effects of further urbanization in a watershed, as well as options for mitigation. Our 53 study will provide such a tool, based on statistical and mathematical modeling, and educate the potential users in its use. Through our collaboration with numerous organizations, including the U.S. Forest Service and the Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, we will transfer the results of our project and its implications to urban foresters, extension specialists, and the general public. Finally, we will work together with Project Learning Tree and 4-H to develop and disseminate lesson plans and curricula to educate our children on this important topic.



By Man Zhang, Qiqi Liang, Ya n ya n G o n g, X i ao Z h ao, a n d Dongye Zhao

Hope for Contaminated Groundwater


hlorinated hydrocarbons are among the most widely detected contaminants in groundwater at thousands of waste sites throughout the United States. Among the most common chlorinated solvents present in groundwater are tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), and polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. PCE and TCE are organic solvents widely used in dry cleaning and metal rinsing. For decades, large amounts of spent PCE and TCE were discharged into the environment. As a result, high concentrations of PCE and TCE have been widely detected in areas adjacent to dry cleaners, automobile manufacturers or shops, asphalt processing plants, and military bases. For example, TCE has been found in at least 852 of the 1,430 National Priorities List (NPL) sites. PCBs are mixtures of various congeners with the general formula C12H10-xClx. PCBs were used in a variety of industrial applications, such as electrical transformers, paints, and plastics. More than 1.5 billion pounds of PCBs were manufactured in the

United States between 1927 and 1977, when the U.S. stopped manufacturing these chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that about half of the total domestically consumed PCBs found their way into the environment before the enactment of the Federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulations in 1976. As a result, PCBs have been found in at least 500 of the 1,598 the NPL sites. Exposure to chlorinated solvents can seriously impair human health. Ingestion or breathing in PCE or TCE can cause malfunction of the nerve system, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma, and even death. PCBs have been associated with acne-like skin diseases in adults, and neurobehavioral and immunological changes in children. PCBs are also known to cause cancer in animals. In addition, biogeochemical transformation of TCE and PCBs may lead to the production of highly toxic intermediate products such as vinyl chloride (VC) and dioxin, which are potent carcinogens. ut

$8,000 per American family) and take more than thirty years to clean up the nation’s contaminated groundwater. Locally, for example, contaminated groundwater in downtown Montgomery, Alabama, known as the Capitol City Plume, is believed to have contaminated groundwater throughout the downtown area. After seventeen months of investigation, the Alabama Department of Environmental 55 Management (ADEM) concluded that there are at least six groundwater plumes contaminated with PCE mixed with other contaminants, including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene (BTEX). Figure 1 shows the approximate location of the Capitol City Plume site. Cleanup of soil and groundwater contaminated with chlorinated solvents and toxic metals has been a major environmental challenge for decades. Costeffective in situ cleanup technology remains lacking. In fact, current clean up practices largely rely on such traditional remediation techniques such as pump and treat, excavation, and landfills, which are


Fig. 1. Approximate boundary (dashed line) of the Capitol City Plume site in Montgomery, Alabama. The arrow indicates groundwater flow direction, and MW refers to monitoring wells.

often inefficient, expensive, and may have severe environmental impacts. In addition, contaminant plumes located in deep groundwater aquifers or beneath communities are hardly accessible by the traditional clean-up technologies. To fill this technology gap, Auburn University researchers developed and patented an innovative nanotechnology that can considerably reduce the remediation costs. The technology is based on a new class of zero-valent iron (ZVI) nanoparticles synthesized by using a “green� and low-cost polysaccharide, known as carboxymethyl cellulose (CMC), as a dispersant or stabilizer. Figure 2 shows a schematic of this in situ cleanup technology that illustrates how stabilized ZVI nanoparticles are injected into the contaminated plumes underground to rapidly degrade the chlorinated solvent contaminants into innocuous hydrocarbons without any adverse environmental effects. Figure 3 compares conventional ZVI particles and AU’s CMC-stabilized nanoparticles. Because of the strong intermolecular van der Waals forces and magnetic interactions, the traditional iron particles aggregate into large (micron to mm scale) agglomerates that are not deliverable or mobile in soil due to the strong filtration effect, and are less reactive due to the reduced specific surface area. In contrast, the CMC-stabilized nanoparticles remain as discrete

nanoparticles that can be delivered through soil pores and are much more reactive due to their much greater specific surface area (~177 m2/g). The stabilized nanoparticles have been recognized by peers as “the most deliverable” and “the most reactive” nanoparticles for in situ remediation of groundwater. This technology has been field-tested at three U.S. sites in California, Utah, and Alabama, and has attracted interest worldwide. Figure 4 shows that the stabilized nanoparticles can degrade TCE about seventy-four times faster than the non-stabilized particles. Our transport studies of the nanoparticles in various porous media revealed that the transport distance of the stabilized nanoparticles can be well controlled by manipulating the injection pressure. Once the external pressure is released, the delivered nanoparticles will be trapped within the target contaminant plume. Over time, the spent nanoparticles will be naturally oxidized to iron oxides and hydroxides, which are natural minerals, and become associated with the soil matrices. Three field tests performed in California, Utah, and Alabama confirmed the performance of the stabilized nanoparticles. For example, one of our first field tests completed at an Alabama site (Figure 5) confirmed the unprecedented soil mobility (37 percent to 70 percent of injected Fe

Fig. 2. In situ destruction of chlorinated solvent (TCE) in groundwater by injection of a new class of stabilized iron nanoparticles, developed by AU researchers, into a contaminant plume. The toxic chemicals are reduced to innocuous hydrocarbons, which subsequently biodegrade.

was detected in the downstream monitoring well) and high reactivity (75 percent of PCE, TCE, and PCBs were degraded in four days). In addition, the field data revealed that the application of CMCstabilized ZVI nanoparticles boosted long-term biodegradation of chlorinated solvents; as a result, 99 percent TCE removal was consistently achieved for 596 days following the nanoparticle injection. Toxic metals such as lead, cadmium, mercury, chromium, and arsenic present another class of important contaminants in groundwater. Because

of their associated health effects, the EPA has established stringent regulations and Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL) for the metals in drinking water. Although billions of dollars have been invested in various cleanup efforts, it remains a challenging task to remediate groundwater contaminated by heavy metals. Unlike chlorinated solvents, which can be completely degraded to innocuous products, heavy metals cannot be degraded. Accordingly, our strategy is to immobilize the metal ions by


Fig. 3. Comparing conventional aggregated iron particles and our CMC-stabilized dispersible ZVI nanoparticles.

using appropriate nanoparticles that can transfer the metal from the groundwater phase to the soil phase, thereby reducing human exposure. This can be achieved by nanoparticle-facilitated formation 58 of insoluble metal precipitates, or adsorption of the metal contaminants on nanoparticles that offer strong binding power toward the metals. For example, the stabilized ZVI nanoparticles were found effective for in situ reductive immobilization of contaminants such as chromium Cr(VI) and uranium U(VI) in soils and groundwater. Our research revealed that injecting low concentrations (60 mg/L iron) of the stabilized nanoparticles can rapidly convert the highly toxic and mobile Cr(VI) to its insoluble form of Cr(III), thereby immobilizing the metal in the soil phase and thus reducing human exposure. When a Cr(VI)-laden

soil column was treated with a small volume (<6x bulk soil volume) of the nanoparticles (60 mg/L iron), virtually all leachable Cr(VI) was converted to the insoluble form. Moreover, the ZVI treatment reduced the leachability of Cr(VI) in the soil by 90 percent. Following the same mechanisms, an in situ technology was developed,where toxic uranium U(VI), which is water-soluble, was reduced to the insoluble form of U(IV). Our results indicate that at a dosage of 50 mg/L of CMC-stabilized ZVI nanoparticles almost completely removed 25 mg/L of U(VI) from water within one day. For in situ immobilization of mercury (Hg) in groundwater, we have developed a new class of iron sulfide (mackinawite) nanoparticles of controllable size and transport behavior in soils (Figure 6). These nanoparticles can be delivered

and dispersed in contaminated plumes in various soils and sediments. When the Hg-laden sediment was treated at an FeS-to-Hg molar ratio of 26, the Hg concentration leached into the aqueous phase was reduced by 97 percent, and the leachability of Hg in the sediment was reduced by 99 percent. The substantial reduction in soluble Hg can greatly reduce its bioavailability, and also prevent Hg from forming methyl mercury, which is the major form of Hg that accumulates in the food web.

Fig. 4. Dechlorination of TCE using non-stabilized or CMC-stabilized Fe-Pd nanoparticles. Initial TCE concentration = 50 mg L-1. Iron dose = 0.1 g L-1 as Fe. Pd:Fe ratio = 0.1/100 (w/w). NaCMC = 0.2 percent (w/w). A small fraction of Pd was used as a catalyst.

Summary and Conclusions Using â&#x20AC;&#x153;greenâ&#x20AC;? and low-cost polysaccharides such as starch and CMC, we have developed a number of stabilized nanoparticles that can treat a variety of groundwater contaminants. Compared to conventional nanoparticle aggregates, the stabilized nanoparticles can be delivered into deep aquifers and facilitate in situ remediation of contaminated soil and groundwater. The stabilized ZVI nanoparticles are particularly useful for reductive degradation or immobilization of chemicals such as chlorinated solvents, Cr(VI), and U(VI). For non-degradable metals such as Hg, nanoparticles can be prepared that can offer strong adsorption affinity toward the target contaminants, and the addition of these nanoscale adsorbents will

Fig. 5. Field testing of the in situ cleanup nanotechnology using stabilized ZVI nanoparticles developed by AU researchers: ((a) sampling at a monitoring well following nanoparticle injection, and (b) a bucket of nanoparticle suspension.

immobilize the contaminants in the solid phase, thus reducing human exposure. The in situ remediation technology using stabilized nanoparticles

sheds light on cleaning up the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s thousands of contaminated sites in a more cost-effective manner.


Fig 6. Digital photograph of CMC-stabilized mackinawite nanoparticle suspension (left), and (right) TEM images of the nanoparticles (FeS = 0.5 g/L, CMC = 0.05percent).


Saltwater Intrusion

By Sunwoo Chang, Katherine Pett y, L at i f K a l i n, a n d T. P r a b h a k a r C l e m e n t

Understanding Saltwater Intrusion Problems on Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Gulf Coast


auphin Island is a small island within Mobile County, separated from the rest of the county by the brackish water of the Mississippi Sound and surrounded in the south by the highly saline Gulf of Mexico waters (see Figure 2). Its only source of freshwater is a shallow groundwater aquifer, which is recharged by rainfall. Past studies have reported saltwater contamination of the shallow sand aquifer due to storm surges and overpumping. High concentrations of salt were reported in parts of the deeper sand unit underlying the watercourse aquifer. What does this mean and why is it important? First, a little background. Groundwater is an important freshwater resource for human consumption; it also supports industrial activities in areas that have limited surface water resources. Unlike surface water, which is a concentrated source serving a narrow region, groundwater is a distributed source stored beneath vast areas. Groundwater is a relatively stable source since

Fig. 1. Location of Dauphin Island below Mobile Bay, Alabama.

climatic fluctuations reflected in groundwater levels are typically small. Therefore, in most cases, large volumes of water stored in groundwater aquifers could be used as a buffer to supply water during periods of drought. If the areas where groundwater is abundant coincide with areas of demand, good quality water can be easily made available to the local public without any major

investment in water transmission infrastructure. In the United States alone, it is estimated that groundwater aquifers located along the Atlantic Coast supply water to more than 30 million residents living in coastal towns from Maine to Florida. Groundwater in coastal aquifers can be contaminated by salty seawater through a process known as the saltwater intrusion. Figure 61 2 illustrates the dynamics of groundwater flow and the mixing of freshwater and saltwater in a typical coastal aquifer. In coastal systems, the fresh groundwater region is in direct contact with the salty seawater region. Under natural conditions, a dynamic equilibrium exists between these two regions. However, there are numerous human and environmental factors that can affect that equilibrium, which can lead to saltwater contamination of the freshwater region. Once contaminated, it is difficult and expensive to restore the aquifers. In some cases, the saltwater contamination might be irreversible.

Fig. 3 (a)

Fig. 3 (b)


Fig. 2. Ground-water flow patterns near a pumping well in a coastal aquifer (UGSG, 2000).

Saltwater intrusion into freshwater aquifers is primarily due to the difference in the densities of saline water seawater (which has a density value of 1.025 g/cm3) and fresh groundwater (which has a density value of 1.000 g/cm3). The small difference can play a significant role in inducing two types

of saltwater intrusion processes: up-coning of seawater near pumping wells and lateral intrusion of seawater beneath the regional aquifer. Removal of water from an aquifer via pumping activities induces a cone of depression, which in turn can pull seawater directly into pumping wells. Lateral

Fig. 3. Plan view of model-predicted head contours (shown as line contours ft above sea level) and model-predicted salt concentration contours (shown as color-filled contours with red indicating the extent of the saltwater wedge with the relative density of 1.025, turquoise indicating freshwater with relative density of 1.0). Figure 3 (a) no-change baseline scenario; Figure 3 (b) land cover change and dry climate scenario.

intrusion, on the other hand, occurs when denser saltwater naturally seeps inland at the bottom of the freshwater aquifer (as shown in Figure 2). Lateral intrusion of seawater results in a distinct curved interface between the freshwater and saltwater regions, known as a â&#x20AC;&#x153;saltwater wedge.â&#x20AC;? The

shape and extent of the interface is determined by the geology of the aquifer, climate patterns, variations in natural groundwater flow, and the sea level, among other factors. When a natural groundwater system is perturbed (for example, when climatic change causes major changes in rainfall patterns or tidal levels), the entire saltwater interface could advance inland or could retreat toward the sea. Human activities, such as pumping and paving, for instance, can also reduce flow, which in turn will affect saltwater intrusion. Saltwater intrusion can be a serious water management problem because even a small amount of saltwater intrusion into pumping wells can cause considerable increase in salinity levels. The drinking water standard for chloride in freshwater is 500 mg/L. Mixing about 1.7 percent of seawater (equal to a salt concentration of 30,000 mg/L) with fresh groundwater would result in violation of the drinking water standard for salinity, which can eventually lead to abandoning water supply wells. An extreme case of saltwater intrusion, reported in Cape May County, New Jersey, has resulted in the abandonment of 120 water supply wells since 1940. Clearly, it is important that we fully understand the details of saltwater intrusion processes so we can better manage available water resources.

Fig. 4. Laboratory setup used for studying saltwater intrusion processes.

Understanding Transport Processes Researchers at Auburn University have developed computer models to gain insight into saltwater transport processes occurring along the Alabama coastline. Examples of computer model predictions completed for Dauphin Island, Alabama, under various climate change and landuse scenarios are shown in Figure 3. Although groundwater pumping is the primary cause of saltwater intrusion in most coastal aquifers, climate change causes increases in sea level, changes in rainfall patterns, and droughts. Climate change models estimate that the global sea level could increase between 18 cm and 59 cm during this century; other worst-case-scenario predictions forecast even higher sea-level rise estimates of up to 180 cm. According to some researchers, during the

twentieth century the majority of Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico coast regions experienced rates of sea level rise ranging from 2 to 10 mm/year. This is considerably higher than the current global aver- 63 age of 1.7 mm/year. Auburn University researchers have performed several laboratory experiments to understand the impacts of climate change on saltwater intrusion. The experimental systems allow researchers to visualize saltwater intrusion processes in subsurface aquifers, which are difficult to observe in the field. A recent study investigated the impacts of changes in groundwater flow on saltwater intrusion by conducting experiments in a translucent Plexiglas tank filled with glass-bead porous media. Figure 4 shows the laboratory setup. In it, sea level (red water) is maintained at the left-hand boundary. The fresh

Fig. 5. Visualized salt wedge predicted by a numerical simulation in a coastal system without sea level rise.

groundwater (colorless water) flow is delivered from the right-hand boundary and from the top. The photograph shows the location of the saltwater 64 wedge (clearly seen as the red zone) that exists in the system under steady conditions. Laboratory experiments like this help researchers study different types of saltwater transport mechanisms. The laboratory observations can be up-scaled using computer models to generate predictions for large-scale systems. Figure 5 shows the simulation results generated using a computer model known as SEAWAT for a larger (one km long) problem. The results show a distinct saltwater wedge zone (red) within a freshwater aquifer (blue shaded region). The arrows located on upper and right boundary represent freshwater flows. The transi-

tion zone between the freshwater and saltwater regions is shaded using yellow and green colors to represent various salt concentration levels present in the mixing zone. In field settings, shallow aquifers in barrier islands, such as Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Dauphin Island, are more vulnerable to climate change effects than other coastal aquifers because hurricanes and other extreme events can deposit abnormal amounts of salt directly into their unconfined aquifers. Additionally, hurricanes that strike the Gulf Coast can cause tidal surges of five to twenty-five feet above the normal level. These surges might dump saltwater over sandy soil and contaminate large bodies of shallow groundwater. Other catastrophic events, such as tsunamis, can also dump large volumes of saltwater above freshwater coastal aquifers. Auburn University researchers were part of a National Science Foundation sponsored study on the tsunami surge that inundated and contaminated several coastal aquifers in Sri Lanka. To fully understand that coastal contamination process, experimental studies were conducted in a rectangular flow tank constructed with Plexiglas (Figure 6). The tank was filled with homogeneous glass beads to simulate a coastal sandy aquifer system. The flow tank model was divided into three

sections: a main flow cell filled with the porous medium (glass beads), and inflow and outflow reservoirs at both ends. The reservoirs were separated from the main cell using a fine mesh screen. A 2-cm diameter impermeable glass tube, open at both ends, was inserted into the model to represent an open well. Seawater was prepared in 170 L drums by dissolving NaCl in deionized water. The average density of saltwater used in the experiment was 1025 kg/m3. A small amount of food coloring was used to differentiate sea, fresh, and surged waters and to visualize their mixing patterns. The initial condition, representing the pre-surge state, was simulated by setting up a regional groundwater gradient across the model, which forced uncolored fresh groundwater from right to left (Figure 6a). The green-colored saltwater was allowed to intrude into the aquifer from the left to form a steady seawater wedge. The inundation caused by a surge wave was simulated by evenly discharging a fixed amount of red-colored saltwater at the top of the model and into the open well. The surged water invaded the unconfined aquifer model via infiltration from the top boundary. The surge water also entered the groundwater region via the well opening. Freshwater continued to enter the model from the constant head boundary on the right. Figure 6 illustrates the transport patterns at

two, five, eleven, and nineteen minutes after the simulated surge wave. The results demonstrate that within a short period of time, the surged water overflowed the aquifer, fingered into the system, and contaminated the deeper aquifer (see Figure 6b). The infiltrated surge water eventually merged with seawater that entered from the flooded well. What did we learn from this laboratory study? One important observation made was that the surged water bodies (both from surface infiltration and the flooded well water) always remained above the regional seawater interface. This should be expected as the density of both water sources would be less than seawater because of local dilution effects. Therefore, the surged waters would likely not penetrate the regional seawater wedge, which would have density equal to seawater density. Another interesting observation was that the surge water injected directly into the well moved downward as a blob for a short time and then merged with the infiltrated water. These experiments allowed Auburn researchers to develop a better understanding of the surgewater migration processes. The information will help improve monitoring and management strategies, which in the long run can ensure that our water supplies are safer and healthier.


Fig. 6. Laboratory experiment for studying surged seawater infiltration processes occurring in a coastal aquifer; pictures show the movement of infiltrated seawater after a) 2 minutes, b) 5 minutes, c) 11 minutes, and d) 19 minutes. Note pre-surge seawater wedge that would naturally intrude into the system is shown as the green wedge in the left, freshwater (uncolored) was continuously flowing from right to left, and the infiltrated surge water is dyed red.

Forecasting B y Va i s h a l i S h a r d a a n d 66

P u n e et S r i va stava

Climate Variability and Drought in the Southeast


rought indices gauge the severity and duration of droughts. Municipal, state, and federal officials use these indices to assess and respond to them. Until recently, however, there has not been a drought index available to fill the needs of water resource managers in small- to medium-sized communities in the Southeast. Now the Community Water Deficit Index has been developed at Auburn University to accurately predict drought based on climate variables specific to the Southeast, while taking into account water demand. This new index was tested and validated in Auburn, Alabama, a city that is in many ways typical of non-metropolitan areas in the Southeast. Water is indispensable for human sustenance, but only 1 percent of earth’s total water is available for human consumption, and most of the world’s drinkable water is extracted from surface water resources. It is estimated that by 2025, 62 percent of the world’s population will be living with the conditions of water scarcity. Because water availability is sensitive

to short-term and long-term changes in climate variables (such as precipitation and temperature), determining how climate variations alter the occurrences, intensities, and locations of extreme events is one of the highest priorities for decision-makers. Being able to accurately predict drought and the demand on available water resources is one of the most important priorities for water resource managers.

Why Does the Southeast Experience Droughts? Water supply systems vary dramatically throughout the United States. During the past decade, the southeastern United States has experienced several severe droughts, resulting in loss of agricultural productivity, increased wildfires, municipal water use restrictions, and conflicts among different water use sectors. The Southeast often suffers from low surface water availability during summer months because of intra-annual climate variability, a very high evapotranspiration rate, and increased

demand by ever-growing urban centers. Natural climate variations, such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), can significantly alter the behavior of extreme events, including droughts, hurricanes, floods, and cold waves. The El Niño Southern Oscillation, which results from the interaction between large-scale ocean and atmospheric circulation, has been shown to be the most predominant signal in the Southeast. The phenomenon derives its name from the fact that the appearance of warm water in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Equatorial South America, is usually first detected by fishermen toward the end of December; “El Niño” denotes the Christ Child in Spanish. ENSO comprises three phases: a warm El Niño, a cold La Niña, and a neutral phase. The terms “El Niño” (EN) and “La Niña” (LN) are used to describe, respectively, the warming and cooling of sea surface temperatures on the shores of the west coast of South America. About a fourth


of the time, the EN pattern prevails, while the La Niña pattern prevails another fourth of the time. During the remaining time, the pattern is classified as neutral. During EN events, low air pressure in the eastern Pacific weakens the atmospheric pressure gradient heading westward. This causes unusually high sea surface temperatures (SSTs) and increased convection in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific. During LN, trade winds strengthen, amplifying the SST gradient so that lower-than-average SSTs are recorded instead. ENSO effects can range from significant to little or no effect in different parts of the world. The most pronounced ENSO signal can 68 be seen where this phenomenon was discovered, near equatorial South America. There, EN years bring less-than-normal precipitation, and LN years are associated with more-than-normal precipitation and cooler temperatures.

EN and LN in the Southeast The southeastern United States generally receives generous summer rainfall, with annual amounts in Alabama alone totaling fifty-three inches. The amount and timing of this rainfall can be quite variable, which can be attributed to ENSO phenomena and which has led to many water-related disputes in the region. During EN events, winter precipita-

tion is anomalously high, but temperatures are low because of increased cloud cover, while summers tend to be dry along the Southeast coast. LN brings warm and dry conditions to this region between October and April and typically returns every two to seven years, making the Southeast vulnerable to ENSO-related droughts. In the winter of 2007, the arrival of LN resulted in drought throughout the Southeast, which was accentuated by deficits in rainfall during the recharge period (when groundwater is normally replenished). During El Niño winters, the warm waters of the Pacific Ocean strengthen the jet stream and guide storms to California and along the Gulf Coast. These storms provide rain in the southern part of Alabama. During La Niña winters, the opposite occurs: the jet stream weakens and travels north, making the winters drier than normal in the southern part of the state. These results reflect the general findings of studies conducted on the Southeastern United States: they conclude that the effect of ENSO is observed to be stronger in the South than in the North and stronger in winter-spring than in summer-fall.

Why Is Forecasting Drought Important? Forecasts of ENSO-induced hydrologic droughts can provide insight to water managers who will need

Fig. 1. Study area: Auburn, Alabama, showing setup of the community’s water supply system. Precipitation anomaly distribution in the state of Alabama during January–March under La Niña conditions.

to store more water during the recharge season, when lower-than-normal precipitation is forecasted, and impose timely restrictions during the “growing season,” when outdoor water use increases. In the southeastern states, winter months constitute the recharge season, and drier conditions during

winter increase the odds of drought during the following spring and summer. The water supplies in many small- to mid-size communities in the region depend on surface water sources, and management of water supply and demand during drought conditions is critical for these communities to meet daily demands and assure unbroken supply. Because of their dependence on surface sources, and because of their fast growth, these communities are extremely vulnerable to drought. Many of these cities have their water resources (lakes or reservoirs) in small watershed systems; however, research has shown that systems relying on surface water are more sensitive to climate variation than larger systems and systems relying on groundwater. Changes in climate variables such as rainfall and temperature drive changes in both water supplies and demands. Fluctuations in weather conditions, along with normal loading conditions, may cause short-term failures in a system. Climate variability is not the only factor that affects the supply of and demands for water; other factors include population size, technology, economic conditions, and social factors. Consequently, drought conditions subject municipal water systems to the combined effects of higher demands and lower supplies, posing serious risk to their performance.

Drought Indices at Work Using defined drought criteria, drought indices are used to express the intensity and duration of drought. Federal and state government agencies use them to assess and respond to drought. However, available drought indices vary in many respectsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;including applicability, basic concept, input requirements, purpose, and target useâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;and most are not designed to cater to the needs of water resource managers of small- to mid-size communities (populations less than 100,000). It is important for water resource managers in the Southeast to have a water deficit index that operates at a fine spatial resolution, accounts for the balance of available water supply (dependent on climate variables such as precipitation and temperature) and water demands (dependent on time of the year, population, and climate variables), and is able to forecast drought based on the ENSO climate variability signal prevalent in the southeastern United States.

The Community Water Deficit Index None of the available drought indices operates at a spatial scale that water resource managers of small- to mid-size communities desire, nor do any consider the supply and demand balance or forecast drought. Part of our study aimed to develop a

Fig. 2. Average daily water use in Auburn for the past ten years in million gallons per day (blue line) and per capita (red line).

drought index to forecast drought precisely for these communities in the southeastern United 69 States. The result is a community water deficit index (CWDI) based on the balance between the water supply and demand according to the ENSO outlook in the region, which integrates climatic factors, hydrological processes, and management parameters into a simulation model. Demand consists of two components: 1) static demand, which is the amount of water people use for their indoor domestic use (such as showers, cleaning, and laundry), and 2) dynamic demand, which arises from outdoor use of water (watering of lawns and golf courses, for instance). The model was developed using the STELLA system dynamics

software and combines sub-models, a number of auxiliary equations, and reservoir operation rules. The result is a community water demand index model that produces an ensemble of drought forecasts based on climate-driven water supply and demand, and presents a unique and novel droughtforecasting tool. The City of Auburn, Alabama (Figure 1), was selected to test the newly developed CWDI. Auburn can be characterized as a fast growing, small-to mid-size urban area that is in many respects typical of non-metropolitan areas of the Southeastern U.S. The city’s population jumped from 33,830 in 1990 to over 50,000 currently, and is expected to grow 70 to 66,000 by 2025. In the past ten years, water demand has increased (Figure 2). The impacts of the 2000 and 2007 droughts on water use are evident in Figure 2. Auburn’s main source of water is Lake Ogletree, which has a surface area of approximately 121.4 hectares and is fed primarily by Chewacla Creek. The total watershed feeding the lake encompasses approximately 8,545 hectares. Recent droughts have resulted in critically low water levels in Lake Ogletree. In response, the city prepared a drought management plan based on a combination of lake levels and consumption/demand rates.

According to the drought plan, it is assumed that Lake Ogletree can meet peak water supply needs during droughts provided it is at full pool on May 1 (after winter and spring rains) of any given year. This approach, however, fails during La Niña winters and springs, when the region experiences below-normal precipitation, followed by increased residential irrigation demands during summer months because of high evapotranspiration rates. Our findings indicate that the CWDI well represented the Auburn municipal water systems and captured La Niña-induced droughts with a high degree of accuracy. A variety of hypothetical water conservation alternatives were modeled to demonstrate the usefulness of drought forecast information for water resource managers. The aim was to provide a quantitative basis for comparatively

Fig. 3. Scenario analysis showing the impact of policy implications of outdoor water saving (dynamic demand) for the City of Auburn.

evaluating the alternatives in terms of timely water savings. Figure 3 shows the scenario analysis for the year 2000 for Auburn, assuming that stakeholders knew the climate variability-based drought forecast for their system three to six months in advance and began imposing water use restrictions based on the forecast. Without the use of CWDI and, hence, no water restrictions, Auburn’s water supply system was in drought in August and conditions worsened by mid-September 2000 (see Figure 3). If messages of an impending drought had been sent to the community, along with voluntary imposition of water restrictions on outdoor water use, from February 1, 2000, onwards (with the aim of reducing total outdoor water use by 10 percent), the system would have improved. Results of the 25 percent outdoor

Fig. 4. Comparison of observed lake storage volume (blue line) and storage volume forecast (black dotted lines) showing observed values mostly lying within the 95 percent confidence forecast band.

water use-saving scenario show a complete recovery from drought by the end of the year. The model scenarios explored the impact of different water use restrictions on the forecasted water availability on a three- to six-month time scale. The results indicate that a CWDI can successfully guide plans for water use restrictions and water conservation policies given ENSO forecasts. The available water in the system remains the determinant factor, which is driven by the climate (precipitation and temperature and, indirectly, evapotranspiration). The Auburn CWDI was tested using historically observed lake levels and the ensemble forecasts constrained to ENSO (Figure 4). The CWDI forecast showed an ensemble (95 percent confidence band) moving towards a drought beginning in September 2010 (see Figure 4), in response to the ENSO phase changing from neutral to La Niña between May 2010 and August 2010. CWDI captured the drought occurrence for Auburn with considerable accuracy, especially during the lake recharge season (December through April), when observed lake levels are within the upper and lower boundaries of the ensemble. In June 2009, ENSO forecasts predicted El Niño developing for the winter of 2009-2010, indicating a high likelihood of high spring and summer precipitation and a low

Fig. 5. An example (City of Auburn) of CWDI 95 percent confidence interval forecast band with the median value (green dotted) and the observed values (red) till Nov. 2, 2011.

probability of summer low-flow conditions. As of June 2010, early ENSO forecasts predicted that El Niño conditions were changing to La Niña conditions, which could persist through the winter of 2010 and continue till the spring of 2011. CWDI forecasting methodology is developed in such a way that the forecast can be updated on a weekly or a bi-weekly basis as the observed storage levels change in the reservoir. CWDI forecasts aim to provide information about hydrologic drought, and hence water availability, in a municipal water system based on the ENSO phase outlook at a three- to six-month time scale. Figure 5 shows an example of one

such forecast for Auburn, which gives the forecast value of CWDI with 95 percent confidence band for the community. The shaded area presents the range within which water availability might vary during a certain time of the forecast, while the dotted line represents the median of the ensemble forecast. The red line represents the CWDI calculated with observed storage values until mid-November 2011, and very good agreement is found between the drought forecast and observed values. The CWDI presents a forecast that is simple to understand and easy for decision-makers to interpret. Because it is available at the spatial and 71 temporal resolution most suited for decisionmakers, it takes away concerns about accuracy and applicability of the forecast to their system, making it a product tailored to local and specific needs. The model provides a useful method for early detection of the onset, duration, severity of and recovery from drought. Furthermore, CWDI can be very useful in mitigating a drought’s impact and associated damage. For instance, it can be utilized to send out timely water use restrictions leading to water conservation. In turn, it can assist water managers to make good, proactive decisions regarding their water systems.


How Climate Change Could Affect Alabama’s Rainfall—And Why It Matters by Golbahar Mirhosseini and Puneet Srivastava


Both Auburn and Birmingham could see more intense, longer-lasting rainstorms as a result of changes in the earth’s atmosphere, according to our study funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments (RISA) program. This information has practical implications, because historic rainfall event statistics (in terms of intensity, duration, and return period) are used to design stormwater management facilities, flood protection structures, drainage structures in urban areas, and many other infrastructures involving hydrologic flows. Anticipating the potential effects of climate change and adapting to the effects are ways to reduce vulnerability to adverse impacts. Changes in “extreme rainfall events” can lead to a revision of standards for designing civil engineering infra-

structures, as well as reconstruction or upgrading of existing infrastructures, because the current design standards are based on historic climate information. For example, a dam that is designed to control a 100-year flood event (a flood that occurs only once in a hundred-year period) will provide a significantly lower level of protection if the intensity of the 100-year flood event increases. To prepare for future climate changes, it is imperative that we review and update the current standards for

designing water management infrastructures. This would prevent water management infrastructures from performing below the designed guideline in the future. During the last century, the concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s atmosphere has risen because of increased industrial activities. The increase in GHG concentrations is causing large-scale variations in atmospheric processes, which lead to changes in precipitation and temperature. Possible outcomes of such changes in precipitation patterns can be more frequent floods, more extreme rainfall events and longer drought periods. In turn, extreme rainfall events and flooding can result in degradation of water quality, property damage, and potential loss of life. Damage from erosion can also impact areas ranging from farm fields to stream banks adjacent to important infrastructures. A rainfall Intensity-Duration-Frequency (IDF) curve presents the probability of a given rainfall intensity and duration expected to occur at a particular location. Standards have been developed for designing infrastructures based on IDF curves. The increase in GHG concentrations and subsequent changes in large-scale atmospheric processes, however, is causing changes in the balance of the hydrologic cycle that are projected to cause varia-


Fig. 1. Location of NARCCAP 50-km resolution grid centers (green dots) used for creating IDF curves for Alabama.

tions in the intensity, duration, and frequency of precipitation events. This studyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s objective was to create IDF curves for Alabama using future precipitation data (2038-2070), and to assess the effect of climate change on IDF curves.

The stations providing long-term historical precipitation data for this study are shown in Figure 1. Observed (historical) precipitation data in fifteenminute intervals were obtained from the NOAA National Climatic Data Center, and future projections of precipitation for the period 2038-2070 were obtained from the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program. NARCCAP 74 works internationally and aims to investigate uncertainties in regional-scale projections of future

climate by producing high-resolution climate change simulations.

Future IDF Curves for Alabama Future precipitation data are obtained from computer models that simulate climate conditions under various emission scenarios. These climate models are referred to as GCMs (General Circulation Models). Future projections of precipitation used in this study were obtained from

a GCM model called HadCM3 (Hadley Centre Coupled Model, version 3), downloaded from the North American Regional Climate Change Assessment Program website at three-hour intervals, with the spatial resolution of 50 km. IDF curves for Alabama were created as a series of sixty maps for ten different rainfall durations and six different return periods. IDF curves for any given location in the state can be extracted from the maps. Figure 2 shows the rainfalls (in inches)

Fig. 2. Fifty-year rainfall of a) six-hr, b) twelve-hr, and c) twenty-four-hr durations (inches). Left side: IDF curves under future climate scenarios. Right side: current IDF from TP-40 report.

for a fifty-year return period for six-, twelve- and twenty-four-hour rainfall durations, respectively, under future (on the left side) and current (on the right side) climate scenarios for Alabama. As is obvious from the figures, changes in IDF curves are expected in the future. For example, under the future climate scenario (a fifty-year return period rainfall with six-hour duration), about 7.5 inches of precipitation is expected to fall in the southwestern part of the state. This compares to an estimated 6 inches with the current climate, about 25 percent less than the future prediction (Figure 2a).

Maximum twelve-hour rainfall, about 11.5 inches (Figure 2b), is expected to happen in southwest Alabama. For the same region, current estimates are about 8 inches of rainfall for twelve-hour events, which is about 44 percent less than what is predicted by the IDF curves under the future climate scenario. Figure 2c also shows that for a twenty-four-hour event the maximum predicted rainfall would be between fourteen and sixteen inches. Rainfall for the same region in Alabama is currently between nine and ten inches, which is about 58 percent less than anticipated thirty years from now. Changes in future rainfall

intensity are expected to continue for other rainfall durations and return periods, but it is not possible to discuss the results of all sixty maps here. Therefore, Auburn and Birmingham were selected as examples from which to discuss the results in more detail. Figures 3a and 3b show IDF curves under future and current climate scenarios for Auburn for two different return periods, ten years and 100 years. As is obvious from Figure 3a, rainfall intensity for the ten-year return period is expected to decrease by 20 percent when rainfall duration is less than four hours, and increase by 42 percent for rainfall durations of more than four hours. Also, rainfall intensity will increase by 38 percent if rainfall dura- 75 tion exceeds six hours and decrease by 20 percent for durations of less than six hours when the return period is 100 years (Figure 3b).

% 20% 20%



Fig. 3. IDF curves under current and future climate for a) ten-yr and b) 100-yr return period rainfall events in Auburn.

Table 1. Comparison of IDF curves under current and future climate scenarios.

Figures 4a and 4b demonstrate changes in IDF curves for Birmingham. For a ten-year return period, under the future climate scenarios, rainfall intensity tends to increase by 46 percent for rainfall durations of more than three hours, and tends to decrease by 13 percent for durations less than three hours. For a 100-year return period, future rainfall intensity will increase for all the rainfall durations, but the increase is expected to be much more when rainfall duration exceeds three hours. Rainfall intensity is expected to increase by 57 percent for events of more than three hours and by 9 percent for durations of less than three hours.

Table 1 summarizes the result for different return periods for the selected cities. Results show that for Auburn the maximum increase in rainfall intensity happens for two-year return period events, where more than 53 percent increase in rainfall intensity is expected for durations of more than three hours. The average reduction in rainfall intensity for Auburn is expected to be about 25 percent. The maximum change in rainfall intensity (57 percent) for Birmingham is expected to occur for 100-year return period storms of durations more than three hours.

The results suggest that changes in precipitation patterns will tend toward more intense rainfalls for longer duration events (i.e., longer than four hours) and less intensity for shorter rainfall durations. In Auburn, the maximum increase (53 percent) in rainfall intensity is projected for the two-year return period for durations of more than three hours. The maximum change in rainfall intensity (57 percent) for Birmingham is projected for the 100-year return period for durations of more than three hours. Although the maximum increase in rainfall intensity for Birmingham is projected for the 100-year return period, an average of 36 percent increase is projected for all return periods.


20% 13%



Fig. 4. IDF curves for the current and future climate conditions for a) ten-yr and b) 100-yr return period events for Birmingham.




oth Auburn and Birmingham could see more intense, longer-lasting rainstorms as a result of changes in the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s atmosphere.



Salt and Sunlight By Thomas Baginski, Emile C. Ewing, Thaddeus Roppel, and Robert Dean Jr.

A Recipe for Clean Water


eople have been trying to figure out ways to get clean water for centuries. The ancient Greeks knew that heating water helped to purify it and that sand and gravel could be used as filters. Around 1500 B.C., Egyptians discovered the technique of coagulation, which uses a chemical additive to gather particles into clusters that trap impurities, which settle to the bottom. Around 500 B.C., Hippocrates invented the first bag filter, which trapped sediments that caused bad tastes and odors, while Archimedes invented a screw that transported water from lower grounds to higher grounds. Water treatment took a massive pause, and arguably a step backwards, during the Dark Ages (500-1500 A.D.), when many aqueducts and water-treatment tools were lost or destroyed. The invention of the microscope enabled scientists for the first time in history to observe and experiment on the pathogens that cause illnesses. However, it wasn’t until 1854, after London was devastated by a cholera outbreak, that chlorine

was applied to water for disinfection purposes. The same epidemic also led to the installation of municipal water filters, the first act of government regulation of public water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that the presence of chlorine residual in drinking water indicates two things: that chlorine was added initially to the water to inactivate bacteria (and some viruses) and that the water is now protected from recontamination during storage. A correlation between the presence of free chlorine residual in drinking water and the absence of disease-causing organisms exists and is defined as the potability of the water. When chlorine is added to water for potability, it undergoes a series of reactions. Chlorine first reacts with organic materials and metals in the water. Total chlorine is the chlorine left after the demand is met; it is broken down into two subcategories, free chlorine and combined chlorine. Combined chlorine unites with nitrogen in the

water and is unavailable for disinfection, while free chlorine is available for inactivating diseasecausing organisms. Therefore, free chorine is the measure used to determine the potability of water. Our goal is to develop a system that can provide sustainable on-site, on-demand formation of free chlorine. The system—referred to as Salt and Light—uses commonly available salt as the 79 chlorine source and an electrochemical reaction powered by a solar panel to create bleach (sodium hypochlorite). Bleach is a chemical widely used to disinfect medical facilities and to sanitize drinking water.

Basic Chemistry The basic components of the Salt and Light system are a solar panel, metal rods (electrodes) to introduce current to the system, salt, and water. Figure 1 shows the optical energy of sunlight converted to electricity via the solar panel. This serves as the system’s energy source. The panel, which is

Fig. 1. Salt and light component diagram.

electrically connected to the two electrodes, utilizes the energy from the sun to sustain a chemical reaction in the electrolyte solution. The solution is composed of a standard mixture of 0.5 L of water and 1 gm of sodium chloride (NaCl, or salt). Salt is an ionic compound consisting of two ions, Na+ and Cl-, in a crystal-lattice structure. 80 Neither element exists separately and free in nature, but they bind together as sodium chloride. This compound is found in nature as the mineral

halite, or rock salt, and has multiple uses. The block diagram in Figure 2 is a simplified illustration of the process for producing a solution that can be used to disinfect water and for cleaning purposes. Electrical current is applied to the immersed pair of electrodes to initiate and sustain a series of chemical reactions. Figure 3 illustrates the chemical reactions. At the anode, oxidation reactions cause two chlorine ions to be stripped of one electron each to yield chlorine gas: 2Cl¯→Cl₂+2e¯. Chlorine production is then balanced by a reduction reaction carried out at the cathode, where water is converted into hydroxide ions and hydrogen gas, as mentioned above: 2H₂O+2e¯→2OH¯+H₂. Fig. 3. Chemical reactions.

Fig. 2. Block diagram of system operation.

During this process, bubbles are readily visible and act as a simple visual cue that the reaction is occurring. The hydroxide ions (OH-) produced at the cathode react with the hypochlorous acid (HOCl) produced at the anode, yielding the hypochlorite anion (positively charged ion; OCl-): HOCl + OH¯ → H₂O + OCl¯ which is balanced with sodium cations (negatively charged ions; Na+) that originally came from

Kit contents.

Water System (SWS) program recommends the following free chlorine residual measurements to ensure the safety of the drinking water: 1. At thirty minutes after the addition of sodium hypochlorite, there should be no more than 2.0 mg/L of free chlorine residual present (this ensures the water does not have an unpleasant taste or odor). Briefcase panel being tested in Uganda.

the salt. The hypochlorite anion (OCl-) then reacts to form a solution of sodium hypochlorite: NaCl + H₂O → NaOCl + H₂. The concentrated solution can now be used to treat drinking water or as a disinfectant. Free

chlorine dosages are measured to determine how much sodium hypochlorite (NaOCl) to add to drinking water in order to maintain free chlorine residual during the time of storage. Typically this time period is four to twenty-four hours. The Safe

2. At twenty-four hours after the addition of sodium hypochlorite to containers that are used by families to store water, there should be a minimum of 0.2 mg/L of free chlorine residual present (this ensures microbiologically clean water).


Pouring water from jerry can.


These values were therefore chosen as the target concentrations of free chlorine.

Basic Materials Photovoltaic devices (PV) convert solar radiation into DC electricity using semiconductors that exhibit the photovoltaic effect. Materials commonly used for PV include but arenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t limited to monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, or amorphous silicon. They each have certain advantages and disadvantages, which make them more or less attractive depending on their application. The photovoltaic effect was recognized in 1839, but it wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t until 1883 that the first PV cell was built. The modern-day PV cell was invented in 1954

at Bell Laboratories and initially was too costly for use in any major project other than early space satellites. Over time, however, the production process improved and the cost of manufacturing decreased. As the name suggests, monocrystalline PV cells are made from a single silicon crystal, which makes the process of producing them complex and costly. They have a minimum lifetime of twenty-five years (up to fifty years maximum) and are used to form the most reliable and efficient solar panels for common terrestrial use in production today. Monocrystalline panels also work well in low light, and are preferred in most applications where cost is not a priority. They are fragile and require rigid mounting and/or careful handling, but they perform well in weather tests.

Polycrystalline cells were first produced in 1981 and are made from a similar silicon material. The difference between these and their monocrystalline counterparts is that instead of being grown into a single crystal, the silicon is melted and poured into a mold, forming a rectangular block of silicon full of impurities and random crystal boundaries. The result of this technique is lower energy conversion efficiency, 12-12.5 percent, compared to 17-18 percent of the monocrystalline type. It will take a larger polycrystalline panel to produce the same wattage output as a monocrystalline panel. Polycrystalline panels are fairly comparable in longevity and reliability to monocrystalline panels, and their lower costs allow them to give power to people who cannot afford the more expensive varieties.

Pouring salt into bottle.

Shaking bottle to mix salt and water.

Attaching electrical leads of solar panel.

A third type of panel currently in production is made from amorphous silicon and is less adversely affected by high temperatures than the other types. It is considered the first thin-film technology since silicon is deposited in thin layers during production. It is becoming increasingly

popular due to its simplicity in manufacturing and low cost. It is a flexible panel that works better in diffuse light than mono- and polycrystalline panels; however, it can only achieve about half the efficiency (6 percent). A wide variety of commercially available panels were purchased and tested for output characteristics. Two monocrystalline panels were chosen for use, the Goal Zero 30W briefcase panel and the Goal Zero 7W Nomad foldable panel. The briefcase measured 44.6 x 55.8 x 2.5 cm and weighed 5.5 kg. The foldable panel measured 15 x 26 x 2.5 cm and weighed 0.35kg. To maximize their reliability, the solar panels were directly connected to the electrodes without the use of maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Although this reduced the solar energy conversion efficiency of the system, it also significantly increased its reliability by eliminating failures due to discrete circuit components, solder connections, printed circuit board traces, and other elements of the MPPT. Mixed metal oxide (MMO) electrodes were initially developed to prevent the formation of a passive film of titanium oxide on the electrodes when polarized anodically in aqueous electrolytes. Henri Beer pursued a variety of titanium coatings and discovered that ruthenium oxide coatings

were superior to all others being used in the chlorine industry. He was granted a patent in 1965 for the â&#x20AC;&#x153;co-deposition of oxides of ruthenium and titanium onto a titanium substrate.â&#x20AC;? A second patent was granted to him in 1967 after further testing showed that the potentials at which chlorine was formed were dependent on how much ruthenium oxide was in the coating. He realized that a thinner layer of the oxide would not only be cheaper but also provided the same if not better performance with a longer lifetime. Iridium, which happens to be the second densest and one of the most corrosive-resistant metals, also was found to work well with only a slight decrease in efficiency. 83 Iridium oxide-coated rods were purchased and used for the Salt and Light water purifier. Rods of 5mm diameter were chosen for ease of machining. The rods were cut into six-inch sections. A half inch of the coating was removed using a grinder to provide an electrical connection point. The electrodes were mounted in a cork. In order for a chemical reaction to occur by electrolysis, sodium chloride (NaCl) must first be dissolved in the water. A standard measurement of 2 mL of NaCl was used in 0.5 L of water. This amount of NaCl was selected after extensive empirical testing using the Nomad 7 panel as a power

source. The selected sample of 2 mL resulted in maximum power transfer between solar panel and electrodes. It was therefore chosen as the standard, easily achievable salt dosage.

Testing In rural Uganda, biological contamination of water sources can be a serious problem, especially since many water sources are downhill or downstream of latrine areas. Furthermore, rainwater


catch systems in tropical areas are excellent breeding grounds for microbiological species. Our initial field testing was performed in Uganda utilizing the briefcase panel. However, an unexpected observation was made once we were in country: no one was willing to accept ownership of the briefcase panel. Local residents were convinced that the briefcase panel drew too much attention because it appeared to be an item of economic value, which would invite robbery. Field testing was therefore continued exclusively with the Nomad 7 foldable panel. A picture book was used as a visual method for conveying the system operation. Several months after the systems were left in country we received reports via email: “Oh yes, to my side it worked for me and I have been using the water for drinking since this year

started. The water was so good and I did not get sick, so it is working for me. Thanks so much for your love and care!!” “We tested a bottle of the mixed-oxidant solution around the latrine to clean and help reduce the bad smell, and it worked very well, making the ladies extremely excited!” Access to potable water is a serious, often life-threatening problem in many parts of the world. Access to common bleach could significantly improve this situation. After field-testing in Uganda, Salt and Light proved to be a low-cost, sustainable method to create bleach for cleaning and disinfecting. Systems have also been deployed to Guatemala, Kenya, and Tanzania. Feedback from these deployments will be used to further explore and refine the concept.




ccess to potable water is a serious, often life-threatening problem in many parts of the world. Access to common bleach could significantly improve this situation.



By Katie Jackson

Valentin Abe

An Agent of Change


uburn University alumnus Valentin Abe understands the power of water to change lives. It was a source of opportunity for him during his childhood in the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. It is now a source of opportunity for the people of his adopted country—Haiti. Abe, executive director of the Haiti-based Caribbean Harvest Foundation and founder of Caribbean Harvest tilapia fingerling hatchery, has become an internationally recognized leader in economic development in Haiti. But his story began along the banks of the Ebrié lagoon, which runs through the middle of his childhood home, Abidjan, the largest city and de-facto capital of Ivory Coast. The youngest of eight children, Abe spent his childhood in one of Abidjan’s poorest neighborhoods, Koumassi, which was so impoverished that Abe and his fellow first- and second-graders sat on their school’s floor for their classes because there were no chairs and tables.

“We had to be careful not to dirty our uniforms since most of the kids had only one and we could only wash it at the end of the week,” he recalls. Despite those conditions, Abe’s father, a mechanic, and his mother, who sold fish in a local market, were determined that their children would be educated. Their determination paid off, with all but one of their children earning college degrees, including Val (as he is known by his friends), who finished his Ph.D. at Auburn University in 1995 and put it to work changing the lives of others who also know poverty first-hand. Abe came to Auburn in 1988 as a Fulbright Program scholar somewhat by accident. He had earned an undergraduate degree in animal husbandry in West Africa and was set to attend the University of Colorado in Boulder for his Fulbright. That plan changed when officials in the Ivorian government insisted that one of the country’s Fulbright scholars focus on fisheries, a field of expertise desperately needed in Ivory Coast.


Abe, whose own success was made possible, at least in part, through his mother’s fish selling business, and who grew up loving to fish the waters of the Ebrié, happily agreed and “jumped ship” from land-based to water-based farming. That decision also led Abe to Alabama—to Auburn University’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, specifically—a place he knew to be the bastion of international fisheries and allied aquaculture expertise. “Two things drew me to Auburn. First, two Ivorians came to Auburn’s International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments for training in the 1980s, and when they returned (to 88 Ivory Coast) they were like God,” he says. “Second, every time you opened a book on fisheries and aquaculture you would find an Auburn professor. Professors like Claude Boyd, R.O. Smitherman, Len Lovshin, Rudy Schmittou, and John Plumb were legends. Being able to simply meet those guys was unbelievable.” Abe not only met them, but three of those professors—Boyd, Smitherman, and Plumb—served on his master’s and Ph.D. committees. Consider he also discovered other remarkable Auburn faculty members when he arrived. Abe’s major professor, Ronald Phelps, provided what Abe called “one of the best experiences of my

life.” Then there was Bryan Duncan, who at the time headed Auburn’s International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments (ICAAE) and directed Abe’s postdoctoral research program. Working with ICAAE, Abe participated in a variety of international projects in West Africa, Latin America, and Asia, all the while making additional contacts with international aid and nongovernmental organizations. “It was during my post-doc that I really figured out what I wanted to do, which was work for the international community.”

Then Abe found Haiti—or perhaps it found him—through Bill Schneider, who had received a grant from the Rotary Club of New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and the Rotary Foundation to develop aquaculture in Haiti. Schneider contacted Auburn looking for an aquaculture specialist, and Abe was “volunteered” for the project through the ICAAE. Schneider’s original plan was for Abe to help build a model fish farm in Haiti and leave; construction was expected to take about six months. But construction took much longer, and no one

was available to run the farm after completion. Schneider asked Abe to stay two more years and train a young Haitian agronomist to take over. Abe agreed, in part because he saw such potential in the project. “The reality was that Mr. Schneider had the right idea, but was wrong about how to implement it,” notes Abe. “The land we chose for the hatchery did not have enough clay to hold water, and we did not have a good plan for extension services.” In addition, the Haitian government did not financially support the project, which had been the original hope to ensure the project’s sustainability. So Abe stayed and took matters into his own hands, redesigning the original plan and putting his own money into the project to demonstrate its feasibility. “It took me more than two years to figure it out and, at that point, I knew it would take me more than two years to achieve it,” he says. By then Abe was, like any good Auburn man, “all in,” plus he had met and married Ruth Josefino, a native of the Dominican Republic who had grown up in Haiti. He was invested in Haiti in many ways. Six months became two years and two years became fifteen years, years marked with both struggle and success. “There have been many attempts to culture fish in Haiti in the past, but most of them failed,” Abe

notes. “For example, in 1999, I visited about 135 fish ponds in the northern part of Haiti alone. In 2006, only nineteen were still operational.” Abe attributes past failures to a lack of long-term support. So often nongovernmental organizations come to Haiti to set up fish farms and other development projects, and then leave as soon as the funding dries up. Without continued support, these fledgling projects unravel.

The other problem is that Haiti is a unique land area. “Haiti is a very small country with a completely degraded environment,” he says. “Conventional aquaculture (the use of fish ponds) simply does not work. I came with a different approach, using some of the Auburn experiences in Latin America and Asia. I believed that using natural bodies of water and manmade reservoirs to produce fish was the way to go as long as we could protect them.”


Abe’s business approach was also unlike anything tried before in Haiti. “The first thing I did was to build the hatchery. From there, I trained people to grow fish in cages using the same design Dr. Schmittou used in Asia. I did not give out cages. I put out cages for myself and grew fish with them (local residents) as employees. After two years, I gave them the cages to continue producing fish for themselves.” The result: local residents were personally invested in the project and became businessmen and-women themselves. Progress was slow, though, in part because political turmoil from 2003 through 2006 affected the 90 Haitian economy and Abe’s own family—he sent Ruth and their two daughters to the Dominican Republic for safety. But since 2006 things have improved—despite the devastating earthquake of 2011 and more recent hurricanes—and Abe believes he has proven that fish farming and, by association, water can improve lives. “I have set up one of the most successful hatcheries in the Caribbean, although we still have room to grow,” he continues. That solar-powered tilapia hatchery has helped build a sustainable and profitable industry in the Lake Azeui and Central Plateau regions of Haiti. In addition, it is helping Haitian farmers increase their income levels from $400 to

more than $2,000 annually, while also improving nutrition for more than one million people. “Now that I have demonstrated the idea can work, I want to expand it to the max,” says Abe. His goal: further develop his hatchery and related businesses in Haiti and greatly increase fish production. “We want to be able to produce fish enough for domestic consumption as well as for export.” Abe’s commitment and hard work have not gone unnoticed. In October 2009, Abe had a rather famous visitor—President Bill Clinton.

“I had never met a former U.S. president before, and I did not know what to expect,” Abe said of Clinton’s visit. “He was very comfortable around the tanks. However, the biggest surprise was that he knew all the facts about fisheries and aquaculture. After maybe ten minutes, he was the one answering questions, not me!” In 2010 Clinton picked Abe for Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” edition. “I knew from the beginning that I could not do it all by myself,” he said. Now he does not have to. The Time magazine honor and several other international recognitions, including the Digicel Entrepreneur of the Year in 2011 award, have brought Heifer International, the Clinton Global Initiative, Partners in Health, and Solar Electric Light Fund into Caribbean Harvest’s work. “Fish farming in Haiti has the best chance to grow in its history,” Abe says, adding, “I have been successful because I made the commitment to stay through the good and the bad times.” For Abe, the work in Haiti remains a long-term commitment that he intends to keep for many years to come. Someday, though, he hopes to retire back to Ivory Coast as a consultant and agent of change—and perhaps again fish the waters of Ebrié.




n 2010, President Bill Clinton picked Abe for Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World” edition.



International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments by David Rouse


Aquaculture and inland fisheries programs began at Auburn University in 1933 under the pioneering leadership of Dr. H. S. Swingle. Early work focused on construction and management of watershed ponds designed to capture and store rainwater for general farm use, fish production, and recreation. These experiences formed the nucleus for an international development program that has provided more than 150 person-years of technical assistance during the past forty years. The International Center for Aquaculture was created in 1970 in response to requests from the U.S. Agency for International Development to provide technical and socio-economic assistance to developing countries in aquaculture, inland fisheries, and living aquatic resources management. In 1991, the centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s name was changed to International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments (ICAAE) to more accurately

reflect the broad scope of its program. The center is managed through the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures but has involved faculty and staff from other departments at Auburn University and at other universities. Faculty and staff associated with the center have been involved in forty long-term assignments lasting from three to seven years in fifteen countries, including Brazil, Colombia, El Salvador, Ecuador, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Short-term assignments, which usually last one to two weeks, have taken faculty and staff to more than 110 countries. Since its beginning, the center has received more than $32 million in grants from the U.S. government. The primary purpose of the center is to improve the quality of life of people by facilitating the sustainable development of aquatic resources. Sustainable development requires that the social and economic needs of people be carefully balanced with technological interventions and managerial practices that conserve the environment. The center provides technical support in a number of different ways. These include rural development, a process that increases the productive capacity of people and their resources. The center is also committed to the development of commercial

aquacultural enterprises that benefit developing countries through income generation, employment, foreign exchange generation, farm diversification, and efficient use of natural resources. The center recognizes the critical need for adequate quantities of high-quality water for sustained development, and is committed to the proper management and conservation of water resources and associated aquatic organisms. The center has a long history of conducting basic and applied research to facilitate aquatic resource development and to develop and extend appropriate fish production technologies that are economically and environmentally sound. ICAAE offers a variety of non-degree training programs and facilitates undergraduate and graduate degrees at Auburn University. The Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures has awarded more than 1,200 graduate degrees with about half of them going to international students. Thousands of international students have been trained through the centerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s short-term training programs. A major constraint in many developing countries is limited availability of technical information and professional contacts. The center encourages networking services provided by people with appropriate research, education, and extension materials, and facilitates linkages between professionals from various disciplines.


Watering Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Rural Economy By Samuel R. Fowler 94

and Richard McNider

The Alabama Universities Irrigation Initiative


ll living things require water to grow, and so does Alabama’s rural economy. For almost ten years, a collaborative, comprehensive research effort involving several Auburn University faculty, along with faculty from several other Alabama universities, including the University of Alabama at Huntsville, University of Alabama, Alabama A&M University, and Tuskegee University, has focused on how Alabama’s abundant water resources may be used in a responsible, sustainable manner to increase the state’s agricultural production, and thus improve the rural economy. The project, the Alabama Universities Irrigation Initiative (AUII), springs from research conducted in the mid-1990s by Larry Curtis and others at the Belle Mina Research and Extension Center, while more recent activities have been led by Richard McNider and John Christy from the University of Alabama at Huntsville.

Row-crop production in rural Alabama has declined by millions of acres over the past fifty years. Land that previously produced row crops has gone fallow, into timber production, or into federal conservation set-aside programs. Unfortunately, none of these alternative uses has the same local economic impact as row-crop farming, which can generate $500–$900 per acre annually in the local economy. Timber farming and conservation set-asides usually generate less than $100 per acre per year. The end result is that many rural economies, especially those in the Black Belt region of Alabama, have been devastated.

Why did this vibrant agricultural economy based on corn and cotton collapse in Alabama, while farming economies grew in the western and mid-western portions of the country? While the boll weevil had a role in the decline during the 1920 1930s, the loss after 1950 was largely due to the lack of competiveness of Alabama farmers. Water played a role: the deep water-holding soils of the Midwest helped it avoid drought losses, and irrigation gave the dry plains and Far West an edge. Transportation improvements allowed the Midwest and Western farmers to sell grain—primarily corn and soybeans—in what had traditionally been local markets in Alabama. Loss of agriculture was exacerbated by the collapse of the tenant farming system in which the landowners were not really farmers. Few recognized the rise of competition by the West and Midwest, or realized what irrigation might do to raise the competitiveness of Alabama farmers. Landowners who were not farmers lacked both


capital and incentive to invest. Additionally, the core hardworking farming expertise was lost as people migrated to urban areas and the North. While hindsight is 20/20, the stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s agricultural community was perhaps too willing to accept as fact that we couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t compete with the West and Midwest. Landowners and farmers, backed by the agricultural establishment, resorted to pushing Photo by Samuel Fowler


A pivot irrigation system.

for and accepting government land set-asides (Conservation Reserve Programs) and timber production. While these programs were perhaps in the best personal interests of farmers and landowners, the turnover of expenditures in the economy that came with farming was lost. In some areas of Alabama, such as the Black Belt, there was essentially no economy left.

The lack of competiveness of Alabama rainfed farmers compared to those in the West and Midwest is based on fact. The West and Midwest did not suffer the level of drought losses that rainfed farming in Alabama endured, so their effective yields were much higher and they could accept a lower commodity price. In economic terms, federally subsidized transportation and water infrastructure resulted in the Midwest and West gaining a competitive advantage over Alabama. However, it can be argued that neither of these regions enjoys either an absolute or comparative advantage over Alabama in terms of production per volume of artificially applied water. Increases in transportation cost and increasing demand for corn to supply ethanol markets closer to the Western and Midwest production regions, as well as concerns about the sustainability of Western irrigation, are diminishing the competitive advantage of these regions in supplying Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s grain demands to support its large poultry industry. Now that we can run crop models for fifty years or more using actual weather for Alabama, we see that the federally subsidized competitive advantage of the West and Midwest allowed them to accept lower commodity prices, which ultimately made rain-fed farming of corn in Alabama a losing proposition. It is ironic that with the rise

of poultry production in the state we consume more corn than ever, and yet Alabama only plants about 10 percent of the corn acreage it planted in 1950. In 2011, Alabama imported approximately 120 million bushels of corn and 60 million bushels of soybeans at a cost of approximately $1.4 billion. Despite having more water resources than most states and several million acres of land that could be irrigated, Alabama has fewer acres under irrigation than most states. While Alabama has less than 120,000 acres of row-crop agriculture under irrigation, Mississippi and Georgia each have well over one million acres. Crop models, experimental research plots, and irrigating farmers in Alabama demonstrate that with irrigation Alabama can compete with the West and Midwest. Irrigated corn production is increased by approximately 90-100 bushels per acre, and early soybean production is nearly doubled. Peanut production is more than doubled, and irrigated cotton production is increased by 40 percent or more. At current commodity prices and with these improved yields—and including the cost of irrigation—farming becomes a profitable enterprise again. Thus, Alabama has an opportunity to revitalize its rural economies if it can spur expanded irrigation.

This requires long-term policies. Alabama lost its agriculture over a fifty-year period. We won’t recover it overnight. We also have to fully understand the past, and why the agricultural system failed, before we can correct it. The Alabama Universities Irrigation Initiative has looked carefully at the past. If irrigation could have saved Alabama agriculture, why was more irrigation not employed? Why did Georgia and later Mississippi, which both had more tenant farmers than Alabama fifty years ago, embrace irrigation and Alabama did not? Research conducted by the Auburn University Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology examined these questions, and the results point to several factors. • There was uncertainty in the agricultural community about the real economic advantage of irrigation. There is no question that irrigation is economical since it is employed in many areas where it is essential. In Alabama, the question was: could farmers make more money not irrigating? Unlike California or West Texas, in Alabama there is almost enough rainfall to make a crop. However, in business, “almost” making it means you are slowly going out of business, which is what happened to Alabama farmers.

• Lack of access to capital for making irrigation investments. Irrigation in south Georgia was spurred in part because of the money available to farmers through peanut allotments and assured cash. Additionally, once some Georgia farmers reduced risk by embracing irrigation, some banks demanded it as part of issuing operating loans. Alabama farmers, in a business that was marginal, were averse to risking their land for making irrigation investments. • Lack of access to water. Finding water for irrigation in south Georgia or the Mississippi Delta was easy because shallow wells with large capacity could be drilled. In Alabama, wells with the large volume needed for irrigation were often deeper or not available. Lack of riparian rights to surface water in lakes and rivers inhibited use of the vast surface waters of the state. • Landownership not in the hands of farmers. While the tenant farming system has largely vanished, substantial land is currently farmed as rented lands. Absentee landowners are not as interested in improving the farm operations, as would be a landowning farmer.


• Lack of young farmers. With Alabama’s rowcrop agriculture in decline, fewer young farmers stayed in the business. Making long-term investments in irrigation was not a priority to the older farmers, who were simply trying to preserve their farms in the short-term.

Environmental Impacts and Sustainability of Irrigation in Alabama Because many streams were totally consumed and groundwater depleted by irrigation in the West, Alabama has carefully investigated the impact of irrigation water on ecological systems. 98 Early in the investigations, environmental groups expressed several potential concerns about expanding irrigation. The research effort has worked closely with environmental groups and has attempted to address each of the concerns. • Concern about the impact of irrigation withdrawals on critically low stream flows in the summer. Low flow rates impair the dilution capacity of a stream, increase thermal stress, and reduce habitat. It is true that during the times crops need water most, streams are sometimes at low flow rates because of drought. However, during winter

and during rainy periods in the growing season, ample water is available in streams and rivers. Thus the strategy embraced by the irrigation initiative is to withdraw water only during times of above average flows and store this in on-farm storage ponds. • Streams should not be dammed to build ponds for irrigation water storage and ponds should not be built in wetlands. Damming streams is not good for the riverine ecology. Thus, the strategy is to only build off-stream upland reservoirs, which would be filled by pumping from the stream during high flow events. • While pumping during high flow events would protect streams from being impaired by withdrawals during low flows, flood events themselves are critical to habitat and species propagation and must be protected. As part of the university studies, ecologists and hydrologists carefully examined the issue of flood areas. It turns out that because flow rates are very high, it is difficult to significantly impact flood area, flood depth, or flood duration. Moreover, the studies gave withdrawal limits that would protect

the important environmental benefits of seasonal flooding. • Concern about the cumulative withdrawal of many irrigation ponds. Models of irrigation withdrawals show that, in fact because of the large volume of water running off the state, the danger to the state’s waters is not from the cumulative withdrawal on major river systems, but from cumulative withdrawals from headwater streams. However, these studies show how to develop withdrawal limits. In 2009, Alabama was awarded a federal Agricultural Water Enhancement Program (AWEP) grant, which is administered through the Natural Resource Conservation Service state office. The program has provided $3.7 million to 104 Alabama farmers to encourage the implementation of new irrigation projects or the modification of existing irrigation operations to better comply with the environmental and sustainability issues identified above. In summary, we believe that with AUII research we know how to set limits on withdrawals to protect Alabama’s riverine ecology, and the studies show that in most areas we can make irrigation

withdrawals and not statistically detect changes on water characteristics that impact the ecology. We can thus determine ahead of time the cumulative withdrawals that can be made without consequences to the ecology.

Use of Groundwater At first, AUII embraced renewable surface water as a source for irrigation, but we’ve recently found that in some areas of the state groundwater may be the best economic and environmental choice. The Geological Survey of Alabama estimates that the volume of groundwater in Alabama is 16.5 times greater than the volume of surface waters flowing through the state annually. Groundwater, which is not as affected by short-term drought as is surface water, may be important where surface sources are threatened or not available. At the same time, care must be taken to avoid depletion, and the amount withdrawn and the density of wells must be tracked carefully.

Strategic Plan for Expanded and Environmentally Sustainable Irrigation in Alabama • Education: For Alabama to expand irrigation, farmers must be convinced that irriga-


tion is the right business decision. Alabama’s agricultural schools and farmers’ organizations need to develop educational outreach programs that outline the long-term economic benefits of irrigation. • State Economic Incentives: High risk and low capital can be offset by incentives. Low interest rate, long-term, state-backed loans can encourage investments in irrigation. Research suggests that the payback to the

state for this economic incentive is at least equivalent to, if not better than, similar incentives, including those invested in Thyssen Krupp Steel in Mobile, Alabama. The state would regain its money through direct payback of the loans and enhanced tax revenue. The money to make these investments could be provided by a state agricultural bond issue much as ThyssenKrupp and other industrial incentives have

been funded in the past. A bond issue of $250 million would put 500,000 acres under irrigation. State investments, which would make agricultural land more valuable, might also spur the turnover of land from absentee owners to those who are actually farming.


• Federal Water Infrastructure: In order to expand irrigation in a sustainable manner, water withdrawals for irrigation should be made during high flow periods. This requires the building of off-stream, on-farm reservoirs. The federal government has long supported western water projects, including running water to the edge of farmers’ fields at little cost to the farmers. The federal government should provide the same economic incentives in the Southeast to promote irrigation in an environmentally responsible manner. The state should work with neighboring states to put an Eastern Irrigation Initiative in the 2013 Farm Bill. Such infrastructure stimulus plans are important to preserving the agricultural output of the country in the face of declining agriculture in the arid West. • Development and Support of a Water Resource Tracking System: Before insti-

tuting any program to expand irrigation, Alabama must implement a program for tracking irrigation and other water withdrawals in the state. Other states, especially in the West, have impaired their water resources by over-allocating water for irrigation. With the benefit of their hindsight, Alabama can avoid such problems by tracking water use and water availability down to the smallest watershed level on a real-time basis. AUII, along with the Alabama Office of Water Resources and U.S. Geological Survey, has developed a prototype system that can assess and track water consumption versus water availability from surface sources. It is also technologically possible to use data loggers in irrigation wells to measure the effects of water usage on groundwater levels and the rate of recovery for the aquifers. Farmers receiving incentives would be required to provide water usage information to this tracking system. Incentives would not be available to watersheds that are identified as threatened in the Water Resource Tracking System. • Development of an Irrigation Insurance Program: While Alabama has considerable water, extreme droughts and other adverse

conditions may demand that irrigation withdrawals be curtailed. The result could be a real economic loss to farmers. Most rain-fed farmers currently subscribe to crop insurance, which partially compensates them from drought losses. Because of poor water-holding soils and sporadic growingseason rainfall, these policies are used two or three years out of every five. In contrast, irrigation curtailment is likely to occur only once in fifteen or twenty years. Thus, a type of irrigation insurance supported by farmers and state contributions to premiums should be developed to compensate farmers should their water withdrawals be restricted for the good of the state. The frequency of such occurrences by watersheds can be evaluated in the Water Resource Tracking System based on historical data in setting appropriate insurance rates. Alabama is in an excellent position to increase irrigation and to do it in a way that not only benefits the state’s rural economy, but is also sustainable and protects our environment. Alabama can learn from the mistakes other states have made and do it right.




n the farming business, â&#x20AC;&#x153;almost making itâ&#x20AC;? means slowly going out of business.



The E.W. Shell Fisheries Center by David Rouse


The E. W. Shell Fisheries Research Center, located on the North Auburn Campus, is the largest research facility of its kind in the United States, and possibly the largest university facility for fisheries research in the world. The center is five miles north of Auburnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main campus, on a tract of land managed by the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station. Approximately 1800 acres have been set aside, primarily for research and teaching in aquaculture, fisheries management, and aquatic ecology. Much of the initial land was purchased between 1940 and 1943. Additional tracts were purchased in the 1970s, with some being purchased as recently as 2000. Pond construction started in the 1940s and has continued as money, time, and research have allowed. In 2012 there were 244 earthen ponds comprising more 200 acres of water. Ponds range in size from 0.05 acres to twenty-five acres. The E. W. Shell Fisheries Center was named after Dr. E. W. Shell, head of the Department of Fisheries

and Allied Aquacultures between 1973 and 1994. Dr. Shellâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s vision and drive resulted in the development of this world-class research and teaching facility that has impacted so many people at home and abroad. The ponds are filled with collected rainfall as it runs off watersheds. Located near the ponds are buildings used for research, teaching, and outreach. These buildings include space for a broad range of studies on the water and the aquatic life forms that it supports. Laboratories include analytical labs for water quality, genetics, diseases, and nutrition of many important aquatic species of conservation and economic interest. Over the years, many significant advances have been accomplished through the research programs at the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center. Among the hundreds of discoveries that have occurred over the last seventy years, the following milestones can be considered among some of the most significant accomplishments in agriculture that have affected residents of the state, nation, and the world during the past century.

Pioneering Concepts of Farm Pond Management Research by AU fisheries scientists, led by Homer Swingle and conducted in the 1930s and 1940s, led to the development of the popular recreational fishing ponds found throughout the United States today.

Early research identified proper combinations of bass and sunfish to be stocked and the proper amounts of fertilizer and other amendments to provide a plentiful supply of food and recreation for farm families. Research on recreation fish ponds continues today with new combinations of fish species and stocking strategies for todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s anglers as fishing habits change toward interest in trophy fishing and catch and release management.

The U. S. Catfish Industry Selection of the appropriate species and adoption of Auburn-developed pond management principles have formed the basis for the U. S. catfish industry. Since the 1960s, Auburn scientists have developed a series of technologies, including better fish feeds by Tom Lovell and Allen Davis; improved methods to manage water quality by Claude Boyd; disease control by Bill Rogers, John Plumb, and John Grizzle; and genetically improved lines by Oneal Smitherman and Rex Dunham. The catfish industry is now a billion-dollar industry accounting for sixty percent of all aquaculture production in the United States.

Reproduction Control for Tilapia Tilapias are a family of fish native to Africa. They have long been known to be a wonderful fish for human consumption with many desirable traits for


aquaculture, except that they reproduce so quickly that culture ponds quickly fill with sub-marketable size fish. In the early 1980s, Auburn scientists, led by Oneal Smitherman and Bill Shelton, developed technology to produce all-male tilapia. Male tilapia

grow much faster than females and with a monosex population, reproduction is not a problem. This technology is now widely adopted and has given rise to commercial production of tilapia in many tropical regions of the world today. The breakthroughs in the early 1980s are largely the reason tilapia are in our grocery stores and on restaurant menus today.

Development of the Paddlewheel Aerator As catfish aquaculture began to expand and stocking densities increased, water quality became the limiting factor. Claude Boyd developed a 104 paddlewheel aerator design for fish ponds that is now the primary aerator design used in the western world, and it is being used increasingly in Asia. This technology has saved aquaculture millions of dollars in losses from decreased fish productivity and mortality related to low oxygen levels in pond waters. The use of these aerators increased the carrying capacity of channel catfish ponds and increased yields of catfish by 50 to 75 percent per acre, while reducing the cost of aeration by 50 percent. The E. W. Shell Fisheries Center is an extremely important part of the teaching and extension/ outreach programs of the Department of Fisheries

and Allied Aquacultures. The department offers undergraduate and graduate degrees, but puts a strong emphasis on graduate education. The E. W. Shell Center utilizes field classrooms and labs, in addition to a vast array of ponds, to provide important hands-on teaching opportunities. Since the first degree was award in 1948, the department has granted over 1,600 degrees, with 1,250 of these being graduate degrees. Students have come from many different countries to study at Auburn and to learn fish culture techniques at the center. Research and teaching activities that have been conducted at Auburn University emphasizing water and watershed conservation during the past eighty years have had major impacts the world over. Water harvesting has helped people in tropical regions to collect and store water during rainy seasons for use during dry seasons of the year. Undernourished people in less-developed countries now have nutritious fish to eat, and economies have been improved through economically viable aquaculture practices. As wild fish resources have reached sustainable limits around the world, fish cultured through aquaculture with fundamental techniques developed by Auburn Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures now account for about half the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s seafood supplies.





he E. W. Shell Fisheries Center uses field classrooms, labs, and a vast array of ponds to provide hands-on learning to students from around the world.

Catfish Farming 106

By Terry Hanson and Jesse Chappell

Commercial Aquaculture in Alabama


ural west Alabama has an important catfish industry that employs many people and cannot exist without ample, high-quality water. However, economic uncertainties affect the industry’s profitability, and Auburn University Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquaculture researchers and Extension specialists have created a “Pond-to-Plate” project and an Aquaculture and Fisheries Business Institute (AFBI) to address these industry-wide problems and opportunities. Through the continual search for more efficient production systems and integration of fish and plant production systems, new revenue streams for fish producers are being developed. These efforts may help diversify and stabilize rural farm operations. Economic development in poor, rural agricultural areas of Alabama and the Southeast in general can be enhanced when we wring out more sellable products from nutrient resources in the water. By applying an overarching water-nutrient conservation philosophy, the elements that were

once considered to be “wastes” can be re-aligned to produce a variety of merchantable crops.

Economic Importance of Catfish Farming Aquaculture is the production of aquatic animals and plants for human use and is one of the fastest growing sectors of animal-based agriculture in the world. Worldwide, aquaculture production accounts for nearly 50 percent of the seafood consumed. Sustainable domestic aquaculture can help

meet the increasing demand for seafood and create jobs. Consumer-driven demand for aquaculture products has resulted in the broad adoption of more intensive fish production facilities. Catfish farming is the largest segment of the U.S. aquaculture industry. In 2011, 334 million pounds of food-size channel catfish were produced with an overall value of $393 million. In recent years, 107 though, the number of farms and total production pond acreage in the industry has dropped. For instance, in 2008 there were 1,617 catfish operations but only 718 operations as of January 2012, a 56 percent decrease. The decline in the U.S. farm-raised catfish industry is due to increased feed and fuel costs and competition from less expensive imported fish substitutes. Live weight of catfish processed in the U.S. decreased by 49 percent from 2003 through 2011, from 661 million pounds to 334 million pounds. At the peak of industry output in Alabama, there were close to 26,000 acres of ponds in production

of catfish and nearly 250 farms. Since 2003, there has been a 41 million-pound reduction in annual food-size catfish produced (-26 percent), while the number of Alabama producers actually increased from 231 in 2003 to 252 in 2008. For the 2003 to 2011 time period, there has been a 7,000 wateracre decrease (-26 percent) in catfish production pond area. The primary catfish-producing counties in West Alabama are Dallas, Greene, Hale, Marengo, Perry, and Sumter, all within the Black Belt soil region, which is one of the most economically depressed regions of the Southeast. The region is poor, rural, and depends on agriculture. According to the U.S. 108 Census Bureau, between 23 and 35 percent of inhabitants in these counties live below the poverty level, while the Alabama average is 17.1 percent. In addition to median family incomes in these counties being below state and national averages, west Alabama also suffers from low job availability and potential for gainful employment. However, one of the bright spots and largest sources of employment and income in west Alabama is the catfish industry. Approximately 4,000 Alabamians rely on jobs directly engaged in the catfish industry, including jobs on farms and harvest seine crews and in processing plants and feed mills. The combined production and processing segments of the

industry have an economic impact of $490 million annually on the state of Alabama. A ripple effect from the catfish industry decline affects other sectors of the economy that are dependent on the supply of fish provided by West Alabama farmers, including feed mills, fish processors, seine crews, and farm labor. Since 2006, two of the five fish processors in the state have closed their doors, leaving hundreds of Alabamians unemployed during a difficult economic recession in a desperately poor region of the country. Alabama catfish production comprises 34 percent of the U.S. total production and was valued at $132 million in 2011. Catfish is one of Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most important agricultural commodities, ranking fifth in cash receipts among farm commodities behind poultry, cattle/calves, greenhouse/sod/

nursery products, and cotton. The combined impact of the Alabama aquaculture production and processing industries for 2005 was $489 million and 3,885 jobs. The outlook for the U.S. catfish industry is uncertain. There are positive and negative trends occurring that will impact the future of the industry, including a trend among U.S. consumers to increase their consumption of fish and seafood products. Catfish have dropped to sixth among fish and seafood species consumed in the United States, though it remains the single largest aquaculture species produced and sold in the nation. If Americans continue to consume fish during the current economic recession, there may be some switching toward catfish as an inexpensive alternative to other more expensive fish products. Under this scenario, the number of new and current catfish consumers would increase the quantity of catfish consumed and lead to greater demand for U.S. farm-raised catfish. Imported frozen catfish fillet quantity was down by 29 percent in 2011 compared to 2010 levels. Escalating feed, fuel, and energy costs, combined with increased quantities of substitute products, have made profitability difficult for U.S. catfish producers. Fish prices in 2011 were at unprecedented high levels, and processors were able to pass these increased fish prices onto wholesalers, leading to

sound profits for the year. The downside was that market share for the domestic frozen fillet product fell from 42 percent to 26 percent, with imported catfish products jumping to 74 percent of total market sales. However, producers and processors now face unprecedented challenges in marketing their products profitably. In an effort to try to recapture market share, farmers and processors have reduced their selling prices below actual costs. This is an unsustainable position in the long run, making adoption of water nutrient conservation and re-use practices critical. The catfish industry in west Alabama has held relatively steady over the past several years when compared to the Mississippi and Arkansas delta industries. Aquaculture farmers in this region are seeking management combinations that would reduce their unit cost of production. The catfish industry, like other food production sectors, faces competitive prices for inputs and outputs. It is important to investigate new technological opportunities, such as in-pond raceways (IPRS), split ponds, recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), and integrated fish–plant production systems. Reducing unit costs of production, and thereby increasing production efficiency, are important criteria for the industry to remain viable and competitive.

Pond-to-Plate Project In 2009, the “Pond-to-Plate Project” was initiated to concentrate on setting priorities for improving production efficiency, product quality consistency, and profitability for farm-raised catfish producers, harvesters, processors, and distributors. Pond-to-Plate is a broad umbrella project addressing the revitalization of the U.S. and Alabama farm-raised catfish industries. The project is receiving funds from several sources, is multidisciplinary in nature, and involves private sector industry participants who have helped prioritize areas needing attention. Producers, processors, seafood marketers, and scientists are playing a role in the project. Auburn University researchers and Extension personnel from the Departments of

Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Bioengineering, Biology, Horticulture, and Agricultural Economics are participating. The highest priorities being worked on in 2012 and into the foreseeable future include the following: • yield verification trials using best management practices on catfish operations in West Alabama to determine efficiencies and lower production costs • biological and economic evaluation of in-pond raceway catfish production systems and integrated fish–plant production systems • evaluation of new technologies, such as fish pumps and hybrid catfish grader seines • create consistent high-quality products that reduce off-flavor and off-color in catfish fillets • reduce virulent Aeromonas hydrophila infections using epidemiological investigations into the causes of this disease, management to reduce its transmission, and development of diagnostic tools and vaccines • a retail scanner data analysis of fish and seafood products in fifty-two U.S. cities, allowing us to better understand the


substitutability and complementarity between fish species in these markets, and elasticity estimation so we can discuss with catfish processors and retailers how best to position their products through pricing and promotion incentives for specific U.S. markets. Each project is part of the catfish value stream, in other words, from the beginning pond production step to the consumerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s plate. The project will help transform the U.S. catfish industry into a modern livestock industry that provides products that are competitive with imported fish products and meet high consumer expectations and standards. The in-pond raceway and recirculating aquacul110 ture systems are two new concepts and technologies being researched and introduced to the west Alabama catfish industry through Pond-to-Plate and the Aquaculture and Fisheries Business Institute.

New Technologies for West Alabama Catfish Producers While aquaculture farms have become more productive, farmers and researchers continue looking for methods to mitigate risk and negative impacts to water quality in increasingly intensive fish production systems. The aquaculture industry has focused considerable attention on the

development of environmentally and financially sustainable recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). Intensive production has increased the concentration of animals, but RAS facilities have incorporated modern technology to manage nutrients and harvest waste solids. A traditional RAS is an intensive fish production unit allowing the producer to control environmental conditions, optimize production per unit volume, and reuse limited freshwater resources through mechanical removal of solids and bio-filtration of dissolved fish wastes. The in-pond raceway system (IPRS) is a newly developed system with features of raceway culture technology used for trout and the best features of the partitioned aquaculture system and

cage culture. The combination applies principles of flowing water culture to traditional commercial pond systems. Thus the system uses the existing catfish culture ponds and applies a fixed wall/ floor or floating raceway unit. Collectively these systems and their management must reliably and consistently produce high survival of stock, high feed efficiency, and overall reduced cost per unit sold at market size. We have been able to successfully prove the concept in trials over several years on farms in west Alabama. One study involving IPRS at a commercial farm in West Alabama, led by then-Ph.D. student T. W. Brown, aimed to improve profitability of catfish production by demonstrating methods to achieve high levels of survival, feed performance, and efficiency in a commercial farm setting. The IPRS was developed and installed in a six-acre earthen pond with an average depth of about 5.5 feet. Six production cells, or raceways, were constructed of concrete blocks on a reinforced concrete pad. Raceway dimensions were sixteen feet wide by thirty-seven feet long by four feet deep. The cells were arranged side by side and shared common walls. Each raceway cell was equipped with a 0.5 horsepower (hp) water mover (paddlewheel) at its upstream end, which rotated at 1.2 RPM and allowed for the exchange

of water in each raceway as frequently as once every 4.9 minutes. Each raceway was originally stocked with 12,000 to 30,000 advanced stockers that weighed between 0.13 and 0.92 pounds each to simulate a staggered stocking and harvest production method. Results from Brownâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s study for the 2008 production season indicated that IPRS demonstrated improvements in survival, feed efficiency, disease management, and overall production and increased yields. At the same time, it reduced unit production costs and improved enterprise profitability over traditional multiple-batch pond production systems for catfish. Since the deployment of the first commercial prototypes in 2007, a rapid evolution of the system has taken place. Current systems are larger (sixteen feet x eighty feet) and handle more fish but still approximate the same 10-14 pounds per cubic foot of raceway volume. Water exchange is improved using a large air-lift device, which employs a low horsepower blower to aerate and move large volumes of water through the raceways. The airlift device is nearly maintenance-free, in contrast to mechanically driven paddlewheels. We expect to deploy fish pumping technology used at harvest in the salmon industry to load fish for transport to processing plants for


slaughter or to ponds for restocking. Fish pump operation is very gentle compared to current hydraulically operated boom truck loading. Raceway systems allow fish to be loaded in any weather, or time of day, very rapidly and with reduced physical stress or damage to the fish than that brought on by traditional loading. As these systems are shown to be increasingly cost-effective and profitable, the question arises as to how to best re-value the increased catfish production volume of waste solids excreted by fish and harvested from raceway solids collectors. Effluents from intensive aquaculture systems can offer a significant nutrient irrigation 112 resource, enriched with fish wastes and algae that could be used to fertilize and irrigate high-value plant crops in fields, containers, and greenhouses. We believe the development of integrated aquaculture–plant production systems are essential to long-term profitability and sustainability of aquaculture enterprises in Alabama and the United States. An integrated fish–plant production system can combine various fish species—catfish and tilapia, for instance—with various plant types for food or for ornamental use and various production systems such as raceways to irrigate floating or ebb/flow areas. J.

Danaher and J. Pickens, current Ph.D. students, have demonstrated innovative ways to manage intensive recirculating aquaculture system effluents in order to prevent environmental contamination. The daily discharge effluent contains organic matter and nutrients. Concurrently, the horticulture industry is searching for alternative container substrates for plant production. Results from experiments report that aquaculture effluents could perform similarly to other sources of inorganic nutrients. There are opportunities for aquaculture farmers and others living in rural west Alabama communities to develop new income streams using waste nutrients to produce vegetables and other merchantable plants and bio-fuels. Particle waste solids (manure) and dissolved nutrients can be effectively trapped, removed from the production system, and used in year-round continuous greenhouse and outdoor production of various plant crops. Commercial-scale, intensive fish production systems produce a valuable by-product in fish manure and dissolved effluent particles. Preliminary observations in our ongoing, intensive fish production trials indicate these captured wet solids can be satisfactory substitutes for fertilizers in horticulture crops.

Summary Systems we are developing at Auburn University in collaboration with producers and processors are making a significant difference in the ability of the industry to compete in a world seafood market. We are now able to produce two to three times more live fish tonnage while at the same time using less energy per ton harvested and reducing our feed inputs by 35-45 percent. Because we are using our production medium—water—more wisely, we are able to improve our annual yield per million gallons of water by 200-250 percent. Additionally, by effectively harvesting manure solids and dissolved nutrients, we are able to re-value the nutrients in merchantable plant material to create an additional income stream. Water resources, so rich in Alabama, are our most essential of all natural resources in all senses of the word. Advancements being made through Auburn’s collaboration with industry partners in more efficiently using water in the production of wholesome seafood become more important as the population of our world grows. While we are collectively focused on “re-setting” the Alabama aquaculture industry for greater competitiveness, sustainability, and viability, these efforts enhance our vital interest in conserving our water resource as well.





atfish farming is the largest segment of the U.S. aquaculture industry.


By Claude E. Boyd and Philip L. Chaney


Alabama Fish Ponds


s anyone who has looked out an airplane window soon after take off can attest, small ponds are common in the United Statesâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;especially in the eastern two-thirds of the nation. Satellite images suggest the number of ponds and other small water bodies in the United States is as high as 8 to 9 million, though it is not always possible to tell the difference between natural and manmade bodies of water. Manmade ponds are common where there are few natural static water bodiesâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;as in much of Alabama. Originally constructed on farms as water supplies for livestock, irrigation, fish production, and even domestic use, ponds were promoted because they captured soil particles eroded from watersheds. Beginning in the 1930s, the United States Department of Agriculture Soil Conservation Service (now the Natural Resources Conservation Service) assisted property owners in building many ponds across the country. The Farm Ponds Project of the Agricultural Experiment

Station of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), led by Dr. H. S. Swingle, became well known throughout the nation and the world for providing information needed to propagate fish in ponds. The project eventually became the current Auburn University Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. The number of farms has declined drastically in Alabama since the 1950s, but ponds remain on the landscape and are part of our heritage. Between 1965 and 2005, many ponds were constructed for channel catfish production in a few counties in the west-central part of the state. Although ponds are still being built in Alabama, they are mostly for non-farm purposes such as breeding fish for sport and landscape enhancement. Despite ponds being commonplace in Alabama, they have received scant attention compared to streams and large impoundments. Here we provide general information about the number, surface area, and role of manmade ponds in Alabama.

Design A typical pond is made by damming a waterway. Some ponds are fed by permanent or intermittent streams, but others receive only rainfall and water that flows over the watershed surface after storms. The watershed areas of ponds vary greatly; in Alabama, catchments are usually about ten times 115 larger than the surface of their pond. In the summer and fall, when evaporation exceeds rainfall, the water level in ponds with smaller watersheds usually declines, while those with large catchments have high flushing rates during winter and spring. The fill for constructing dams is usually obtained from the base of the pond. Dams usually extend two to three feet above maximum expected water levels. Side slopes of dams depend upon soil properties, but typically dams are two to three times wider than they are tall. Top widths of dams are eight to fourteen feetâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;the greater their height, the wider the top. Ponds in Alabama typically

Fig. 1. Illustration of the water-level control structure of a watershed pond.

have maximum depths of ten to twenty feet—the deepest water usually being behind the center 116 of the dam—with average water depth of five to eight feet. Ponds usually have a standpipe (trickle tube) to discharge normal overflow (Figure 1). They also have emergency spillways—usually a wide, shallow, grass-lined ditch—at one end of the dam to bypass large amounts of water resulting from unusually large rainfall events. This keeps water from overtopping and breaching dams.

Number and Size Satellite imagery taken between December 22, 2006, and March 23, 2007, reveals a total of about

279,000 bodies of water spanning 100 acres or less in surface area (Table 1), which, combined, cover over a half-million acres of the state. Because Alabama has few small, natural, static water bodies, the small entities identified as water in the images Water surface area Number (acres) < 2.5 237,036 2.5 to 5.0 22,168 5.1 to 10.0 11,296 10.1 to 20.0 5,093 20.1 to 100 3,488 Total 279,081

Total water surface area (acres) 199,800 77,790 78,580 70,900 135,660 562,730

Table 1. Estimates of numbers and water surface areas of ponds in Alabama (by water surface area categories) based on evaluation of satellite imagery (22 December 2006 to 23 March 2007).

were almost all manmade ponds. Densities of ponds are greatest in the Alabama Valley and Ridge Province (7.95 ponds per square mile) and lowest in the Highland Rim Province (3.65 per square mile)—the state average is 5.34 ponds per square mile. Because of its greater land area, the East Gulf Coastal Plain Province contains over 60 percent (5.46 per square mile) of the ponds in Alabama. Jefferson County, in which Birmingham lies, has the greatest number of ponds, but overall, population densities and densities of ponds at the county level do not correlate. Ponds less than 2.5 acres in size are by far the most common (Table 1). For the period of our study, the average size of ponds did not differ greatly among the state’s five physiologic provinces, ranging from 2.00 acres on the Piedmont Plateau to 2.50 acres in the Alabama Valley and Ridge region. The average pond size statewide is 2.32 acres. The percentage of total area covered by pond water averages 1.9 percent for the entire state, ranging from 1.2 percent in the Piedmont Plateau to 3.1 percent in the Valley and Ridge region.

Hydrology Alabama ponds store an estimated 3,096,405 acre-feet of water. Spread over the entire state, this amount of water would have a depth of 1.11

inches, which is roughly 5.2 percent of annual runoff or around 2 percent of annual rainfall. Ponds are seldom drained and, after initial filling, they do not capture much runoff in succeeding years. Nevertheless, significant rainfall events result in water entering ponds from watersheds faster than it can flow out. Ponds detain runoff and release it gradually over several days, thereby reducing the rate at which it enters streams. The watershed to water-surface ratio in Alabama ponds is about 10:1; thus, around 5,627,300 acres of land drain into these ponds. Ponds lessen peaks in downstream flow and help decrease the flood crests of streams. Evaporation rates from ponds are greater than those of watersheds, where a shortage of water often limits water loss to the air through evapotranspiration (evaporation from free water or other moist surfaces plus transpiration by plants). In Alabama, pond evaporation averages about 44.4 inches per year as compared to average watershed evapotranspiration of around 37.2 inches per year. In all, the increase in water loss to the air from ponds is 7.2 inches per year more than would have occurred from the land upon which the ponds were built. Ponds in Alabama increase water loss to evaporation by an estimated 337,638 acre-feet, an increase of only 0.32 percent.

What this means is that ponds appear to have a rather minor influence on local hydrology. Their main effect is to store water on the landscape and to lengthen the time required for watersheds to discharge storm runoff.

Sportfish Ponds Fish naturally find their way into ponds. However, possibly 10 to 15 percent of Alabama ponds are intentionally stocked and managed for sportfish production. Properly managed sportfish ponds are stocked with sunfish and largemouth bass in a 10:1 ratio. Agricultural limestone and inorganic fertilizers are used to increase phytoplankton productivity that is the base of the food web culminating in sunfish, which serve as the main food source for bass (Figure 2). Phytoplankton consists of microscopic algae that often impart a greenish hue to the water (often called phytoplankton

Fig. 2. Food web for sunfish and bass culture in an Alabama pond.

bloom). Water also contains microscopic animals known as zooplankton. Research on liming and the fertilization of sportfish ponds has been conducted at Auburn University and is used throughout the Sun Belt region. Excessive fertilization of sportfish ponds should be avoided because it can lead to dense phytoplankton blooms. Although phytoplankton blooms produce dissolved oxygen during the day, respiration of dense phytoplankton blooms can cause dissolved oxygen concentration to fall at night and stress or kill fish. This is a particular problem during extended periods of cloudy weather when daytime oxygen production by phytoplankton is reduced by diminished light intensity. The normal 117 technique for preventing excessive fertilization is to withhold fertilizer application when phytoplankton blooms are dense. In most ponds, plankton is the main source of turbidity (or cloudiness), and the ideal turbidity corresponds to an underwater visibility of eighteen to thirty-six inches. If the underwater visibility is less than eighteen inches, fertilization should be delayed until the visibility is between twenty-four and thirty inches. Ponds often stratify thermally during late spring, summer, and early fall. The surface water heats faster than deeper water, and because warm water is lighter than cooler water, it floats on top

of the deeper, cooler water. The surface water in which phytoplankton occurs does not mix with the deeper water. Decomposition of organic matter often results in dissolved oxygen depletion in the deeper water. Weather fronts or intense thunderstorms that bring heavy rainfall and strong winds may cause sudden destratification of ponds. Blending of the deeper, oxygenless water with the surface water sometimes causes dissolved oxygen concentrations to fall low enough to kill fish. Some pond owners install air diffusers in the bottoms of ponds to mix the entire water column and prevent thermal stratification. Phytoplankton—especially blooms of blue118 green algae—may float to the surface of ponds, forming a filmy layer of material, called scums, during calm weather. It is not unusual for intense light at the surface to kill the algae in surface scums. This phenomenon is often called a plankton die-off and can cause oxygen depletion, which can kill fish.

Catfish Ponds Channel catfish are cultured mainly in the Blackland Prairie region of west-central Alabama within a fifty-mile radius of Greensboro in Hale County. Ponds for catfish farming range in water surface area from about one acre to more than forty acres, but the average size is around ten

acres. Ponds are filled by surface runoff, and fish are harvested by seining without drawing down water levels. However, ponds may be partially or completely drained at eight- to ten-year intervals to repair earthwork. In 2011, there were 18,980 acres of channel catfish ponds in Alabama; production from these ponds totaled 119,200,000 pounds (6,280 pounds per acre). The farm-gate value of channel catfish has been between $0.80 and $1.20 per pound in recent years. In channel catfish farming, breeding pairs are allowed to spawn in containers placed in broodfish ponds. Fertilized eggs are transferred to indoor troughs, and after hatching, fry (baby catfish) are moved to nursery ponds and reared to fingerling size. The following year, fingerlings are stocked in grow-out ponds and raised to food-fish size. There are few hatcheries in Alabama; most fingerlings are purchased from fingerling producers in Mississippi. However, most farms in Alabama must reserve one or more ponds for fingerling storage. Fish are fed manufactured pellets made of plant meals, meat by-products, possibly fish meal, fish oil, and vitamin and mineral mixes. The crude protein content of the feed is 30 to 32 percent. The floating pellets are applied to ponds daily during warmer months at about 3 percent of body weight

of fish. Ponds contain 5,000 pounds per acre or more of fish, and feed inputs often exceed 150 pounds per acre a day. Uneaten feed and feces decompose in ponds, thus exerting an oxygen demand. Fish consume dissolved oxygen and nutrients from feeds entering the water, causing dense phytoplankton blooms. During daylight, phytoplankton produces more dissolved oxygen through photosynthesis than is used in respiration by phytoplankton, fish, and microorganisms decomposing waste feed and feces. However, mechanical aeration with electrical paddlewheel aerators is necessary to prevent low dissolved oxygen concentration at night from stressing or killing fish. Mechanical aeration was one of the major advances in the culture of catfish and other aquaculture species, and paddlewheel aerator fabricated according to a design developed at Auburn University are used almost exclusively in catfish farming. Nitrite toxicity is a common problem in catfish ponds. Nitrite is absorbed by fish and it combines with hemoglobin in their blood, which transforms hemoglobin to methemoglobin. Methemoglobin will not combine with oxygen and thus causes fish to suffocate. Methemoglobin causes blood to have a brown color, and methemoglobinemia in fish is commonly known as “brown blood” disease.

Mechanical aerator in a channel catfish pond.

Sodium chloride is applied to ponds at about 100 parts per million (ppm) because a high chloride concentration in the water represses the ability of fish to absorb nitrite. Certain species of blue-green algae excrete odorous compounds—primarily geosmin (trans, 1,10-dimethyl-trans-9-decalol) and MIB (2-methylisoborneol)— into the water. These compounds, when absorbed by fish, impart a bad flavor (off-flavor) to the flesh. Processing plants may refuse fish affected by off-flavor. Thus, before harvest, ponds are often treated with the algicide copper sulfate at 1 to 1.5 ppm to kill the algae. Usually, a few days after copper sulfate treatment, odorous compounds will have naturally purged from fish, and flavor will be normal. Fish are har-

vested with a grading seine that allows small fish to escape, loaded onto a live haul truck, and taken to the processing plant. Fingerlings are stocked to replace harvested fish. Water overflowing from ponds after storms, or discharged when ponds are drained, has elevated concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter, and suspended solids. Catfish pond effluents potentially can cause pollution in receiving streams, but a study of Big Prairie Creek, which receives effluent from about half of the catfish farms in Alabama, revealed that water quality in this stream had not been seriously degraded. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed an effluent rule that requires catfish and other aquaculture farms producing more than 100,000 pounds per year and discharging thirty days per year or more to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. The rule does not specify effluent limitation guidelines (effluent water quality standards); instead it recommends application of best management practices (BMPs) to reduce the volume and pollution strength of pond effluents. Auburn University collaborated with the Alabama Catfish Producers, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop BMPs for channel catfish farming in Alabama.

Other Commercial Aquaculture Ponds Channel catfish farming is by far the largest aquaculture effort in Alabama, but bait minnows are produced in ponds at a few locations—there are likely less than 200 acres of such ponds. Also, fingerling sunfish, bass, and grass carp for stocking in sportfish ponds, as well as koi and a few other species of ornamental fish, are produced in ponds. Again, there are no reliable estimates of the pond area devoted to these other freshwater fish species, but it is probably less than 500 acres. In addition to freshwater aquaculture, there is a fledging effort in Green County to produce marine shrimp in ponds filled with water from saline aqui119 fers. Such water typically has salinities of two to ten parts per thousand (ppt)—normal seawater has a salinity of 34.5 ppt—but it is deficient in concentrations of magnesium and particularly potassium. Supplementation of this water with potassium and magnesium—the common sources are potassium chloride and potassium magnesium sulfate fertilizers—allows shrimp survival and production similar to that achieved in coastal ponds filled with seawater or brackish water. There currently are about 100 acres of low-salinity, inland shrimp ponds in Alabama. An examination of thousands of well logs from west-central and central Alabama

revealed that there are extensive areas underlain by saline aquifers suitable as water sources for lowsalinity aquaculture.

Water Supply Ponds can be a source of water for multiple purposes, and in 1955, Dr. Swingle discussed the potential for using farm ponds as a source of water for irrigation in Alabama. Irrigation has not become a widespread practice in Alabama; although there are approximately 75,000 acres of irrigated agricultural land in Alabama, we believe that most of the water used in irrigation in Alabama is taken from streams or aquifers. There are areas in Alabama with meager supplies 120 of underground water. In some of these areas, water shortages are becoming increasingly severe during droughts because of greater water consumption by a growing population. The only option for increasing water supply for municipalities, industries, and agriculture in such areas is to increase surface water storage. Because of environmental concerns, there is scant opportunity for impounding major streams. There is, however, much overland flow from rural, upland watersheds that could be captured in ponds for multiple uses. In most locations, it would be necessary to construct an interconnected network of ponds. The upper ponds would

Aerial photograph of several watershed ponds on the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center, near Auburn, Alabama.

overflow and seep into lower ponds, and the lower pond(s) could be used as a water supply. Watershed ponds at the E. W. Shell Fisheries Center at Auburn University typically are arranged in water harvesting schemes such as described above. A study of one of the hydrologic units revealed that it contained 61.26 acres of ponds with a combined catchment area of 626.91 acres. On a year with normal rainfall, the ponds capture about 311.8 acre-feet of water, but reduce downstream flow by only 3.3 percent. Of course, if water were withdrawn for consumptive use, reduction in downstream flow would increase.

Water from public water systems in the United States costs an average of about $2.49 per 1,000 gallons ($811.42 per acre-foot), an amount consistent with several municipalities contacted in Alabama. The E. W. Shell Fisheries Center example suggests that about 0.453 acre-feet (147,620 gallons) of water could be captured per acre of catchment. Average water use in the United States is about 32,000 gallons per year per capita, and one acre of watershed could supply water for four people. The value of this water at the consumer level would be $367.57 per acre. Of course, in a dry year, precipitation possibly could be 50 percent less than normal, and estimates above should be reduced proportionally to provide a safety margin for drought years. A municipality or other water user could purchase or lease a catchment area and construct water harvesting infrastructure. This might involve multiple landowners, and a possible alternative would be to organize landowners into a cooperative to construct ponds and infrastructure for transferring water to the usersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; system. Rent for land in Alabama is about $5 to $7 an acre for hunting, and average rent for pasture and cropland is $19 and $41 an acre, respectively. This suggests that converting watersheds for water harvesting possibly could become a lucrative land use option.

Aquatic Habitat

Landscape Enhancement

Ponds contribute greatly to open water and wetland habitat for fish and wildlife, and they serve as natural settling basins for enhancing surface water quality. The interface between pond and land creates an edge effect that is highly beneficial to many organisms. It has been estimated that Alabama ponds of 100 acres and less have a combined shoreline of 59,588 miles. Wetlands are important for natural purification of runoff and as habitats of high biodiversity. Wetland areas are created by ponds because they cause the water table to rise in the vicinity—particularly in the upper ends of ponds. We estimated that wetland areas associated with ponds in Alabama might have an area of more than 50,000 acres. The rate of sediment accumulation in new ponds is often quite high because of erosion of the recently constructed earthwork. However, within a short time, the erosion rate of pond earthwork will decline, and ponds typically accumulate sediment originating from suspended solids in runoff at a rate of about 0.5 inches a year—a weight of about 27 tons an acre per year. Ponds in Alabama possibly accumulate about 15 million tons of sediment per year.

Ponds are often an important aspect of landscaping. They are common near dwellings in rural areas and are often a key component of suburban housing developments. Ponds are frequently found in public parks, golf courses, and other recreational areas. Two common problems are associated with such ponds. Improperly constructed ponds may seep excessively, leading to undesirably great fluctuations in water levels. Seepage can be reduced by installing a core of clayey soil in dams, properly compacting earthwork and bottoms, and installing anti-seepage collars around drainpipes. In sandy areas, plastic membranes or clay liners may be placed over the bottom, but this practice is expensive. Landscape ponds may also become highly turbid with suspended soil particles, which is not only unsightly but also diminishes natural productivity. The best procedure for preventing “muddy” ponds is to avoid erosion on the watershed and pond earthwork by planting grass on all denuded areas. Stone rip-rap or geofabric may be used to reinforce erosion-prone areas on dams or along pond edges. If the ponds remain cloudy, gypsum (calcium sulfate) or alum (aluminum sulfate) may be applied to flocculate (clump together) and precipitate suspended soil particles. Typical treatment rates are 150 to 200

ppm of gypsum and 20 to 30 ppm of alum. Ponds with acidic, low alkalinity water must be treated with agricultural limestone before alum treatment, because this compound reacts in water to form sulfuric acid that consumes alkalinity and lowers pH.

Summary Ponds are a common feature in the Alabama landscape. They store a considerable amount of water for recreational fishing and agricultural uses, including commercial fish production. Of course, ponds also are popular because of their scenic beauty and for the open-water and wetland habitat they offer fish and wildlife. Additionally, they have potential for increasing water supply for 121 municipal, industrial, and agricultural purposes in areas of the state subject to water shortages during drought years. From teaching people to build ponds to developing best practices for growing fish, Auburn University has made enormous contributions to the study and use of ponds. In fact, its efforts are written on the landscape, whether seen from the window of a plane or from the front porch of a family home. The future holds promise for ponds to play an ever more important role in our state. The scientists and researchers of Auburn University will surely be a part of that future.


The Alabama Fish Farming Center by David Rouse


New technologies and better management practices provided by scientists at Auburn University and staff at the Alabama Fish Farming Center in Greensboro have allowed the industry to expand and become more competitive in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s global markets. Advances that have been adopted by the industry include improved fish feeds utilizing diets without fishmeal, efficient paddlewheel aerators, and improved genetic lines of catfish. Genetic improvements include hybrid catfish that are a cross between channel and blue catfish. Improved catfish lines have better growth rates, feed conversion, and disease resistance. Scientists at Auburn have also developed new vaccines that provide resistance to bacterial infections of catfish. In-pond raceways are also showing great promise by pushing production and improved feed efficiencies to new levels. In

2008, Auburn scientists and staff, working with farmers and processors, began meeting together under what became known as the Pond-to-Plate Project. The goal was to look at the entire value chain, from beginning to end, to identify areas that could be modified to improve efficiency and consistence of product. The Alabama Fish Farming Center was established by the Alabama legislature in 1982. The center was located in Greensboro with the purpose of providing technical assistance to Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s rapidly growing catfish farming industry. In the beginning, the center was managed by the Alabama Soil and Water Conservation Committee and housed biologists and engineers from several state and federal agencies, including Auburn University. Experimentation with catfish culture began in Alabama in the 1960s. Growth of the industry was slow at the beginning, but by the 1970s the industry had entered a rapid expansion phase. However, with rapid growth came plenty of problems. When the center was formed in 1982, there were approximately 8,000 acres of catfish ponds in a five-county area of west Alabama, and yields of catfish were 3,000 to 4,000 pounds per acre per year (lbs/ac/yr). Most of the early efforts from center personnel were focused on pond

design and construction and on water-quality management. By 2001, center staff were servicing 25,000 acres of catfish ponds and average yields were between 5,000 and 6,000 lbs/ac/yr. Some farmers were producing over 10,000 lbs/ ac/yr. In 2005, management of the center was transferred to the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University. Today personnel at the Alabama Fish Farming Center provide expertise in the areas of water quality, disease, pond construction and maintenance, economic analysis, and overall farm management. Ponds for catfish farming can reach up to forty acres in size, but average around eleven acres. Catfish usually spawn in May and June as the water warms and days become longer. However, in Alabama there are few hatcheries and over 90 percent of Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fingerlings are now imported from Mississippi and Arkansas. The production cycle in West Alabama takes place over two growing seasons, with fry growing four to six inches in length the first growing season and then reaching weights of one to two pounds the second season. Ponds are usually stocked with 6,000 to 8,000 fish and are fed pelleted feed with 28 to 32 percent protein. Daily feeding rates can often exceed 150 lbs/ac/day. Uneaten feed and feces, along with green algae in the

water, decompose and exert a high demand for additional oxygen during the night. Mechanical aeration using electric paddlewheels designed by Auburn scientists provides additional oxygen at night. Average aeration rates are usually between two to four horsepower per acre (hp/ac). More progressive producers may aerate at rates up to 7 hp/ac. Partial harvesting of market-size fish is accomplished by pulling large nets from one end of the pond to the other with tractors. The following spring, additional young fish are stocked without draining the pond. Typically, ponds are drained only every eight to ten years for earthwork repairs. Since most farmers in Alabama use excess rain runoff to fill ponds, the catfish industry demonstrates a very efficient use of our stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s water resources. The Alabama catfish industry is a bright spot in the economy of west Alabama. Many residents of the region have jobs related to catfish farming or processing. The income of farmers and processors was estimated to be around $488 million in 2007, and this did not include the incomes of feed manufacturers, equipment suppliers, or other businesses in the region that are related to the catfish industry. All together, the fish farming industry generates around a billion dollars in the economy of one of our poorest regions of the state.


Farming the Coastal Waters B y W il l i a m C. Wa lton a n d L a D o n S wa n n


Photo by Julie Davis

Oyster Farming in the Gulf of Mexico


yster production is an important socioeconomic component of many coastal communities in the U.S. and this is especially true along the entire coast of the Gulf of Mexico. In 2010, the U.S., eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) industry produced 8,518 metric tons of oysters, valued at over $84.9 million. By volume, the Gulf of Mexico dominated the harvest, accounting for 85 percent of the harvest; however, the Gulf of Mexico only obtained 65 percent of the total dollar value of the U.S. harvest. The five-year average value of Gulf of Mexico oysters (from 2006 to 2010) was $3.17 a pound, which was over an order of magnitude lower than the same five-year average value of New England oysters of $33.67 a pound. Why such a discrepancy? The oyster business in the Gulf of Mexico is focused on the production of shucked oyster meats and depends on oysters harvested either from public reefs or from private oyster grounds or beds. In contrast, the oyster industry in New England is

almost entirely dependent on off-bottom oyster farming, producing a premium product intended for the high-value raw bar and restaurant sales. Within the U.S., oyster farms are widely distributed along the Pacific Coast, the New England Coast, the Mid-Atlantic and southeastern Atlantic Coast, and the Gulf Coast. Notably, though, all the oyster farms along the Gulf Coast reported by the U.S.

Photo by Scott Rikard

Department of Agriculture (USDA) were private oyster grounds, where all the cultivation was onbottom or extensive culture. Unlike oyster farmers in other parts of the country, Gulf of Mexico oyster farmers have relied completely on natural sets of oysters and cultivated the bottom by using oyster shell to improve the habitat for juvenile oysters. While this method allows very high production of 125 oysters when the environment is favorable, it is also subject to dramatic drops in production, when the natural set is low or predation is high. Additionally, extensively cultured oysters tend to fetch a lower price on the wholesale market. The majority of these oysters end up as shucked product, rather than on the premium, half-shell market. Based on figures reported to the USDA, Louisiana farmed oysters brought a wholesale price of approximately 13¢ apiece, while oysters farmed off-bottom in Alaska and Massachusetts commanded roughly 38¢ and 47¢ apiece, respectively. While many factors affect these prices, the extensive,

on-bottom method of oyster farming traditionally practiced in the Gulf of Mexico produces large quantities of affordable oysters. Importantly, the condition and appearance of extensively cultured oysters are highly dependent upon season and harvest location, which can lead to variation in the quality of the product. This is distinct from the effort of oyster farmers using intensive culture methods, who strive to produce consistently attractive oysters with plump meats marketed as unique brands.

Why Not Off-Bottom Oyster Farming? Despite the potential valuable niche market, no 126 significant off-bottom oyster farming industry has developed in the Gulf of Mexico to date, although the number of operating oyster farms has grown well over 300 percent nationwide since 1998. Off-bottom culture systems, including rafts, racks, and longlines, utilize the water column to increase food availability. These methods make more efficient use of growing space, promote faster oyster growth, enhance meat yield, and increase survival. Off-bottom culture systems are commonly used around the Pacific Rim, the Northeast U.S. coast, and in Europe, but they potentially create conflicts between recreational and commercial interests in U.S. coastal waters.

The technical advances in shellfish culture around the world have been generally limited to specific areas where growers applied new technology, in conjunction with biological and physical parameters, to increase yield, reduce labor, and produce the highest quality oysters. Improved shell shape, flavor, appearance, grow-out times, survival, and shelf life can all be achieved pre-

harvest by a shift from bottom (extensive) culture to off-bottom culture. Fouling organisms such as algae and barnacles are a major problem in bivalve culture, affecting growth and labor costs. Thus, efforts are being made to develop methods for reducing bio-fouling. Additionally, since natural phytoplankton is utilized during grow-out, bivalve oyster farming

creates little effluent. This reduces the environmental issues that have recently plagued finfish mariculture in public waters. Given some of these advantages over the tradition of extensive oyster farming, what has held this industry back in the region? • First, the very productive waters of the Gulf of Mexico pose a technical challenge; while allowing for very rapid oyster growth, these waters promote very rapid fouling of the culture gear (by algae, barnacles, etc.), which would choke out the oysters if not regularly cleaned. Previously tried methods of farming oysters off-bottom in the Gulf incurred unsustainable labor costs. • Second, relatively low-priced, wild-harvested (or extensively farmed) product is readily available in many years, leading to the perception that it would be difficult for a premium product to compete at a high price. • Third, oyster condition can be poor during the spawning season, which is extended in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico; spawning can lead to very thin, watery meats, called “water bellies” in some parts of

the country, possibly reducing the marketability of farmed oysters during that time. • Fourth, there has been virtually no “branding” of oysters within the region; beyond the famous Apalachicola oyster, almost all other oysters harvested from the Gulf of Mexico are sold simply as “Gulf oysters,” again making it harder to establish a niche market. • Finally, concerns about the safety of oysters harvested from the region due to Vibrio-caused illnesses can depress both price and demand, again posing a challenge to successful marketing of a higher priced farmed product.

Auburn University, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, the Mississippi–Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and the National Sea Grant 127 have come together since 2009 to address these questions and jump-start the industry along the Gulf Coast. Shellfish farming, including oyster farming, may be a viable near-shore domestic aquaculture industry that can provide a large economic boon to coastal communities in the region, both to the producers as well as the local support industries. In other regions of the U.S., progressive planning, permitting, and funding of shellfish farming has produced great economic impact. In another Gulf state, Florida, the hard clam industry grew from 23 million seed clams planted in 1989 to an expected 500 million in 2006.

Addressing the Challenges


Shellfish farming can be a critical component when fisheries have slowed or been closed. Moreover, oyster farming could likely complement the traditional oyster harvest, given that the wide majority of such product is intended for the shucked market rather than the half-shell market. In addition, shellfish farming may help watermen maintain traditional ways of life, keeping them working on the water even when wild harvests decline or the fishery is closed. Last shellfish farming has been widely recognized as providing important environmental benefits, particularly improving water quality and creating habitat for other species.

With funding from the Mississippi–Alabama Sea Grant Consortium, and working closely with a private collaborator who runs Alabama’s only commercial off-bottom oyster farm Point aux Pins Oyster Farm, a two-year study was conducted to test the suitability of four different types of commercially available oyster farming gear in the Mississippi Sound. The study has led to the identification of two types of gear that allow for cost-effective control of bio-fouling by periodically exposing the bags and oysters to the air, which prevents fouling organisms from becoming established. Moreover, by working closely with the private collaborator, potential markets were identified, and wholesale prices competitive with typical East Coast prices were obtained for the farmed oysters. While small—just one acre—Point aux Pins has doubled sales in its second year of harvest and has served as a critical proof-of-concept for both the technical feasibility of off-bottom oyster farming in the region and the potential to realize higher prices. Harvest to date has been limited to the colder months when the meat quality is highest. Additionally, this oyster farm has generated four part-time seasonal jobs, and served as a valuable demonstration site. Since 2010, visitors to the site include more than twenty-five regulators

and government officials and over forty potential farmers and members of the seafood industry, including distributors and chefs. The success of Point aux Pins Oyster Farm has spurred interest along the Alabama coast, and a number of current applications for oyster farms are pending. With parallel work by colleagues at Louisiana State University, a commercial oyster farm has been established in Louisiana. An international producer of oyster farming equipment has established a U.S. distributor along the Alabama coast, creating additional local jobs. Furthermore, local seafood distributors are featuring the branded farmraised oysters and generating sales from this business. Currently, oysters from Point aux Pins Oyster Farm are listed on the menus of at least two local high-end restaurants and have been used in several Gulf seafood promotional events across the nation by Chef Wesley True of True Restaurant in Mobile. This real-world “test case” allowed the generation of enterprise budgets, which enables potential oyster farmers to evaluate their options and create their own business plans. It has also created interest more broadly in the seafood community. Rowan Jacobsen, author of Geography of Oysters, wrote about these oysters in his online Oyster Guide (

Take a look at these oysters and tell me where they’re from … Long Island Sound, maybe? Cape Cod Bay? Duxbury Harbor? Would you believe Alabama? They’ve got the look of a classic Northeast oyster, but they are Gulf oysters through and through. (Native to Cedar Point, in fact, before the Auburn Shellfish Laboratory gets a hold of them.) The difference is, they are farmed, and, apparently, that is enough to turn a Gulf oyster into a Northeast oyster. Instead of the super thick shell, these get a nice cup and an urbane black-and-white polish to the shell. This happens because these oysters are raised in cylindrical mesh containers that roll with the tides and tumble the oysters, ensuring that deep cup. The plump meats and healthy ivory color come from the algae-rich waters of Grand Bay, Alabama, where they are grown … Grand Bay is pristine. And so are the oysters. Their flavor is a clean, creamed-corn kind of sea, light on brine and big on oysterness; a fine example of what the Gulf can do–and will do more and more, as other individuals begin farming highquality oysters throughout the Gulf region. For now, look for Point aux Pins in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas.

Environmental Benefits of Oyster Farming Oyster farming, like other shellfish farming, is environmentally friendly. Oysters are filter-feeders and feed on the ambient phytoplankton in the water. Moreover, medications used to control diseases in some types of aquaculture are not used in shellfish farming. The relatively low-impact form of farming in the ocean has led a number of environmental groups to endorse shellfish farming, including Mike Beck of the Nature Conservancy: “Shellfish farms represent one of the most—if not


the most—sustainable forms of aquaculture and fish production.” Beyond sustainability, however, shellfish farming may provide several important benefits to the public. For example, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers concluded that “we believe that there is generally a net overall increase in aquatic resource functions in estuaries or bays where shellfish are produced.” What aquatic resource functions, or ecosystem services, are provided? First, there is a potential reduction of pressure on public stocks, with a potential spawning contribution from the farmed oysters to the public fishery. A single acre of farmed oysters could contrib130

ute as many as 1.2 trillion eggs per year. Second, oysters and other shellfish help increase water clarity. A single oyster can clear over fifteen gallons a day, removing particles as small as two microns. This can lead to increased “light penetration” to the seafloor, which can encourage the growth of submerged aquatic vegetation, an important nursery habitat for a large number of species. Additionally, many coastal ecosystems are challenged by high inputs of nitrogen. Nitrogen acts as a fertilizer in marine systems, causing algal blooms, which can, in turn, lead to low oxygen, or anoxic, events. Oysters and other shellfish consume phytoplankton, which incorporate nitrogen to grow. By harvesting shellfish, oyster farmers are incidentally also removing nitrogen from coastal waters. Each acre of farmed oysters harvested could remove up to seventy-two pounds of nitrogen per year. Oyster farms and the associated culture gear also provide valuable habitat for a number of species, including commercially important species such as blue crabs and shrimp. Fish, in turn, appear to be attracted to the area. The Point aux Pins Oyster Farm is regularly visited by local fishermen and charter trips due to the perception that fishing is better in the area. Finally, shellfish farms may provide some measure of shoreline protection by reducing wave energy.

Moving Forward To move forward from this small but promising beginning along the Alabama coast, two Auburn University/Alabama Cooperative Extension System-led efforts are under way: 1) a training program that gets beginning farmers the handson experience they need in pre-permitted areas (funded by the National Sea Grant), and 2) applied research done hand-in-hand with the developing industry to optimize the quality of farm-raised oysters. Practically, one of the biggest hurdles to beginning an off-bottom oyster farm is having a permitted area to operate the farm. To address this hurdle, Auburn University is seeking the final permits for a sixty-acre oyster farming park in Portersville Bay (Mississippi Sound) as a training center, business incubator, and model for similar oyster farm parks. The program will train and start up to nine farmers over the next two to three years. The park, however, has adequate space for up to twenty independent farms, and initial interest has been high. Community members have suggested that the park will soon reach capacity, and discussions have begun about potential expansion of the park and/or creation of new parks in other locations along the Alabama coast. Importantly,

such aquaculture parks potentially reduce user conflicts. The concept of state aquaculture parks was proposed in March 1989 before the National Research Council’s Committee on Assessment of Technology and Opportunities for Marine Aquaculture in the U.S. “Entrepreneurs could lease space and infrastructure and be covered by an umbrella permit. Such parks would foster commercial operations, but even more importantly, would foster commercialization (i.e., parks could play an important role in technology transfer). A planned linkage between the technology centers

and such aquaculture parks would facilitate the deployment of new technology.” Such parks simplify the permitting and regulatory hurdles for individuals, and proper site selection can minimize user conflicts. Additionally, from an extension point of view, aquaculture parks also provide an ideal opportunity for education and hands-on training. Similar concepts have allowed shellfish farming to become established in several other locations. In Alaska, Sea Grant agents worked to help develop a “weekend warrior” program, where individuals were able to get

hands-on training and begin the permitting process to establish their own commercial oyster farms. In Massachusetts, “block permitting” of aquaculture areas (50-100 acres), where municipalities have borne the burden of initial permitting, has led to productive shellfish aquaculture industries in at least three Massachusetts communities. Oyster farming parks can spur production, but for oyster farming to be successful and sustainable within the region, producers will need to produce oysters that are perceived by consumers to be of superior quality. This, in turn, will require the development of tools to produce a superior product. Like most seafood, shellfish have been subject to increasing scrutiny in regards to safety 131 and growing consumer demand for high-quality products. Over the last century, there have been significant advances made in shellfish aquaculture to produce a premium product, with an emphasis upon product quality, product differentiation, food safety, and ease of preparation. These advances have been driven by improvements in manipulated breeding, production methods and techniques, marketing efforts, and food safety, including postharvest processing technologies. Recently, a core working group of Auburn University researchers has been assembled to focus on the long-term goal of developing a suite of


methods to improve the quality and marketability of C. virginica oysters from the Gulf of Mexico, allowing oyster farmers in the region to take advantage of this market segment, and provide valuable information to the U.S. oyster farming industry broadly.

Research has already been completed or is underway on several production methods and techniques designed to improve the quality and/or value of their product. For example, one recently completed quantitative study looked at the benefits of grading and tumbling on oyster

production, where tumbling was predicted to influence the cleanliness and aesthetic value of oysters. Studies also are underway to determine the optimum stocking density and arrangement of longline baskets. Research has begun to assess consumer response to farm-raised oysters from the Gulf of Mexico to determine the willingness of consumers to pay for a premium oyster from the region. Other research has focused on methods to provide consumers live, raw oysters that meet FDA safety guidelines. These include high-salinity treatments both in the laboratory and in the field. Finally, work has begun in the Gulf region on manipulated breeding. The Louisiana Sea Grant Grand Isle Oyster Hatchery has focused on the development of disease-resistant stocks and the production of non-reproductive lines of the native oyster. The latter is intended to produce an oyster that grows faster and does not suffer a decrease in quality during the summer. Such a core of research, integrated with collaborators throughout the Gulf of Mexico, will likely yield the information that the industry will need to develop, grow, and sustain itself, and continues the tradition of Auburn University’s College of Agriculture of “finding solutions that support and enhance Alabama’s agriculture and related businesses.”





yster farming, like other shellfish farming, is environmentally friendly. Oysters are filter-feeders and feed on the ambient phytoplankton in the water.


Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center by LaDon Swann and William C. Walton


The Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center (AUMERC), located in Mobile, Alabama, was established in 1988 when Auburn University added a research component to the existing Mississippi–Alabama Sea Grant Consortium’s Marine Advisory Program, begun in 1977. In 2003, AUMERC opened the Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory on Dauphin Island as a component of the AUMERC program. AUMERC combines the research programs of the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station system with the extension and outreach programs of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System with the Mississippi–Alabama Sea Grant Consortium. Together, these resources help address the long-term needs of the coastal economy, environment, and society. AUMERC faculty and staff are actively involved with local

governments, agencies, schools, and organizations, providing science-based information and a responsive extension program to assist citizens and decision-makers in facing the challenges to the state’s coastal resources. Currently, AUMERC Focuses on the following Four areas: • Safe and Sustainable Seafood Supply, including seafood safety, oyster aquaculture, high school training programs, seafood marketing, and pond management • Healthy Coastal Ecosystems, including living shorelines that reduce erosion, restore habitat, and promote oyster gardening

• Hazard Resilient Coastal Communities, which focuses on increasing community resilience, adapting to climate change, and regional planning • Sustainable Coastal Development, which aims to protect working waterfronts, develop a clean marina program, reduce nonpoint source pollution, and promote partnerships with Smart Yard Healthy Gulf and Alabama Clean Water program. By bringing the best available science to bear upon issues that matter to coastal residents, AUMERC strives to improve our region’s economy, environment, and quality of life.

Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory

The Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center (AUMERC).

The Auburn University Shellfish Laboratory (AUSL) was established with industry input to provide instruction, research, and outreach in the areas of shellfish ecology and production to the citizens of the state, the region, and the nation. The facility is located in Dauphin Island, Alabama, and consists of 3,000 square feet of office and lab space, including a microbiology lab, a water quality and digital imaging lab, an indoor controlled condition wet lab, and a confer-

ence room. The shellfish laboratory facility also includes a 4,000-square-foot lab and hatchery that contains saltwater intakes, larval rearing tanks, shellfish setting tanks, shellfish nursery systems, and other general purpose tanks. The wet lab encompasses more than 10,000 gallons of tank capacity. Sea water is pumped directly from the Gulf of Mexico and can be supplied directly to tanks or filtered for various applications. In addition, reservoirs on site are capable of storing 12,000 gallons of sea water. The hatchery has a production capacity of approximately 55-60 million shellfish larvae, setting capacity for those larvae, and nursery facilities for 1-2 million single shellfish seed. The 135 hatchery production of shellfish larvae and seed supports a wide variety of in-house research projects, including shellfish aquaculture, hatchery practices, shellfish and reef ecology, shellfish diseases, human pathogens associated with shellfish, and shellfish restoration. The AUSL hatchery also provides shellfish larvae and seed for other agencies and institutions around the Gulf of Mexico on an as-needed basis. Currently, AUSL is the source of seed for a newly established oyster aquaculture industry in coastal Alabama aimed at production of premium quality single oysters for the half-shell market.


A Tale of Two Animals: The Importance of Aquatic Habitat and Flow by Dennis DeVries


Alabama boasts extraordinary aquatic biodiversity, among the highest levels in the U.S. Over the past twenty years I have researched two very different organisms that live in Alabamaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s riversâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;a snail and a large fish. Both species rely on water and have been negatively affected by humans over the years, although in different ways. Any potential for recovery of these species in Alabama strongly depends on how we manage the aquatic environment in which they live, and our research efforts over the past twenty-plus years have helped in this regard.

Tulotoma Magnifica The first organism is a snail, Tulotoma magnifica. This large, ornate snail occurs only in the state of Alabama, in the Coosa and Alabama river systems. Historical distribution was from tributaries of the Coosa River near Gadsden downstream to Claiborne on the Alabama River, but field surveys in the late 1980s found that its distribution had been

drastically reduced, most likely due to the habitat alteration caused by the installation of dams. Many organisms, including the Tulotoma snail, require flowing water which is not always present after dam construction. Tulotoma generally occurs in cool, wellâ&#x20AC;?oxygenated, flowing water, typically in riffles and shoals on the undersides of large rocks or in the cracks in bedrock. When dams reduce downstream flows, their preferred habitat may no longer exist. The 1980s field survey showed Tulotoma to be restricted to only five isolated locations, which led to its being listed in 1991 as endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species List. One location where a population remained intact was in the Coosa River below Jordan Dam, north of Wetumpka in Central Alabama. However, Bouldin Dam was completed in 1967, bypassing the flow out of Jordan Dam and reducing aquatic habitat for organisms like Tulotoma. In December 1990, a minimum flow order was instituted for the main channel of the Coosa River with the goal of enhancing fisheries, which had the simultaneous positive effect of improving the available riverine habitat for Tulotoma. Similarly, the impounding of the Coosa River upstream had led to isolation of areas with suitable habitat for Tulotoma in Coosa River tributaries, leading to population fragmentation and decline in these areas.

My research with Tulotoma has had two primary objectives. First, I searched for additional undescribed populations of Tulotoma, and second, I recorded the population dynamics of Tulotoma over time in order to track changes. Despite extensive sampling, few new populations have been found. Survey efforts did, however, provide sampling data for a new population in Weoka Creek, near Wetumpka, which turned out to be one of the more abundant tributary populations. In addition, scientists from several other agencies have identified new locations of Tulotoma populations, particularly in the main stem of the Coosa and Alabama rivers. Despite the presence of suitable habitat in many of these tributaries, no additional Tulotoma populations have been located. I have surveyed six of the known Tulotoma populations since the early 1990s in an effort to identify factors affecting their distribution and abundance. Additionally, longâ&#x20AC;?term monitoring

examined the size of occupied habitats for more than a decade to determine if there were any distributional changes. The key habitat features that we identified as important to Tulotoma were the availability of a suitable rocky substrate and suitable water flow; other habitat characteristics did not appear to be as important. Extensive surveys expanded the known distances over which the populations occurred at several of the sites, and we also determined that the populations were stable or increasing at all but one of the fixed monitoring sites. Given these results, combined with information provided by scientists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural 137 Resources, and the Alabama Power Company, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service formally proposed to downlist the species from endangered status to threatened status in 2010. In July 2011 Tulotoma magnifica was officially downlisted to threatened status, the first time that a North American mollusk was downlisted under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. The downlisting, as well as Auburn Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s role in the process, was commemorated in a public ceremony at the Gold Star Park on the banks of the Coosa River in Wetumpka on July 19, 2011.


Paddlefish The paddlefish, Polyodon spathula, is a large, ancient fish species that occurs in the Mississippi and Ohio river drainages, as well as in several Gulf of Mexico tributaries, including the Alabama and Tallapoosa rivers. Habitat degradation combined with overfishing has reduced paddlefish abundance throughout its range. In Alabama, paddlefish were open to both sport and commercial harvest until 1989, when a moratorium was placed on the possession and harvest of paddlefish because of concerns about reduced population sizes. Since 1992, I have been researching paddlefish populations in both the Tallapoosa and Alabama rivers; my objectives have been to quantify population status after implementation of the moratorium and identify factors associated with paddlefish spawning in these systems. Initially my work included a study of basic population information and environmental factors affecting reproduction in these systems. Most recently, a broad collaborative effort (with Auburn University’s Dr. Russell Wright, plus scientists from the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Geological Survey of Alabama, Alabama Power

Company, and the Nature Conservancy) was initiated to quantify the potential for paddlefish to move through navigational locks during their upstream spawning migration. Previous molecular genetics work with paddlefish demonstrated that paddlefish in the Alabama River drainage are distinct from populations in the Mississippi or Ohio river drainages. In our work with the Alabama River basin populations, we found that fish in these populations typically were smaller, grew faster, reproduced at earlier ages, and had shorter life spans than did fish from the other drainages. Population monitoring also determined that the Alabama River basin populations appeared to have recovered from the historic low levels that led to the moratorium. In both the Alabama and Tallapoosa rivers, we found that paddlefish began their upstream spawning migration in the spring based on a combination of appropriate water temperature, photoperiod, and increased flow rate, and that the relative abundance of adult fishes during the spawning season was positively associated with increased flow. Before the spawning season, we used acoustic tags to track fish and determined that they travel long distances, but the upstream spawning migration is typically interrupted by dams. Navigational locks represent a potential

avenue to move fishes through dams, and we have been studying this potential over the past two years with a number of collaborators. We that found measures of reproductive success, such as the collections of adults in reproductive condition and even collection of paddlefish eggs or larvae in the river, were typically associated with flow pulses following rainfall events and the subsequent release of water from the upstream dam. So while we conclude that the moratorium has been successful for recovering Alabama’s paddlefish populations, it also appears that the reproductive success of paddlefish may be enhanced by introducing pulsing flows during spawning periods. This hypothesis, however, war- 139 rants testing with additional research. It is clear that our use of water resources, such as use of dams for flood control, hydropower, etc., can impact aquatic organisms. Only by learning about the organisms that live in these systems will we be able to determine if it is possible to adapt our water use to minimize harmful impacts and work toward protecting Alabama’s amazing biodiversity. Although we certainly can cause harm to Alabama’s aquatic biota, it is heartening to see that with proper research and knowledge, we are able to take actions that can have positive effects on our natural resources.


Wetlands: Earth’s Kidneys by Amirreza Sharifi, Latif Kalin, Mohamed Hantush, and Sabahattin Isik

Wetlands are unique, diverse, and productive habitats that emerge at the fringe of aquatic and upland land systems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines wetlands as “areas that are regularly inundated by surface water or groundwater and characterized by a prevalence of vegetation that is adapted for life in saturated soil conditions.” These delicate environments have significant ecologic and economic values because of their function in the ecosystem and the watershed. One of these functions is their potential for improving water quality. Natural wetlands have often been referred to as “earth’s kidneys” because of their high and long-term capacity to filter pollutants from the water that flows through them.


Photo by Christopher J. Anderson

Low order creek and riparian wetlands in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Where Does the Pollution Come From? Excessive sediment and nutrients in water bodies—rivers, lakes, and estuaries, for instance—

mainly originate from human activities on the landscape. Much of the pollution is tracked back to diffuse sources (or so called nonpoint sources, like farmlands and urban areas) where sediment and nutrient particles are picked up by stormwater, washed off to streams, and eventually deposited into water bodies. Of special concern are phosphorus and nitrogen, two essential elements of fertilizers that are often spread on croplands and urban lawns. Excessive levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in open waters can trigger extravagant algae growth, which is harmful to fish and other aquatic life.

How Do Wetlands Improve Water Quality? Wetlands remove contamination from water through a series of complex physical, chemical, and biochemical processes. As polluted stormwater flows through a wetland, its speed gradually drops. Suspended particles become trapped by vegetation and begin to settle out to the bottom of the wetland. The settling process also gets rid of contaminants attached to sediment particles, such as heavy metals, pesticides, and insoluble phosphorus. Wetland plants help purify water by taking up and storing some of the nutrients and heavy metals. The biochemical water treatment in wetlands is carried

out naturally by large groups of microorganisms like algae, fungi, and bacteria that live in wetland soils and on the surface of plant roots. These microbes transform and remove pollutants through a series of complex processes. Their job is essential for nitrogen removal, because microbes can turn plantavailable dissolved nitrogen into gaseous forms and release it into the atmosphere.

expensive process. To evaluate the kidney effect, water flowing in and out of the wetland is monitored for discharge and constituent concentrations over a period of time. Knowing the mass of each pollutant flowing into and out of the wetland, we can simply calculate the percentage of reduction of that constituent over a study period, a process called “mass balance analysis.”

How Effective Are Wetlands in Improving Water Quality?

What Are Wetland Models and What Are They Good For?

Wetlands can be a very effective and relatively inexpensive way of removing pollutants and improving water quality, so much so that artificial wetlands are being constructed around the world to remove contaminants from stormwater runoff, sewage effluent, and other sources. Yet the level of effectiveness depends on many factors and is highly variable among natural and restored wetlands. One of the most important factors controlling effectiveness is the so-called residence time (or retention time), defined as the average amount of time that water and contaminants spend in a particular wetland. Greater residence time means more contact time for plants and microbes in the wetland to process the contaminants. Measuring the level of water treatment (or kidney effect) in natural wetlands is a time-consuming and

Because constant water-quality monitoring of wetlands is expensive and labor-intensive, an alternative is to build a computer model that can imitate the pollutant trapping and recycling behavior of the wetland. In other words, a proper wetland model can simulate the processes that help reduce the contaminant levels within a wetland ecosystem and predict the quality of the water that leaves the system. Wetland models are science-based platforms that can help us take the most advantage of the hydro-ecological benefits of wetland ecosystems by providing us with an understanding of how these systems function. Using wetland models, we can predict how wetlands respond to anthropogenic disturbances—human impacts on the environment—and alternative management plans.

A Successful Wetland Model Application A wetland model developed by Auburn University and the U.S. EPA was successfully used to predict nutrient and sediment removal efficiency of a small (1.3 hectares) restored wetland located on Kent Island, Maryland, on the eastern shores of Chesapeake Bay. The study wetland was restored in 1986 by the Chesapeake


Nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment mass balance analysis showed that the wetland removed about 23 percent, 33 percent, and 46 percent, respectively, of the incoming load over a two-year period. The wetland model was able to capture the mass of outflowing constituents with good accuracy. Figure 2 shows the loadings (mass of outflowing constituent per day) of total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and sediment measured at the outlet of the study wetland compared with the equivalent simulated loadings by the model. Fig. 1. Study wetland and its watershed outlined by blue dashed lines (regenerated from Jordan et al., 2003).


Wildlife Heritage to provide wildlife habitat and clean runoff from agricultural fields. Much of the fourteen-hectare watershed draining to the study wetland was in agriculture, primarily corn and soybean production; the rest was covered by forest. Removal of nutrients and suspended solids from this restored wetland was monitored through automated sampling. Water entered the wetland mainly in brief pulses of runoff, which sometimes exceeded the 2,500-m3 water holding capacity of the wetland.

an effective way to preserve the integrity of our watersheds and to resolve major water quality issues. Wetland models are useful tools that can help us increase the effectiveness of funds spent on restoration by identifying and prioritizing the wetlands that provide the most benefit in terms of improving water quality.

Importance of Preserving and Restoring Wetlands Wetlands were once considered disease-ridden wasteland and were drained extensively for agriculture use and urban development. In the contiguous United States, more than one-half of the wetlands present before the European settlement were lost by the late 1970s. Nowadays, with increasing recognition of the value and importance of wetland ecosystems, existing wetlands are strictly protected by federal and state laws, and dredging activities in most United States wetlands require permits. Wetland restoration, or returning wetlands to their original state, is being promoted (and funded by many states) as

Fig. 2. Loadings of sediment (top), total nitrogen (middle) and total phosphorus (bottom) measured at the outlet of the study wetland compared with the equivalent simulated loadings (model results).




etland plants help purify water by taking up and storing nutrients and heavy metals.



Fishing for Stories by Leigh Hinton


The Chattahoochee River has a lot to teach us—about the region, its people, and ourselves. And no one is more aware of the learning opportunities this river can deliver than Ric Smith, director of experiential learning for the Department of Communication and Journalism at Auburn University. While most folks know Smith for his oratory prowess—he is the Jordan-Hare Stadium public address announcer for Auburn football and for Auburn graduation ceremonies—one of his other passions is the Chattahoochee River, which begins in north Georgia, joins with the Flint River near the Florida state line, and continues into Florida as the Apalachicola River, emptying into the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola. “I grew up on the river near what is now the city of Valley and spent a lot of time on the water, but I realized that there are a lot of people who were not aware of the area’s people, culture, and history,” Smith says. “There are many wonderful stories about the place.”

So, along with Auburn University students, faculty, and staff, Smith developed the Chattahoochee Heritage Project, a web-based news and information service focusing on the Chattahoochee River Valley, a 430-mile stretch of land rich in southern culture and history. “The idea of the Chattahoochee Heritage Project is to offer a multiplatform website that celebrates the Chattahoochee River Valley,” says Smith, who serves as executive producer of the site. Smith says he and Web designer Kevin Smith created the site to provide a learning lab for students in the Auburn’s advanced broadcast news production class and to allow outreach to the Chattahoochee Valley community, with special emphasis on Chambers, Lee, Russell, and Barbour counties in Alabama and Coweta, Troup, Harris, and Muscogee counties in Georgia. “The class is designed for story production, so it’s natural for students to work with the Chattahoochee Heritage Project,” Smith says. “The project gives students a chance to learn news and broadcast production skills—from researching the background on a subject to setting up and conducting interviews—all from a practical standpoint. Students know their stories will be seen by the public. The project provides them the opportunity for real-world application.” Stories on the website (chattahoocheeheritage.

org) range from the recollections of a wounded World War II flight engineer from River View whose life was saved by German doctors to an interview with LaGrange yarn artist Annie Greene to the recounting of a week-long odyssey that sixteen River View, Alabama, Boy Scouts took down the Chattahoochee in 1950. Accompanying the stories are videos and photographs. Smith says that the project also gives students a chance to engage with communities that they would not ordinarily see in the course of their college careers and to develop relationships that would not usually happen. “And that’s the goal of civic engagement,” says Smith. “The project takes them off campus and puts them into the community.” The heritage project strengthens Auburn’s land-grant mission, advances community-engaged scholarship, and provides students with the skills to become effective local and global citizens—all goals of the College of Liberal Art’s Community and Civic Engagement Initiative. Smith, who hopes to eventually get high school students involved, says the site will continue far into the future. “The site will never be complete,” Smith says. “There are many untold stories, so we’ll keep telling them, one at a time.”


Stormwater and Streams 146

By Eve Brantley, Katie Dylewski, Kaye Christian, A my Wright, and Charlene LeBleu

Understanding Opportunities to Improve, Involve, and Evolve Setting the Stage People are unaware of water moving through the hydrologic cycle until a storm creates puddles, drenches unprepared commuters, and replenishes lush landscapes. Yet this natural, almost invisible cycle of water moving from precipitation to rainwater runoff to groundwater recharge and to evaporation provides the life-giving water needed by both plants and animals, and also maintains stream, river, lake, and bay water levels, purifies contaminants, and stores water. When we think of the hydrologic cycle, resources such as lakes and rivers often come to mind. The National Research Council estimates, however, that actually more water is stored as moisture in the soil than is stored in rivers. This soil reservoir of freshwater is a critical component in low impact development (LID) stormwater management strategies that enhance urban streams using a watershed approach.

Because of economic and population growth, the once-natural landscape is being replaced in many areas by impervious surfaces such as parking lots, rooftops, streets, and sidewalks, which prevent the infiltration of water into the soil. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agricultureâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Natural Resources and Conservation Service, land development is occurring twice as fast as population growth. The

photo by Eve Brantley

Environmental Protection Agency has reported that more than a quarter of all land conversion from rural to urban and suburban uses since European settlement occurred between 1982 and 1997. Post-development hydrology can be quite different from the hydrology cycle of a natural landscape because an increase in impervious surfaces has 147 been linked to shifts in the cycle, such as a decrease in infiltration and an increase in runoff. Serious consequences include increased stormwater velocity, volume, and time to peak flow. A suite of nonpoint source pollutants (such as disease-causing pathogens, excess fertilizers, toxic metals, and sediment) are rapidly delivered to surface waters through storm drains and storm sewer systems, resulting in degraded stream systems. Unlike pointsource pollutants (which are discrete, permitted discharges), nonpoint source pollution and polluted runoff arise from many locations and are difficult to track, and the EPA identifies nonpoint

source pollution as the number-one threat to water quality in the United States. The overwhelming negative impact of impervious surfaces and polluted runoff together has been termed â&#x20AC;&#x153;urban stream syndromeâ&#x20AC;? to describe a flashier hydrograph (which graphs the variation of flow, or discharge, over time), elevated concentrations of nutrients and contaminants, fewer and smaller streams, stream channel instability, and reduced biological integrity.

Exploring Solutions Watershed-based solutions that focus on natural-resource-based planning, stormwater infiltra148 tion, and stream enhancement are becoming more popular as the benefits become apparent. The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (ACES) and Auburn University have partnered with natural resource professionals around Alabama and the southern region to engage stakeholders in learning more about LID and stream enhancement and restoration. LID seeks to return the hydrology of a developed landscape to pre-development levels through natural resource-based planning and the infiltration and storage of stormwater at many locations. Recall the soil storage portion of the hydrologic cycle, which stores more water than river systems;

by directing stormwater from impervious surfaces to areas that encourage storage and infiltration, the hydrologic cycle regains some of its original balance. Soil storage and infiltration of stormwater provide a multitude of benefits, including pollutant transformations, recharge of aquifers, attenuation of flood waters, and slow release source of stream baseflow water. How do we promote storage and infiltration of stormwater through LID? The first step is to take a look at the watershed and identify the sensitive natural features that should be protected, such as streamside forests, wetlands, small headwater streams, steep slopes, and highly erodible soils. Next, consider how a proposed development fits into the landscape and how best to incorporate LID practices. Planning for LID as part of an overall development plan is more effective and less expensive than retrofitting. LID practices are designed to integrate soil, plants, and water in a balance that best achieves the goals of improving stormwater quality and quantity. Examples of LID practices include bioretention cells, constructed stormwater wetlands, permeable pavements, rain gardens, and rainwater harvesting. Since 2002, more than 600 stakeholders have attended more than thirty Auburn University and ACES workshops, seminars, and tours exploring

Fig. 1. Permeable pavement cross section. Courtesy DRAFT Alabama LID Handbook.

LID design, implementation, and maintenance. Bioretention cells are designed to capture and treat the first flush of stormwater while draining in forty-eight hours or less, because, in general, the first inch of stormwater contains the highest concentration of nonpoint source pollutants. Biorentention cells utilize an engineered soil mixture of sand (85 to 88 percent) with topsoil (8 to 12 percent) and organic matter (3 to 5 percent). Drought-and flood-tolerant native plants are recommended, although turfgrass can be an appropriate

vegetation choice in some instances. Plant roots take up excess nutrients found in stormwater and serve as hosts for microbes that are busy breaking down pollutants. In addition, a layer of mulch on the surface of the bioretention cell attracts pollutants such as phosphorus, decreases weed pressure, increases soil moisture, and can aid in plant establishment. Bioretention cells are a functional and attractive LID practice that are not land-intensive and may be retrofitted into parking lots, building landscapes, and along pathways. These cells are efficient at removing sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus, and have a high potential to remove pathogens. Unlike bioretention cells, constructed stormwater wetlands are land-intensive and designed to hold water permanently. Constructed wetlands use complex biological processes that cycle nutrients, deposit sediment, and break down other pollutants while utilizing zones of vegetation for nutrient uptake and wildlife habitat. Because of their size, these systems are suited to large residential and suburban commercial developments, where aesthetics are valued and space is not limited. The advantages of stormwater wetlands include enhanced local biodiversity, wildlife habitat in urban areas, flood attenuation, and improved water quality and habitat downstream. They are effective

at removing pollutants such as sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, metals, and pathogens. Another LID practice is the use of permeable pavement, a pervious surface used in place of traditional concrete or asphalt to infiltrate or store stormwater in a gravel base layer (Figure 1). There are several ways to create a more permeable surface that is still structurally sound enough to support light to moderate vehicle traffic, including pervious concrete, porous asphalt, permeable interlocking concrete pavers, concrete grid pavers, and plastic reinforcement grids. Pollutants that may be removed from stormwater passing through permeable pavements include nutrients and metals. Rain gardens and rainwater harvesting are probably the LID practices most recognized by the public. Rain gardens are similar to bioretention cells because their function is to reduce stormwater flow velocity and store stormwater for forty-eight hours or less using native vegetation, mulch, and soil to aid in evapotranspiration, nutrient cycling, and infiltration, but they are generally smaller and do not use the engineered soil mixture (Figure 2). Instead, they rely on the permeability of native soils to distribute stored stormwater. These native soils may be amended with organic matter or sand, depending on their texture. Fine-textured soils, for example, can be amended with sand, while

Fig. 2. Typical rain garden cross section. Courtesy DRAFT Alabama LID Handbook.

coarse-textured soils can be amended with nonanimal waste compost or organic matter. Animal waste compost is not recommended because of its high nutrient concentrations and propensity to be leached from rain gardens. Homeowners may select attractive native plants for rain gardens, which may be used alone or in series. Auburn University and ACES have installed numerous rain gardens for demonstration and education throughout Alabama, at locations such as the Pike Pioneer Museum in Troy, Cary Woods Elementary School and the Donald E. Davis


Fig. 3. At Cary Woods Elementary School, a cistern collects rainwater that is used to water a rain garden. Courtesy DRAFT Alabama LID Handbook.


Arboretum in Auburn, and the Sonora Community Center in Summerdale. Rainwater harvesting using large-scale cisterns or small-scale rain barrels has grown in popularity because of concerns about drought restrictions, an increase in water conservation education, and an awareness of the ease of installation and maintenance (Figure 3). Rainwater harvesting systems collect stormwater from rooftops by connecting to a gutter system, and may be above ground or below ground. Rain barrels are used for small-scale applications such as homes, while cisterns are better suited to commercial or agricultural settings where large volumes of water need to be collected. Both

rain garden and rainwater harvesting practices have the potential to improve stormwater quality by reducing nutrients and pathogens.

teaching homeowners and the public about healthy

Why Are We Promoting LID? Streams of Conscience

a native plant list that can be used to fix small-scale

There are many reasons researchers, educators, Extension representatives, and regulators support integrating LID practices into the landscape. Ultimately, improved stormwater quality and a more natural hydrologic cycle assist in improving local stream water quality, habitat quality, and stability. Typical urban streams have been degraded by a combination of poor stormwater management, benign neglect, and being used more for stormwater conveyances and less as natural systems. Although LID is an important tool in overall watershed protection, addressing stream health through small-scale and large-scale improvement projects should be included for meaningful environmental results. Small-scale stream improvement projects can be as simple as creating a â&#x20AC;&#x153;no-mowâ&#x20AC;? zone, removing invasive exotic plants, and planting native vegetation that creates a healthy streamside forest. ACES received a Southern Regional Water Program grant to create a Backyard Stream Repair Kit (www. for Extension agents to use in

projects that need extensive engineering, design,

streams and the vegetation that inhabits them. The kit has technical resources, publications, tools, and erosion problems before they become large-scale and heavy equipment. ACES also has partnered with local watershed

Fig. 4a. Live stake bundles soaking in buckets of water.

groups and regional Extension programs to offer several backyard stream repair workshops in Auburn and in North Carolina communities. These workshops focus on the value of using native riparian plants to hold stream banks and soil in place. A relatively new technology uses dormant hardwood cuttings or “live stakes” that are inserted into stream banks where they have constant contact with stream baseflow. These stakes grow leaves, roots, and shoots in one growing season, and are an inexpensive way to combat small-scale stream bank erosion without the use of heavy equipment. (See Figures 4a through 4c.)

Education/Demonstration/ Understanding Involving people and communities in projects that make a difference to local water quality is a powerful way to increase understanding and ownership of streams and stormwater. ACES and Auburn University are partners in the statewide Nonpoint Source Education for Municipal Officials (NEMO) program, also promoted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), the Alabama Clean Water Partnership, and others. NEMO works with elected officials to increase their understanding of the link between land use and water quality and the

role they can play to improve and protect sensitive natural resources. Since 2002, more than 300 local elected officials and community stakeholders have participated in NEMO. Involving communities in a project builds understanding of the role we all play in protecting water resources. ACES, in partnership with Auburn University, has a long list of demonstration projects that have involved local stakeholders in the design, implementation, and evaluation of projects. The Town Creek Park stream restoration project in Auburn, for example, restored one thousand linear feet of stream, enhanced four acres of wetlands, and created offline stormwater wetlands to store and treat runoff from upstream neighborhoods. The City of Auburn played a critical role in the project, whose goals were to improve water quality, demonstrate “green” techniques for stream and stormwater management, and improve the aesthetics of a heavily used recreational area. To achieve these goals, a series of community tours, professional development workshops, and local media stories were offered. Residents in surrounding neighborhoods were kept updated on the project’s phases through posters displayed at the project site. Natural resource professionals took part in technical workshops that followed

photo by Katie Dylewski


Fig. 4b. Students installing live stakes at stream base flow.

photo by Katie Dylewski

the project from start to finish, and ACES and Auburn University staff led tours of the project for city officials, community service groups, and student organizations. As part of the Clean Water Act, ADEM identifies impaired bodies of water throughout the state and places them on the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters. These streams are not meeting water quality standards for their designated use, so they are prioritized for watershed management plan development. The Auburn University Department of Agronomy and Soils recently received ADEM funding to implement two watershed management plans, which are team efforts that bring watershed 152 stakeholders together to identify pollution concerns and suggest a reasonable plan to improve or protect water quality. The watershed management plans are for the Parkerson Mill Creek and Mill Creek watersheds in east Alabama. Parkerson Mill Creek, located on the Auburn University campus and in the City of Auburn, is impaired by pathogens, namely E. coli, but also by nutrients and sediment. These pollutants can adversely affect fish and other aquatic organisms, reduce recreational appeal and aesthetics, and increase water treatment costs. The Parkerson Mill Creek Watershed Management Plan aims to improve water quality in the creek and implement

Fig. 4c. Students utilize an assembly line for live stake installation at a workshop in Auburn. Cornus amomum leaves began to be produced five weeks after installation.

LID practices to reduce and treat stormwater entering the creek from the surrounding watershed. Mill Creek is another urban stream, located in Smiths Station and Phenix City, just east of Auburn. Mill Creek is impaired by organic enrichment and sediment, and frequently experiences low dissolved oxygen conditions, which limits insect and animal diversity in the stream. The Mill Creek Project includes several locations to demonstrate LID technologies. The kinds of measures incorporated in a watershed management plan to improve water quality can be both structural and non-structural. Structural approaches include the implementation of conventional best management practices (BMPs), such as erosion and sediment control or fencing cattle out of streams. LID and other stormwater control measures (SCMs) are also structural approaches. Non-structural approaches include education and outreach such as trainings, workshops, tours, and other demonstrations. These two watershed projects will rely on vegetation research for bioretention areas and rain gardens conducted by the Auburn University Horticulture Department. Auburn horticulturists have determined that including both deciduous and evergreen plants in rain gardens ensures that nutrient uptake occurs year round, and including plants with diverse

growth habits ensures aesthetic quality as well as biodiversity. Plant species with vigorous root systems seem to establish most quickly and be the most tolerant of the fluctuating hydrology of a rain garden. Finally, there appears to be no need to “preacclimate” plants for use in a rain garden, meaning they can be installed and go to work right away. Auburn researchers have found that plants such as inkberry holly (Ilex glabra ‘Shamrock’), Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica ‘Henry’s Garnet’), and possumhaw (Viburnum nudum ‘Winterthur’) are appropriate selections for LID projects that might experience alternating periods of flood and drought. Other appropriate native deciduous shrubs for use in rain gardens include winterberry holly (Ilex verticillata ‘Winter Red’), summersweet (Clethra alnifolia ‘Ruby Spice’), and possumhaw (Viburnum nudum Brandywine™). Grasses such as pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and splitbeard bluestem (Andropogon ternarius) also show good potential for rain garden establishment and phosphorus removal; wax myrtle (Morella cerifera) and yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria) are excellent evergreen shrub selections. LID technology is a rapidly changing science dependent on research results to determine the most effective long-term methods. Research conducted on the Auburn campus and at other institu-

tions, coupled with real-world LID applications, helps put the puzzle pieces together for water quality planning and practice. Most important, these practices are meant to be used as educational tools to inspire environmental stewardship among developers, designers, engineers, the general public, and concerned watershed community members.


Photo by Katie Dylewski


One Plus One Does Not Always Equal Two: Combined Impacts of Land Use/Cover and Climate Change on Basin Hydrology and Water by Ruoyu Wang and Latif Kalin


Wolf Bay is located in the Gulf of Mexico in Baldwin County, Alabama, nestled between Pensacola Bay to the east and Mobile Bay to the west, with a watershed covering about 126 square kilometers. As an estuary where freshwater and saltwater mix, the bay fosters a rich array of plant and animal life, including threatened or endangered species such as bald eagles, sea turtles, Gulf sturgeons, American alligators, and Eastern indigo snakes. Wolf Bay and its surrounding waters are the most pristine estuarine waters in Alabama, winning â&#x20AC;&#x153;Outstanding Alabama Waterâ&#x20AC;? status from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management in 2007. The beautiful waters attract visitors to coastal Baldwin County, contributing to the economy of coastal communities.

Baldwin County experienced a 43 percent increase in population from 1990 to 2000, resulting in increased commercial, residential, and infrastructure development and bringing growth management issues to the forefront for local officials. One of the more visible changes is the rapid transformation of agricultural and forested lands to residential development. Such land use/land cover (LULC) change affects water quantity and quality, usually negatively. Considering the potential climate change effects, the situation becomes more complicated. Because of all these factors, it is important to study the potential impacts of LULC plus climate changes, both individually and jointly, on hydrologic responses and water quality in the Wolf Bay watershed. Findings from this study should benefit local stakeholders and decision-makers in the Wolf Bay area.

Hydrologic Modeling Watershed models are valuable tools that are widely used to investigate potential impacts of LULC and climate changes. They can be described as set of mathematical algorithms to represent and simplify natural processes related to basin hydrology and water quality. Generally, the input of a model includes LULC and soil types of the water-

shed, precipitation, and air temperature recorded by climate stations, and management practices for crop land. The output can be streamflow discharge, total suspended solids (TSS), total nitrogen loads (TN), total phosphorus loads (TP), and pesticide and bacterial concentrations. Since watershed models are simplifications of natural process, it is unavoidable to have differences between observed data (flow discharge, TSS, and nutrient loadings) and simulation results. Calibration and validation are necessary to ensure that the model is working appropriately. Model calibration refers to the adjustment of parameters controlling model processes within their acceptable ranges by minimizing the differences between model-generated outputs and observations. Validation is defined as the process of demonstrating that the model is capable of making accurate predictions for periods outside a calibration period. Observed data is quite valuable, but if observed data are insufficient or not available at all, it is helpful to calibrate and validate a model in a nearby watershed and then transfer model parameters to the watershed under scrutiny. Wolf Bay watershed had limited observed data, so we first set up the model in the nearby Magnolia River watershed and then transferred model parameters to the Wolf Bay watershed after model


calibration and validation. In that way, we can say our model is a reliable one to predict the impacts of climate and LULC change in the Wolf Bay watershed. The Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was selected as the watershed model.

area (around 25 percent) corresponds to decreases in forest, agriculture, wetland, and pastureland. Compared to LULC changes, future climate changes have much more variability. To demonstrate that, outputs from four General Circulation

Models (GCMs) under three Green House Gas Emission Scenarios (GHGES) were utilized to provide future precipitation and temperature estimates. GCMs that use quantitative methods to simulate the interactions of the atmosphere,

Potential LULC and Climate Change in the Study Area The LULC map from year 2005 (Figure 1a) was employed to represent the current period. Based on this map, the Wolf Bay watershed is dominated by agricultural land (29.9 percent), followed by urban area (26.4 percent) and forest (20.9 percent). Future LULC of the Wolf Bay watershed was 156 projected by considering land demands, physical properties such as topography and distance to major facilities, and disturbances such as extreme climate events (hurricanes, storms, and droughts). Three future LULC scenarios (Figures 1b, c, and d) were generated for 2030 to represent high, medium, and low population increase rates (HPR, MPR, and LPR). A higher population increase rate is compatible with a higher urban fraction and lower cropland percentage. Compared to the current LULC condition, there is a clear trend of urban sprawl. Even with the least aggressive growth scenario, 50 percent of the watershed is projected to be urban land in 2030. The increase of urban

Fig. 1. Current (a) and future (2030) LULC scenarios (b, c, d) representing different population growth rates.

oceans, land surface, and ice are widely used to predict future climate change. The outputs from different GCMs under different scenarios may be quite different for small areas, indicating large variability. Model results for the period 2016-2040 were used for hydrologic simulation. This twentyfive-year period was long enough to explore potential responses due to climate change, and the projected LULC map for 2030 falls roughly in the middle of this period, presenting a realistic set-up for exploring the combined effects of climate and LULC change. Variations in average seasonal precipitation and temperature for the future period (20162040) relative to the baseline period (1984-2008) indicate a rising trend in temperature, but there are variations with seasons. For summer and fall, the range is from +0.4 to +2.0 degrees C, while for spring and winter, the range is from +0.2 to +1.6 degrees C. The annual increase of mean temperature varies from +0.4 to +1.4 degrees C. Precipitation has a different pattern than temperature. Although there is no clear trend of increase or decrease in average monthly precipitation for spring, summer, and winter, in fall, eleven of the twelve scenarios predict precipitation increases, with an average of 10 percent for fall months. At the annual scale, eight of the twelve

future projections predict an increase in precipitation (average = 4 percent). Therefore, the Wolf Bay watershed will more likely undergo increased precipitation in the future, especially during fall months. Temperature also is expected to increase for all seasons, especially in summer and fall.

Combined Effect of LULC and Climate Change Both climate and LULC change affect watershed hydrology and water quality. When LULC was combined with climate change, the joint effect was either intensification or off-setting of the effects caused by either climate or LULC change. Annual average model outputs indicate an increasing trend for flow, sediment, and nutrient loads. The projected variations in flow and waterquality loadings due to the combined change effect are not simply the summation of the results caused by individual factors. In other words, the marginal effects are not additive (1+1≠ 2). To identify the relative importance of LULC and climate change when they act jointly, we compared the average monthly percentage change in streamflow, TSS, TN, and TP loadings. The relative increase/decrease caused by the combined effect is contributed by three factors: LULC change only, climate change only, and the

synergistic effect. The synergistic effect can be determined as follows: Synergistic Effect = Combined Effect – (Climate-change effect only + LULC change effect only) Our study showed that we need to pay close attention to the future quality of the water in the Wolf ’s Bay watershed, even though the current quality is good. Our models predict that the water quality will degrade, given the current rate of urbanization and using different climate-change scenarios. The current urbanization trend is expected to continue in the Wolf Bay area, and by 2030, a 25 percent increase in urban land is anticipated in the watershed. Add to that the fact that climate models predict an increase in future temperature (2016-2040 period) for all seasons, especially in summer and fall (0.4-2.0 degrees C), plus an increase in precipitation during the fall months, and a story starts to emerge. When LULC is combined with climate change, the joint effect is complicated and nonlinear. For streamflow, the synergistic effect is not obvious, but for water quality, the synergistic effect is quite significant and exceeds the LULC effect alone in some months.



Examining the Influence of Shoreline Development on Salt Marsh Habitat for Estuarine Fish by Madeline Wedge and Christopher J. Anderson


Salt marshes are important water resources in estuarine ecosystems. These intertidal wetlands are extremely important for protecting shorelines from erosion, improving water quality, and providing important habitat for fish, crabs, and shrimp. Coastal areas along the Gulf of Mexico have experienced increased population growth, and the changes in land use surrounding salt marshes can impact them greatly. Urbanization land use has been shown to cause a variety of impacts on salt marshes and the species dependent on them, especially fish. Urbanization land use has been linked to altered fish communities and increased pollutant exposure, as well as changing the prey available for various fish and crustaceans. Research in this area is still needed and particularly lacking for salt marshes dominated by black needlerush (Juncus roemerianus), a dominant salt marsh species in parts of the Gulf of Mexico,

especially Alabama. Over 90 percent of commercially valuable fish and crustaceans along the southeastern Atlantic and Gulf coasts depend on coastal marshes, and the fish caught in the Gulf of Mexico are a significant part of both the commercial and recreational fisheries in the whole United States. Alterations to salt marshes in the Gulf of Mexico could impact the fisheries for many commercially and recreationally important species, and thus have a significant effect on the livelihoods of people dependent on these fish. Therefore, it is

Fig. 1. Black needlerush-dominated salt marshes around coastal Alabama and Florida.

important to know how urban land use may affect this critical habitat. We have devised a study that focuses on urban land use effects on salt marsh resident fish in black needlerush dominated salt marshes around coastal Alabama and Florida (Figure 1). Resident salt marsh fish spend their whole lives in the salt marsh, and thus are well-suited for studying the effects of different land uses on salt marsh habitats because of their complete dependence on salt marshes. For this study, we selected three urban and three reference tidal creeks to evaluate salt marsh habitat and fish communities. Creeks used for this study drain to Wolf Bay, Perdido Bay, or Pensacola Bay, all near the Alabama-Florida border (Figure 2). These creeks were selected to be comparable in size, location, and salinity. Salt marshes along urban creeks have nearly all the adjacent land along their creek developed as housing (Figure 3), and 30 percent of the land within a 500-mile radius of the salt marsh has been developed. Reference salt marshes have no adjacent shoreline development and very little within the 500-mile radius. Starting in 2011, species diversity and abundance of resident fish were compared between urban salt marshes and reference salt marshes. Sampling for fish involves the placement of multiple baited minnow traps set along the marsh edge. This process is repeated

throughout the year to account for seasonal variations. To help interpret species data, we have also collected supporting information pertaining to individual salt marshes, including how eroded the marsh edges are, the amount of vegetation along the marsh edge, and the concentration of various nutrients and pollutants (nitrogen, phosphorus, hydrocarbons, and metals) in the marsh edge sediment. This information may indicate why some marshes are better habitats for fish than others. Two salt marsh residents, the Gulf killifish (Fundulus grandis, Figure 4) and sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna, Figure 5), will be further evaluated for differences in size, abundance, and health 159

Fig. 2. Map of study sites. Green circles are reference creeks and red triangles are urban creeks.

between fish captured from urban salt marshes and reference salt marshes. These fish will be evaluated for differences in health and condition between urban and reference salt marshes using a few different measurements. One measure used is lengthto-weight ratios, which evaluate if the fish are a healthy weight for their size. Another health measure that will be used is liver weight to body weight ratios. Fish livers can enlarge with an increase in the number of pollutants they are exposed to, so how big the liver is in relation to the size of the fish can indicate the health of the fish. A third health measurement that will be used in this study is the amount of calories per gram of body weight. Healthy fish will have a large amount of fat in their bodies, and fat has more calories than other tissues. Thus, healthy fish should have a greater amount of calories per gram of body weight. Fish in urban creeks may be exposed to multiple stressors that may decrease their overall fitness, as indicated by these various measures of health.


Fig. 3. An urban black needlerush salt marsh.

Fig. 4. Gulf killifish (Fundulus grandis).

Fig. 5. Sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna).

While the research is currently under way, our expected results are that Gulf killifish will exhibit smaller size distributions and lower abundance in urban salt marshes. This is because urban tidal creeks have been shown to have increased pulses of freshwater compared to natural tidal creeks. Since sailfin mollies are found in lower salinity waters, they will tend to do better in urban salt marshes than Gulf killifish. Resident fish are also an important food source for the larger, transient fish community. Transient fish, such as redfish, are important to recreational and commercial fisheries. Therefore, by studying resident salt marsh fish, not only will we gain a better understanding of how urban land use affects fish habitats, but we will also understand how those changes may affect the food source for economically important fish species, as well.




rban land use has been shown to cause a variety of impacts on salt marshes and the species dependent on them, especially fish.



By Navideh Noor i, L atif Kalin, Charlene Lebleu, a n d P u n e et S r i va stava

The Impact of Human Activities on Flooding

Does It Matter Where We Develop?


oastal areas attract people because of the resources and opportunities they provide. More than 50 percent of the United Statesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; population lives in coastal areas. It is estimated that by 2015, the population density of coastal regions in the U.S. will be more than five times the population density of non-coastal regions. Increased population results in expansion of urban and industrial developments and increased impervious coverage (such as paved areas). Impervious surfaces prevent downward movement of water through the soil, resulting in increases in surface runoff. Water also moves faster across the ground due to smoother surfaces. These changes cause higher peak flows, higher runoff volumes, and thus higher likelihood of flooding. The city of Prichard and surrounding area, a northern suburb of Mobile, Alabama, has been suffering from a chronic flooding problem (Figures 1a and 1b). In a recent study funded by the Mississippi/Alabama Seagrant Consortium

(MASGC), we explored the impact of urban growth within the drainage area of 8-Mile Creek, which runs through the city, on peak flows. We also looked into flood generating areas within the 8-Mile Creek watershed to help the developers and decision-makers in their future development plans in order to minimize the adverse impacts of urbanization on flooding. The flooding problem is expected to worsen due to inevitable urban sprawl

Fig. 1a. Study area.

in the future. Hydrologic modeling and field surveys were used to seek answers to these questions.

Hydrologic Model A hydrologic model is a mathematical tool describing the rainfall-runoff relationships in a watershed. The model converts rainfall into runoff in upland areas and routs runoff to the watershed 163 outlet through the stream network. In doing so, the model relies on topographic, soil, and land use/ cover information. The shape of a hydrograph, which

Fig. 1b. Study area.

is a graphical representation of discharge vs. time, can indicate the risk of flooding. For instance, heavy rain results in rapid saturation of the upper soil layers and the excess water, therefore, reaches streams quickly as surface runoff. With a low intensity rain, the river takes longer to respond to rainfall and water move more slowly to pass through the drainage basin. Land use changes like deforestation can lead to quick responses to rainfall due to the reduced rainfall interception. To assess its accuracy in predicting flow volumes and peak discharges, the model was first tested with actual streamflow measurements. Streamflow data were collected by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) 164 from 1996 to 2000 on 8-Mile Creek. Hourly rainfall data from the nearby Mobile Regional Airport climatic station were used to generate the runoff along the 2001 land use/cover map. According to this map, 35 percent of the watershed was developed with low, medium, and high intensities or open space, 30 percent was forest including deciduous, evergreen, and mixed, and the rest was defined as grassland, pasture, agricultural, or wetland. Storm events considered significant were selected from observed data and the model was run. The model-generated hydrographs were compared with observed streamflow. As can be seen in Figure 2, the model tracked observed streamflow closely.

March 1998

January 1997

March 1997

March 2000

Fig. 2. Comparison of observed and generated flow hydrographs.

Design Storms Engineering structures are designed based on storms of certain magnitudes having predictable return periods. A return period is an estimate of the average duration between two storm events of a given magnitude and duration. The minimum required storm duration must be equal to or greater than the time required for the entire watershed to contribute to runoff at the watershed outlet (Tc). For the 8-Mile Creek watershed, Tc=24 hours was estimated. Storm intensities were obtained from the Alabama Rainfall Atlas website: http://bama. Table 1 shows the corresponding rainfall amounts for 1, 10, 25 and 100-yr storms. Return period 1-yr

parts of the watershed based on their contributions to peak flow at a point of interest, which is usually the watershed outlet. A key assumption behind the development of this methodology is that there is a draft future land use plan which is expected to change the hydrology of the watershed. We would like to know how we can modify plans to minimize the adverse impacts on the hydrology. By modification, we refer to retaining the current land use/cover of an area, as opposed to accepting the

proposed changes. The methodology is, however, flexible, and any alternative land use/cover can be considered. The potential flood-generating areas in 8-Mile Creek watershed were explored using 2001 and current (Figure 3) land use/cover maps. The flood-prone area shown in Figure 3 was chosen after discussions with the local decision-makers and planners. Five key areas were identified as potentially sensitive (Figure 3). The rainfall-runoff


Rainfall (cm) 9.4







Table 1. Rainfall amounts for twenty-four-hour design storms having different return periods.

Flood-Generating Areas To identify the areas that potentially contribute to flooding, we developed a simulation-based index method. This method essentially ranks different

Fig. 3. Current LULC (Five sensitive areas [black circles] and the flood prone area [yellow circle] were identified).

model was run with the 2001 and current land use/cover maps and the design storms listed in Table 1 to simulate peak flows at the flood-prone area (Figure 3). Current LULC (Five sensitive areas (black circles) and the flood prone area (yellow circle) were identified) Figure 4 compares the five sensitive areas based on their impacts of flooding at the selected floodprone area. Among all, Areas 2 and 3 appear to be the most important areas for their contribution to flooding. Return period of the storms play an interesting role. In general, with longer return periods (and consequently storm size and peak flow), the 166

Fig. 4. Order of importance of flood-generating areas for the point of interest downstream.

relative impacts of land-use/cover changes diminish. The exception is Area 1, which is the farthest from the flood-prone area. The varying travel times and the non-uniform rainfall distribution cause complex interactions with other regions. Contrary to other areas, increasing the return period increases the contribution of this area to flooding.

Conclusions In this study, the impacts of urbanization in the 8-Mile Creek watershed on peak flows were assessed. Sensitive areas that could potentially contribute to flooding were identified and their order of importance based on their locations was investigated. Results showed that areas with the highest degree of urbanization are not necessarily the most sensitive ones. There is an obvious complex interaction between topography, soil, land-use/ cover, and rainfall characteristics. Results further showed that the effect of urbanization on increased peak flows generally diminish with the storm size. However, this was not always the case. Proximity to the watershed outlet is very important. The findings of this study are currently being shared with the stakeholders and planners in the Mobile County and Prichard areas to have a more sustainable development plan for reduced risk of flooding. Actions to incorporate this research at the county

and municipal scale include a stream restoration project at Reading Park in Prichard, Alabama, and promotion of a stream buffer ordinance.





he flooding problem is expected to worsen due to inevitable urban sprawl in the future.


Conversion of Forest to Urban Cover in Aquifer Recharge Zones: Effects on Drinking Water Quality and Willingness to Pay for Protection by Graeme Lockaby, David LaBand, and Marlon Cook


In the southeastern United States, the primary reason for forest loss is urban development, a force that is expected to reduce forest coverage in the Piedmont by approximately 20 percent by 2060. There are longstanding concerns about the impact of land-use change on water quality, with many reports of water-quality degradation after forests are razed to make way for urban development. Paying landowners to retain forest cover in developing watersheds is sometimes utilized as a way to combat expected impacts to water quality, but little information exists about the feasibility of the approach in the Southeast. At the same time, while negative impacts on surface waters are well documented, there have been far fewer reports dealing with the influence of

land-use change on subsurface water supplies. As a result, we know little about the risks involved in urbanizing recharge zones of subsurface supplies of drinking water such as aquifers. This lack of information is partially attributable to the difficulties associated with studying land-use relationships with subsurface waters, requiring delineation of the recharge zone that could be hundreds of miles from the wells being monitored. We undertook a survey of residents in Trussville, in north-central Alabama, to ascertain their willingness to accept payment for retaining forests in the recharge zone in order to protect water quality. At the same time, we utilized the expertise of Marlon Cook and the Geologic Survey of Alabama to identify the recharge zone and land use classification. The Trussville Utilities Board supplied us with water quality data from subsets of their wells sampled between 1992 and 2008. The eight wells were approximately thirty-five meters deep and drew from the Tuscumbia-Fort Payne Aquifer, along the Tennessee River in north Alabama. The statistically analyzed water data included N-NO3, Na, Ca, Mg, SO4, Cl, Fe, and total dissolved solid (TDS) concentrations as well as pH, total alkalinity, hardness (CaCO3), and turbidity. Some data, such as fecal coliform levels, was insufficient to

allow statistical analyses to be conducted. Cook and his AGS team delineated the wells’ recharge zones and provided land-use/land cover data for the recharge zone of the Trussville groundwater supply for 1992, 1997, 2000, 2006, and 2008. Regression analyses were used to relate changes in impervious cover across time to water quality data. Impervious surfaces—areas covered by pavement and other materials through which water cannot pass—increased in the area by 62 percent between 1992 and 2008, according to the data. The data also suggest that the chemistry of the water supply for the Trussville is undergoing changes due to increased urbanization within the recharge zone. Levels of nitrate were below EPA critical limits for drinking water, but a significant, positive relationship was found between increasing development in the aquifer recharge zone and rising levels of nitrate in wells used for the municipal drinking water supply. Sources of nitrates in urban areas include lawn fertilizers, sewer and septic systems, animal waste, and atmospheric deposition from anthropogenic sources. Because nitrate moves readily with water and may percolate to groundwater wells and aquifers, the Trussville Utilities Board may elect to gather additional data in order to scrutinize groundwater quality more closely.

Economic Analysis The economic component of this study focused on identifying the terms and conditions under which private, non-industrial landowners within the aquifer recharge zone would be willing to participate in a program that would pay them to retain and/or expand the amount of forest cover on their property. Tax appraisal records were used to identify owners of parcels located within Trussville’s recharge zone. As of mid-2009, there were 672 such parcels in Jefferson County and 219 in St. Clair County. Of the Jefferson County parcels, 393 were at least ten acres in size. Likewise, 127 of the St. Clair 169 County parcels were at least ten acres. Since the focus of our analysis was landowner interest in market-based incentives to maintain/increase forest cover on the property, we did not consider public lands, lands held in trust, or lands held by corporations or land development companies. In several cases, the same individual owned multiple parcels of land within the recharge zone. Winnowing these parcels out, we identified 123 private, individual owners of ten acres or more in the Jefferson County portion of the recharge zone and eighty-one within the St. Clair County portion of the recharge zone.

These owners were contacted and asked to complete a questionnaire about their willingness to participate in a payment for ecosystems services program (recipients were informed, however, that Trussville had no current plants to implement such a program). We received twenty-four completed surveys. Of the respondents, seven inherited their property, fifteen purchased their property, and two both inherited and purchased property. Only one had owned property for more than forty years, with the others owning the land anywhere from one to forty years. Ownership was highly fragmented, with most individuals owning either a single, relatively small parcel or a small number 170 of relatively small parcels. Only four individuals reported owning more than 100 acres. Not surprisingly, two-thirds of the respondents reported having a college degree, with 12.5 percent indicating that they had received a graduate degree. Because education is demonstrably related to both income and wealth, the finding that a relatively high percentage of the respondents had at least a college degree is very believable. However, because a number of the respondents inherited their property and a number had owned their property for many decades, the fact that one-third of the owners did not have a college degree (and the higher earn-

ings typically associated with a college degree) also was plausible. Excepting a single individual, all respondents reported an annual income of at least $50,000, with nearly two-thirds (71 percent) reporting an annual income of at least $75,000. Over 40 percent of the respondent landowners reported income of at least $100,000 per year. There appears to be a weak link between annual income and the total amount of acreage owned, as all of the landowners with the largest acreage totals earned more than $100,000 per year, but landowners with the lowest annual earnings did not report the lowest acreage amounts. Six of the twenty-four respondents (25 percent) indicated their land was 100 percent in forest cover. An additional six respondents indicated that at least 85 percent of their land was in forest cover and another seven reported that at least 50 percent of their land was in forest cover. More than three-quarters of our respondents own land that is substantially, if not totally, forested. Only one respondent reported enrolling â&#x20AC;&#x153;some portion of your land in a government conservation program,â&#x20AC;? and no respondents indicated they had sold any conservation easements on their non-residential land. Only four respondents reported minimal (10 percent or less) forest land on their property. In

terms of querying landowners about their willingness to accept payment to retain forest cover on their property, our sample of respondent-landowners is relevant. With respect to querying landowners about their willingness to accept payments to increase forest cover on their property, our sample is too small to produce meaningful findings. Despite the relatively small sample response rate, there is no reason to suspect that the landowners who responded to the survey/questionnaire were not representative of those who did not respond. Several findings emerge from our analysis of the responses: Generally speaking, landowners indicated a willingness to participate in a program to receive payment for retaining forest cover on their property. Landowners with extensive forest cover already on their property were especially likely to indicate a willingness to participate in such a program. Landowners are more likely to participate in a forest cover retention program of short duration (one year) than a program that obligates them to maintain existing forest cover for longer periods (three to five years). Some landowners are willing to participate in a forest cover retention program in return for relatively low payment amounts. As the desired contracting period lengthens,

landowners react in two ways. Some indicated they were unwilling to participate under the existing payment structure, and some required higher annual, per-acre compensation as a condition of participation. Many landowners appear to have no preference between accepting cash or a tax credit as payment for retaining forest cover on their property. Among those who do have a preference, cash is preferred by a two-to-one margin over tax credits.

Policy Implications Our findings have several important policy implications. First, since it is clear that certain landowners are willing to accept a relatively low annual payment in return for retaining existing forest cover, costeffective contracting implies that these landowners should be identified and assigned a high priority for contracts. Second, it is possible that single-year contracts (like renewable hunting leases) will be desirable from two standpoints: First, to maximize landowner participation in the program, and second to minimize the cost of contracting. Third, it is desirable to offer landowners a choice of payment options; some will have no preference, while others will have well-defined preferences. Again, having such options likely will encourage landowner participation.



Concrete Jungles By Domini Cunningham

The Case of Mobile


uring hot summer months, increasingly high temperatures have a negative impact on coastal systems. Higher water temperatures in rivers, streams, and estuaries are associated with decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations. Lower concentrations of oxygen in aquatic systems have large-scale ecological impacts and negative repercussions on marine life. While global climate change may account for some of the temperature increase, other factors include the growing number of impervious surfaces so frequent in urban settings. They have been described as “concrete jungles” for good reason. During warm seasons, stormwater generated by thunderstorms and other precipitation events absorbs heat from pavement and building surfaces, and the runoff is then discharged into storm drains leading to nearby estuaries. The combination of excess water and an abundance of concrete are key factors in causing these “anoxic”—the scientific term for low oxygen—conditions in urban water bodies.

Further research is needed to explore other potential urban factors contributing to anoxic conditions, so we studied the consequences of warm water entering estuaries along the Mobile River in Mobile, Alabama.

Among the factors we addressed are the following: • Development over the last few decades • How the relationship between the city and river area has evolved over time • How aquatic life has changed simultaneously with the evolving city • Information needed by designers to make informed water-quality decisions • Understanding the relationship between the city, its estuaries, and causes of low-oxygen conditions derived from urban settings can make it possible to determine necessary design changes to ameliorate these situations. Streams and rivers naturally transport sediments, changing their shape over time and making them ever-changing, living systems. As with living


organisms, outside influences can disrupt natural processes and decrease water quality. With development and urbanization, humans have been pushing more things toward water bodies. These things essentially choke the systems. The introduction of sediment to local waterways chokes out the living creatures that rely on the quality of these hydrological systems for their survival. Continuous development adjacent to water bodies has caused habitat degradation, making it difficult for pollution-sensitive organisms to survive. Eco-friendly policies and design methods can be utilized to balance the damage caused to aquatic communities. 174

What Is the Problem? Sediment generated by humans contains more pathogens and pollutants than are normally present in healthy waters; the contaminants are delivered to waterways by stormwater that flows over surfaces after precipitation events. Such contaminants include sediment created from the erosion of soils, land, buildings, or paving; pathogens such as vehicle fluids and cleaning agents; and waste generated from a multitude of sources. Trash, sewage, heavy metals, and nutrients also play a part. Roadways: Vehicles shed particles as a result of everyday wear and tear from tires losing pieces of rubber and from metal shavings. Vehicles

also release liquids such as fuels, coolants, oils, and brake fluids that settle on roadway surfaces. Through stormwater runoff and some methods of street cleaning, these pollutants are picked up and carried to the nearest body of water. The most common roadway contaminants include heavy metals such as zinc, lead, copper, and cadmium, which have been shown to be toxic at levels found in street runoff samples. Heavy metals generated by vehicles not only end up in streams via stormwater runoff, but also can be bound to sediment particles and make their way into local bodies of water by using adjacent soils as a traveling companion. Studies have shown that metal dusts attached to soil particles are shifted or eroded during rain events, and eventually enter nearby streams and waterways. Construction: Construction sites also contribute excess runoff because of land clearing and increases in impervious surface cover. Cutting and moving wood, metals, concrete, and plasters generate dust and sediment. Before a site opens, it must be clean enough for presentation to the designated audience, and it is simple to remove the larger chunks of debris. Smaller particles, however, that are often left to be swept “out the door” and “under the rug” of water will eventually deposit it into

local waterways. Another concern on construction sites is the amount of grading, digging, and moving of soil. When the best construction management practices are not utilized, sediment freely leaves sites and degrades adjacent bodies of water. Agriculture: Because of irrigation, runoff carrying fertilizer from agricultural areas may also be washed into streams. In addition, livestock produces waste that can be detrimental to water quality and a concern for drinking water. Pet and animal waste containing E. coli is of special concern, as these bacteria can contaminate local waterways and cause illness in humans. Livestock also need to be cleaned and their enclosures maintained, but in the process more sources of pathogens and contaminants are created. Residential communities: Well-manicured and maintained lawns are considered desirable in urban areas, and chemical fertilizers and herbicides are often preferred over natural options, because most residents are uninformed about how they may affect water quality. Lawn-care companies and landscapers also may use these products even when fertilizing is not necessary. In addition, cleaning and maintaining personal vehicles is often performed on paved driveways, with water, contaminants, and cleansing agents washed down into

residential streets and into storm drain networks. Downtown areas: Downtown Mobile has a number of brick and concrete structures flanked by major roadways and paved parking lots, and stormwater runoff from these areas can generate a number of pollutants. All urban areas are equipped with storm drain networks that transport stormwater and discharge it into local waterways, with cleaned and treated wastewater transported separately in sewer lines. Because of the abundance of parking lots in Mobile, stormwater has a lot of surfaces to move over, resulting in the erosion of the sandy soils present in coastal areas. As rain runs down the sides of buildings, it picks up building particles, trace elements of smog, and dust that may have 175 accumulated over time. The result is always the same; in the end, all these particles are transported from our urban surfaces and into local waterways to be dealt with by those systems. Thermal pollution is another concern, because building rooftops and pavement surfaces absorb heat that, combined with stormwater runoff, alters temperatures in receiving waterways. Industrial sites: Ever since the Industrial Revolution, we have been generating sediment, pathogens, and contaminants and releasing them into our air, land, and water. Today, many industrial locations have been left behind, resulting in barren


and decaying industrial sites, and industries that are still operational continue to generate waste. In Mobile, the cargo transportation industry is still considered a large contributor to city revenue; indeed, it is difficult to imagine cargo transportation not being important to the city. While this industry provides economic support for the city and contributes to its prosperous image, it also generates a lot of heavy metal dust through the grinding of gears in the cranes and the moving of shipping containers from ship to dock to train, or

the reverse. When these shipping containers are moved, they rub against different types of materials, shaving off bits and pieces that are not always evident before being washed away. Docks and ports: Because Mobile is a port city, many ships and smaller sea vessels navigate its waterways, in the process churning the waters, shifting sediments, and pulling them from the Mobile River toward the estuary. As larger and larger ships are built, the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s waterfront docks continue to increase in size. To accommodate

those larger ships, it is necessary to dredge the river floors, making them deeper so ships can get closer to the docks to unload cargo. During sea-floor dredging, sand, silt, clay, and other sediments build up and are transported to other locations, which can quickly reach capacity.

What Are the Effects? Generally, street runoff contaminants donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t wait their turn to disturb water systems, making it impossible to identify their source. For the city of

Mobile, the most common generators of this “nonpoint source pollution” are the downtown area, adjacent residential communities, and industries scattered throughout the city. Fifty percent of the downtown Mobile area sits within the 100-year floodplain, which means that during any given year there is a 1 percent chance that the area will flood during rain events, washing sediment into bodies of water. The 500-year floodplain extends into the residential areas, which also contribute sediment and contaminants. Poor water quality: As noted, stormwater moving across land carries all kinds of contaminants to nearby bodies of water, creating an interesting soup of sediment, chemicals, oils, grease, and pathogens. Many of these once-enjoyable waters—used for recreational activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming—are now altered in some way. Diminished water quality also is a health concern for humans, and poor water quality contributes to the need for expensive, time-consuming water purification before the water can be consumed. Anoxic water conditions: Densely developed urban areas create runoff that is warmer than runoff in a woodland area, because the runoff absorbs heat from the impervious surfaces in the “concrete jungle.” When the warm stormwater runoff mixes with the cooler waters in estuaries and other water

bodies, anoxic—low oxygen—conditions result, with the altered temperature making the environment ideal for breeding bacteria. In a never-ending cycle increased bacterial reproduction then causes decreased oxygen concentrations. An environment with reduced concentrations of dissolved oxygen is bad for species such as the darter fish and some mussels, which fail to reproduce under such circumstances. Decreased reproduction can complicate the food chain for species that feed on the darter fish and mussels. Some species may disappear altogether. Deterioration of ecosystems: Contaminants that travel via stormwater runoff and are deposited into waterways act like viruses that attack on multiple levels at once. The initial attack begins once contaminated and pure waters begin to mix. As the number of aquatic species begins to decrease, an ecological imbalance is created. From that point, the infection spreads to the plant life and animals that depend on these water systems to remain healthy enough to sustain their lives. Deterioration of health: Decreased water quality from stormwater runoff impacts both wildlife and humans. Sediment in the waterways reduces water clarity, or turbidity, making it difficult for aquatic animals to see their predators or aquatic plant species to benefit from photosynthesis. This condition

is most evident along the Mobile River, where large ships are frequently moving through the ports and churning up sediment. The more critical concern for aquatic fauna and plants is the decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations associated with high turbidity and high water temperatures. These plant and animal populations can suffocate, resulting in either atrophy or complete die-off when conditions are not improved. For humans, the consequences also can be fatal. By participating in recreational activities in contaminated waters, people may be exposed to any number of pollutants. Polluted waters have been linked to respiratory and digestive complications in swimmers, including bronchial infections and severe nausea. 177

What Can Be Done? Ever since we have realized that unchecked development of naturally forested lands leads to water quality issues, there have been efforts to make the nation’s waters safer. National policies and many designers have taken steps to decrease the effects of contaminated waters and to reduce stormwater runoff before it degrades nearby streams and water bodies. National policy: In 1972, the U.S. government passed the Clean Water Act (CWA) to decrease the detrimental effects of water pollution and, in some

cases, to restore impaired waterways to healthy aquatic activity. The CWA requires municipalities to manage their stormwater and reduce both nonpoint and point source pollution, providing guidelines for water quality management programs. Design solutions: Professionals in such fields as architecture, landscape architecture, and planning continually discuss how to best manage stormwater runoff. In the past, stormwater was managed using concrete boxes dug in the ground to move water from point “a” to point “b,” but there are other ways of managing stormwater. In fact, solutions for stormwater management can be more than just functional. Constructed wetlands, detention systems, 178 and bioretention areas improve water quality while providing attractive additions to the landscape. Depending on the selection of plants, constructed wetlands function similarly to natural wetlands, aid in the filtration process, and trap sediment that may contain particle-bound pollutants such as phosphorus and heavy metals. Constructed wetlands and rain gardens can be designed to remove those particles by filtering them in a number of ways, and can be customized based on site needs.

dential neighborhoods. The area is host to a number of seasonal celebrations, such as Mardi Gras, that bring in large numbers of tourists. Outside of these celebrations, the beauty of Mobile—including the live oaks lining downtown streets—draws tourists year round. Downtown is an attractive setting for both profit and entertainment, yet at the same time those activities are damaging to the adjacent river. Many other cities face the same issues related to stormwater and its effect on adjacent estuaries. Since the fall of 2009, we have made many visits to the downtown Mobile area to gain an understanding of the situations created during periods

of heavy rainfall. By evaluating the flow of Mobile’s stormwater, and the solutions used in other locations, we have compiled different methods of addressing some key issues in the downtown area. Existing conditions: Although there were no severe flood events during these visits, it was possible to get an idea of the challenges this port city faces during major rainfall events. Pictures taken during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 convey some of the major flooding concerns for the area. Because of Mobile’s proximity to the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes are frequent and are a major cause of flooding for the downtown area. Furthermore, the majority of Mobile’s downtown area is situated

What About Mobile? Downtown Mobile consists of businesses and industrial sites and is dotted with pockets of resi-

Photo by Domini Cunningham

Fig. 1. Flood plain shown over downtown Mobile.

Image by Domini Cunningham

Image by Domini Cunningham

Fig. 2. Axis from Mobile River through downtown Mobile.

within the 100-year floodplain (Figure 1), which partially explains why the area was so affected by Hurricane Katrina. This the area was so affected by Hurricane Katrina. during rain events, while the area to the left of the shaded section is situated within the 500-year floodplain. This means that there is a 1 percent chance for the area to be flooded within any given rain event and a 0.02 percent chance within the 100- and 500-year floodplains, respectively, over the course of a year. Another concern for Mobile is the existence of a storm drain network system that is no longer able to support the amount of runoff generated by the

city. Since the existing storm drainage system is not only outdated, but is also undersized and incapable of preventing flooding of the area, excess water runs over streets and parking lots, collecting contaminants to be discharged into Mobile River. The problem is exacerbated by an abundance of parking lots with minimal tree canopy cover to intercept rainfall and reduce the erosion of pavements throughout the city. Mobile design proposal: During my visits to Mobile, I was able to identify a number of locations that would benefit from measures designed to aid the storm drain system. My criteria for

Fig. 3. Existing water flow west of Bienville Square.

selecting a site included surfaces that were primarily concrete; inefficient drainage points within an area enclosed on four sides by streets, buildings, or a combination of the two; and locations that lacked tree coverage. My visits to the downtown area allowed me to identify a number of locations fitting those specifications, leading me to the conclusion that my proposed design could eventually lead to a larger matrix linking the selected sites. To hone in on a specific location, I added the criteria that it had to be within the 100-year flood-


Image by Domini Cunningham

Image by Domini Cunningham

Fig. 5. Proposed water flow.

180 Fig. 4. Existing water flow of Bienville Square and the east of Royal Street.

plain. Such a location presented itself in the parking lots directly west of Bienville Square, to the east and west of Royal Street along the path outlined in Figure 3. Those three sites create an axis that connects the locations to the river, allowing water to be filtered and cooled before being deposited into the river (Figure 2). In the fall of 2009, all the stormwater at the sites typically would spread off the location and head toward the street to enter the storm drain system (Figures 4 and 5).

To alleviate the strain on the existing system, I propose to promote the opposite, allowing water from the surrounding or adjacent roadways to flow into the site (Figure 5), where it is collected and stored, to be dispersed at a later time throughout the city. In addition to changing the directional flow of the stormwater, the design scheme also calls for lot surfaces to be converted to permeable surfaces, with the inclusion of more trees (Figure 6). The change in surfaces would allow some of the

contaminants to be filtered from the water, while the addition of trees would decrease the amount of erosion caused by raindrops hitting the pavement. Most of the water would still be stored underneath the new lot after being piped directly from the streets to bladder cisterns. Moving forward: The site is able to support two separate water containment devices, which would delay some of the stormwater from entering receiving waters while keeping the water cooler. This was only half the issue I had set out to address, however. The proposed design did not include a

pipe underneath the permeable sections of the lot. Instead, an additional location would be designed for the stormwater to be filtered before eventually ending up in the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s groundwater supply. Thus, once the water reaches the river, it would contain fewer contaminants than if it had run through the city streets. The cistern would need a filtering mechanism so that the water could be used for nonconsumptive purposes while the overflow would

Image by Domini Cunningham

Fig. 6. Proposed lot design.

enter the river at a lower temperature, preventing anoxic conditions. To take this project further, setting up cleaning and filtering replacements for stored water will need to be addressed; this would allow the stored water to be both cleaner and cooler. As for water entering the groundwater supply via permeable areas, the city would need to ensure that the composition of those sections promotes the removal of pollutants, such as heavy metals and petroleum products, from the lots. Depending on the material used, a routine maintenance schedule for vacuuming the sediment buildup would be required to ensure effective permeability of the lots. These designs, along with the work of landscape architecture graduate students from Auburn University under the supervision of Charlene LeBleu, were presented to the city of Mobile. The city has since taken steps to reduce the amount of stormwater runoff generated from rooftops in the area. These and perhaps future designs will help Mobile improve its water quality and manage damaging runoff. Auburn University faculty and students, along with the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s planners, can make a difference.



Rain Barrel Program Teaches Coastal Residents How to Reduce Stormwater Impacts by Christian Miller


Coastal Alabama receives more than five feet of rain per year. In urban areas most of this water washes across hard, or impervious, surfaces, picking up and carrying pollutants into our waterways. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stormwater runoff is the greatest threat to water quality in the United States; as more people continue to move to coastal areas, the amount of hard surfaces and the volume and velocity of stormwater continue to increase. Driveways, roofs, roads, and parking lots are examples of hard surfaces that keep rainwater from percolating into the ground to be taken up by plants or replenish groundwater resources. Instead of being absorbed, stormwater that hits these impervious surfaces runs off quickly, putting major stress on municipal stormwater infrastructure and natural wetland habitats. As stormwater flows across hard surfaces it picks up and transports trash and debris, as well as pollutants such as pathogens, nutrients,

sediments, heavy metals, and chemicals. It then flows directly to either local water bodies or storm drains. The storm drains lining area roads are just one part of a much larger storm sewer system, a network of underground pipes designed to quickly transport stormwater. Because of its large volume, stormwater bypasses traditional water treatment plants. The pollutants that accumulate in storm water are introduced to receiving waters, adversely affecting water quality. Rainwater harvesting, the practice of collecting and storing stormwater runoff from roofs and other hard surfaces for future use, is one practical way to reduce the impacts associated with residential stormwater runoff. An inch of rain falling on a typical 1,000-square-foot roof yields over 600 gallons of water. Installing a rain barrel at your home is an inexpensive way to capture and store some of this water for later use. With a rain barrel, you’ll not only help reduce pollution, but you’ll also have a supply of free nonchlorinated soft water for washing your car, watering plants, and many other household uses. Although rain barrels can be purchased through many commercial outlets, they are generally expensive and don’t offer much in the way of education for the consumer. Through an ongoing series of workshops sponsored by the Mississippi– Alabama Sea Grant, in partnership with the Coastal

Photo by Denise Huebach

Christian Miller shows participants how to assemble their barrels at a workshop in Daphne, Alabama.

Alabama Clean Water Partnership and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, residents of Mobile and Baldwin Counties in Alabama have been learning how to construct and set up low-cost rain catchment systems at their homes, along with other ways to conserve water and protect water quality along the coast. These workshops are continuously scheduled throughout the year, in coordination with partners in both Mobile and Baldwin Counties, and last approximately two hours. In addition to rain barrel workshops, demonstration sites incorporating low-impact design (LID) principals have been established at several locations with the help of local partners. These demonstration sites include rain barrels, cisterns, bioretention areas,

and educational signage that explain how residential stormwater impacts can be mitigated by adopting practical best management practices. Response to the program has been very enthusiastic; to date more than 250 coastal residents have participated in rain barrel workshops since the program kicked off in November 2010. The success of the program has been due in large part to the partnerships that have been formed. Local municipalities, including the cities of Daphne, Fairhope, and Mobile and the town of Dauphin Island, have all hosted rain barrel workshops. “These workshops have been a great help to us on the local level,” said Ashley Campbell, Daphne’s environmental programs manager. “They provide an opportunity to inform 183 the public of the issues we are facing related to stormwater management on the coast.” As coastal populations continue to grow, it will become increasingly important to reevaluate the manner in which stormwater is managed in order to protect our natural resources and quality of life. The Coastal Alabama Rain Barrel Program has been successful in engaging the general public, communicating the importance of residential stormwater management, and encouraging the adoption of practical methods to manage stormwater on site, through the incorporation of LID practices like rainwater catchment and rain gardens.


Land Use and Land Cover: A Study Through Time and Over Space by Andrew Morrison and Latif Kalin


When watersheds transition from agricultural to urbanized landscapes, water quality is a critical concern. Urbanization of a watershed, and an increase in impervious surfaces such as streets and parking lots, can result in the reduction of infiltration rates, increasing surface flow and reducing groundwater release, and thus preventing the naturally occurring processing of pollutants. In urbanized watersheds, runoff from impervious surfaces provides most of the nutrient and sediment input into a body of water. For agricultural landscapes, increases in the amount of row crops have been found to alter nutrient concentrations significantly. Fertilizer application on crops can either leach through the soil and enter the groundwater or pass through the water column as runoff. Urban and agriculture land use/land cover (LULC) conditions are known to be major contributors of nitrogen and phosphorus.

The nutrient balance within an aquatic system is critical to maintaining ecological health. Nitrogen and phosphorus are considered the two most important nutrients in a freshwater environment. A shift in the nitrogen/phosphorus balance may cause serious changes in local flora and fauna. Excessive loading and high concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus in coastal systems can result in algal blooms, lowering dissolved oxygen levels and ultimately causing eutrophication (a detrimental increase of nutrients) and decreased productivity. Channel erosion due to urbanization can result in excessive amounts of sediment downstream, resulting in the potential degradation of the plants and animals that live there (known as biota). Water quality sampling can be done at two distinct domains to establish linkages between

LULC and water quality: spatial and temporal. Spatial sampling allows samples to be collected at many different locations within a short time frame. Comparing data from the locations helps us establish links between different LULCs at these locations and determine possible interactions between use/cover and water quality. Temporal sampling is done at the same location over a long period of time. The technique helps us understand how changes in LULC over time can cause changes in water-quality conditions. Our study focuses on how water quality varies spatially and temporally with differing LULC in the Fish River watershed. We focused on nitrate (NO3), total phosphorus (TP), and total suspended solids (TSS). By evaluating changing trends in nutrient balance over time we can begin to determine how LULC changes affect water quality.

Study Location The Fish River watershed is located in southern Baldwin County, Alabama, and drains into Weeks Bay, a sub estuary of Mobile Bay, which is classified as one of three Alabama Outstanding National Resource Waters (Figure 1). The Fish River watershed is approximately 398 square kilometers in size and is located between the towns of Stapleton, Fairhope, and Foley.


Fig. 1. The Fish River Watershed, located in Baldwin County, Alabama.

Sample Collection Water quality and flow data were collected at ten sampling locations between October 2008 and March 2010. We attempted to capture samples during both baseflow (usually represented by groundwater) and storm-flow conditions in order represent a


Fig. 2. Land use/land cover changes for the Fish River Watershed over time.


variety of flow conditions. Results of collected waterquality concentrations and loads were compared spatially by comparing one site to another for the 2008-2010 sampling period. Temporal trends were determined by comparing results from the current study to previous studies conducted since the 1990s. Temporal trend analysis is important when focusing on LULC change over many years. If trends can be established, forecasts can be made to better predict how further LULC change will affect the watershed.

Land Use/Cover Changes The Fish River watershed is comprised of rowcrop agriculture, urban development, and some

forested patches (Figure 2). Since the mid-1990s, the Fish River watershed has had a substantial population increase, resulting in urbanized landscapes (residential/commercial/industrial/transportation) doubling in size by 2008. Decreases in LULC proportions exist primarily in shrub land, grassland, and wetland landscapes. As agriculture comprises the majority of land use, it is important to note that crop types have changed from the mid-1990s. Peanuts and soybeans were introduced to the watershed in the late 1990s. These crops require little nitrogen fertilizer; however, they typically receive a larger amount of phosphorus application than other crops.

Figure 3 shows samples collected at various intervals during and after a storm event. Data shows that merely obtaining a single grab sample either during a storm or immediately after will not provide enough data to summarize water quality conditions for individual storms. Multiple sample collection during storm events is recommended for a more accurate picture of water quality. The majority of sites show a statistically significant decreasing trend in NO3 loads over time. TP load results show a significant positive trend between study periods for most sites. TSS statistical analysis shows mostly decreasing trend results with the exception of site 4, which had a significant increase in load over time. Direct relationships between water quality and LULC were difficult to statistically determine. This was due to the diverse uses of land within each watershed. Results did show, however, that the more highly urbanized areas had a substantial increase in TSS over time. Agricultural areas showed higher levels of TP, including maximum concentrations of over three milligrams per liter at one location. Nitrate concentrations were typically lower than reported in previous studies.

When comparing LULC proportions to water quality, an interesting trend occurs when land use in a subwatershed reaches a certain threshold. This effect appears to show the impact urbanization has on water quality. After urbanization reaches a certain threshold in percent of land, a balancing effect appears to mitigate some of the water quality constituents. For example, as a community continues to develop, infrastructure is put in place (such as water-treatment plants and retention ponds) that can actually stabilize or even decrease pollutants in the local systems.

Summary and Conclusions Water quality experiments demand the best sampling techniques available given the resources at hand. While multiple samples taken during storm events can help provide the best overall picture of water quality conditions, expense and time constraints can limit the number of samples that can be adequately processed. Since flow in the Fish River, and in the majority of its subwatersheds, has not statistically changed between the two study periods in question, we can conclude that nutrient and sediment load changes may be tied to LULC and management practices. Results show a substantial shift in the relationship between nitrate and phosphorus in most of

the tributaries of the Fish River. Phosphorus has historically been the limiting nutrient for phytoplankton growth within the Fish River watershed. The increase in total phosphorus combined with a decrease in nitrate in a P-limited system may cause ecological imbalance resulting in algal blooms and eutrophication. This imbalance becomes important when developing management plans to mitigate eutrophication problems in the Fish River and Weeks Bay. There have been substantial increases in urbanization throughout the Fish River watershed with linkages associated with changes in nutrients and increases in suspended sediment. A combination of urbanization and changes in crop types is the most

Fig. 3. Water quality data collected during and after storm events.

likely cause of the possible shift in the nitrateâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;phosphorus balance. The introduction of peanut farming 187 in the late 1990s to the early 2000s and the growing sod farming industry are sources of heavy fertilizer application, and nutrients may be entering streams via runoff or through groundwater leaching. This study showed that when conducting waterquality and hydrology assessments, it is important to determine both spatial and temporal conditions of a watershed. It is difficult to determine direct linkages between LULC and water quality in mixed-use watersheds; however, the majority of coastal landscapes have a broad variety of land use, and further research should be applied because landscapes continue to evolve.


Finding the Source of Sediments and Nutrients in the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed by Rewati Niraula, Latif Kalin, Puneet Srivastava, and Christopher J. Anderson


Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, also known as diffuse pollution, occurs when precipitation runs over land, picks up pollutants, and finally deposits them into waterbodies. Any pollutant picked up on its journey can become an integral part of the NPS pollution. In contrast to point sources of water pollution, such as industrial and municipal treatment plants, sources of NPS pollution are numerous and their contributions are difficult to quantify and regulate. Agriculture, forestry, grazing, septic systems, urban runoff, and construction sites are examples of sources for NPS pollution. Pollutant loadings, especially sediment and nutrients, are related to the watershed characteristics. Land use has a strong relationship with pollutant loadings. Sediment and nutrients from agriculture and urban areas are usually considered major

sources of NPS pollution and are known to have major impacts on water quality. Excessive amounts of nutrients in a waterbody, such as nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), can cause oxygen deficiency, fish kills, and loss of biodiversity, among other problems. It can also make the water unsuitable for drinking, industry, agricultural, and recreational purposes. Further, urban areas have the potential of generating large quantities of sediment and nutrients from stormwater discharge. Considering the significant role of NPS pollution in water quality issues, several regulations have been enacted. The Clean Water Act (CWA) was established in 1972 to restore and sustain the chemical, physical, and the biological integrity of the nationâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s waters by preventing pollutions from point and nonpoint sources. Later, the 1987 amendments to the CWA established Section 319 for the management of NPS pollution, which emphasizes the role of the federal government to help focus state and local NPS efforts. Section 303(d) of the CWA requires states to assess the condition of their waters and to implement plans to improve the quality of waterbodies that are identified as impaired. Addressing an identified water quality problem is a complex and potentially expensive process that includes total maximum daily load (TMDL) development, source identification, and mitigation. The

United States Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) defines TMDL as the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still safely meet water quality standards. The nonpoint sources of nutrients and sediments are always difficult to assess and control as they originate from dispersed areas and are variable in time due to variations in precipitation and temperature. It is important to identify these sources of pollution for the effective management of water and the entire watershed. Since a watershed is composed of various land use and soil types, and topography varies, not all parts of a watershed are critical and responsible for high pollution loads. Some areas within a watershed generate and contribute higher nutrient and sediment loads than the rest. Such areas are called hotspots or critical source areas. Identification of hotspots is important for cost-effective implementation of best management practices. Because direct field studies and continuous water monitoring are usually costly and labor intensive (sometimes even spatially impractical at the watershed level), identification of such areas is often done through watershed modeling. The objective of this study was to identify the hotspots of sediment and nutrients in the Saugahatchee Creek watershed located in east central Alabama.


Fig. 1. Location of Saugahatchee Creek Watershed in east central Alabama along with land use distribution.

Description of the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed Saugahatchee Creek watershed (Figure 1), located in east central Alabama, is approximately 570 km2 (~220 sq. miles) in area. The watershed is dominated by forested land (~70 percent) with considerable urban area (~8.5 percent). It encompasses parts of the cities of Auburn and Opelika. Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) has identified two segments within the Saugahatchee Creek watershed as being impaired for nutrients. The watershed climate is characterized by hot summers and mild winters with average temperatures of 26oC and 7oC, 190 respectively, with an average annual precipitation of approximately 1336 mm.

Fig. 2. Model simulated versus observed discharge for the calendar years 2000 to 2009. Observed data was obtained from USGS gage near Loachapoka (USGS 02418230).

Application of Watershed Model Watershed models play a vital role in linking NPS of pollutants to receiving bodies of water. They are driven by climatic inputs, such as precipitation and temperature, and typically require input parameters related to topography, land use, and soil. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) was used in this study for modeling the Saugahatchee Creek watershed. Daily precipitation and temperature data obtained from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) were used to drive the model. Watershed models are usually calibrated before they are used for watershed assessment or scenario analysis. Model calibration refers to altering model

Fig. 3. Fraction of sediment, TN, and TP load contributed from fraction of the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed.

parameter values within their acceptable ranges to better match model output with the observed counterparts (e.g., stream discharge, sediment). The SWAT model was calibrated for streamflow, sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus for the Saugahatchee Creek watershed. As an example, Figure 2 shows results for streamflow.

Identification of Hotspots The calibrated watershed model was used to identify the hotspots at the sub-watershed level in the Saugahatchee Creek watershed. The sediment and nutrient loads from each sub-watershed were analyzed based on loadings per unit area to identify the hotspots. Sub-watersheds were ranked in descending order based on loads per unit area. Cumulative percent loads were then plotted against cumulative percent area. The top ranked sub-watersheds that collectively contribute to 20 percent of the total load at the watershed outlet were considered as hotspots. Hotspots were identified separately for sediment, total nitrogen (TN), and total phosphorus (TP) loadings such that particular areas can be targeted for the pollutant of interest. Results showed that only 10 percent of the watershed was responsible for generating approximately 39 percent of the sediment yield, 31 percent of the TP loads and 20 percent of TN loads, (Figure 3).

The annual average sediment yield from the subwatersheds ranged from 0.06 tons/ha to 9.77 tons/ ha in the Saugahatchee Creek watershed. However, sediment yield from the six sub-watersheds identified as hotspots ranged from 5.42 to 9.77 tons/ha/yr. Annual average TP loadings from the subwatersheds ranged from 0.02 kg/ha to 0.87 kg/ha. However, the loading from the seven sub-watersheds identified as hotspots ranged between 0.55 and 0.87 kg/ha/yr. Annual average TN loadings ranged from 0.57 kg/ha to 5.31 kg/ha, and loads only from the hotspots varied between 3.57 and 5.31 kg/ha/yr. The loadings of sediment and TP estimated from the Saugahatchee Creek watershed were higher than those estimated in similar studies. Total nitrogen loadings from the hotspots were similar.

Land Use Composition of Hotspots It was clear from this study that sub-watersheds dominated by urban land use were among those contributing the highest amount of sediment and nutrient loads and thus were identified as hotspots. Sub-watersheds with hay and croplands were identified as nutrient hotspots (Table 1).

Summary and Conclusions A watershed model was utilized to identify hotspots of sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus

191 Table 1. Land use composition of sediment, TN, and TP hotspots in the Saugahatchee Creek Watershed.

in the Saugahatchee Creek watershed for the implementation of cost-effective management practices for improving the water quality. Hotspots were identified at the sub-watershed level based on loadings per unit area. In general, sub-watersheds dominated by urban area were among those producing the highest amount of sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus loads, and thus were identified as hotspots. Sub-watersheds with some amount of agricultural crops were also identified as hotspots of nitrogen and phosphorus. Hay/pasture domi-

nated sub-watersheds were identified as hotspots especially for nitrogen. Results showed that only 10 percent of the watershed was responsible for generating approximately 39 percent of the sediment, 31 percent of the phosphorus, and 20 percent of the nitrogen loads observed at the watershed outlet. The identified hotspots should be watershed managerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s targeted areas for reducing the sediment and nutrient loads and improving water quality in the Saugahatchee Creek watershed.


Green for Life! Implementing Low Impact Development in Auburn, Alabama by Charlene LeBleu, Rebecca O’Neal Dagg, and Carla Jackson Bell


The Boykin Community Center in the northwest part of Auburn, Alabama, is an old elementary school converted into a home for a Head Start program, a daycare center, and a child development center, among other community programs. It had a problem, though: the old school’s flat roof was drained by more than fiftytwo roof drains, with thirty-two of them directed onto the playgrounds. Playing outside is the best part of the day for most young children, but Boykin’s playground and lawns were washed out, flooded, or muddy, depending on the weather. Various remedies for these problems included spreading sand on the playgrounds each year. The large volumes of sand eventually eroded away to surrounding catchment basins and tributaries, ending up in the waters of nearby Saugahatchee Creek—and the Saugahatchee watershed already

is listed as “impaired” under the state’s Clean Water Act. Partnering with the City of Auburn and funded by two grants from the Saugahatchee Watershed Management Plan (SWAMP), a group of students and faculty from Auburn University’s College of Architecture, Design, and Construction (CADC) sought a better approach through research and community engagement. They were looking for a neighborhood within the Saugahatchee watershed that was in need of watershed assistance, with a plan to assess the site for possible low-impact development (LID) retrofits. Boykin Community Center fit the bill. The way we design and build our homes, offices, and public structures has a substantial impact on the ultimate ecological footprint of our communities, as well as on the quality of life of those who dwell there. LID, a growing area of practice at the intersection of planning, ecology, landscape architecture, and civil engineering, is a “green” building approach to land development (or re-development) that works with nature to manage stormwater as close to its source as possible, reducing the impact of the built environment within the watershed and promoting the natural movement of water. LID seeks to build green infrastructure that will reduce impervi-

ous cover, promote natural systems, and create a holistic multi-functional landscape. Landscape architecture graduate research assistants assessed existing conditions on the grounds of the community center, noting how stormwater flow contributed pollutants and sediment to Saugahatchee Creek. They documented erosion and calculated the nutrient and sediment runoff to determine load in onsite catchments, then identified and proposed best management practices for retrofitting and installation. The next step was to hold stakeholder meetings with user groups from the facility and with city officials as a way to receive input and report findings. Once approved, the LID best management practices were designed by faculty and graduate research assistants and installed by graduate landscape architecture students and undergraduate students from the CADC Learning Communities, transforming the play area. Now rain gardens—planted depressions that capture stormwater runoff from impervious surfaces— allow rainwater to soak into the ground. Cisterns collect water, and vegetated bioswales, or drainage courses that guide water through and over vegetation, compost, and/or riprap, remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water.

The LID retrofit was only part of the research and outreach project, however. In addition to providing design assistance and supervising the CADC Learning Community volunteers, landscape architecture graduate students served as academic program coordinators and implemented a companion LID education plan to reinforce green building and living objectives. The four-part project incorporates a Green for Life! teaching component, including a kiosk where visitors learn appreciation for building and living green, as well as how to be an environmentally responsible dweller in the Saugahatchee watershed. The kiosk, at the northeast corner of the main parking lot, provides information about the overall project and directs visitors to BMP locations where additional signs provide information about each site problem

and LID solution. The walking trail meandering through the grounds of the community center takes the visitor to each rain garden, cistern, and vegetated swale. In addition, a green education curriculum empowers children and students to take their new “green LID knowledge” home and to share how “greening” the community will help restore watersheds and make communities stronger. GreenKidz for Life! targets students in kindergarten through eighth grade. Students, graduate students and volunteers contributed more than 700 volunteer hours, engaging them in service learning and giving them experience in design and project implementation. 193 Students at Boykin Community Center benefit from a better place to play and to learn, but Auburn University students involved in the project also benefited from the research and outreach experience. The American Society of Landscape Architects chose the project as a national case study for green infrastructure, and in 2011 the Alabama Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the project its Best Community Design Award. The Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association likewise named the project its Outstanding Student Team Project Award in 2011.


all images are in word doc i asked lucy to have author send originals

Headwater Wetlands: A Study of Land Use and Land Change by W. Flynt Barksdale and Christopher J. Anderson


Between 1990 and 2000, Baldwin County, Alabama, had the second highest increase in population within the state: 43 percent. Between 2000 and 2010 it experienced an additional 24 percent increase in population. Though the area has traditionally been heavily affected by agriculture, increases in population will certainly affect the environment. For instance, forest cover in the region has decreased and urban land use has increased. Numerous studies have investigated how land cover can specifically affect the carbon cycle, hydrology, and biota of various aquatic systems, but very little has been done to demonstrate the effects on wetlands throughout this region of Alabama. Since these wetlands are important for maintaining water quality, providing important habitat, and storing water, changes to their function may be crucial for Baldwin County. The objective of our study was to examine how

land use change may impact headwater wetlands within coastal Alabama and to improve our understanding and management of these ecosystems. We expected wetland forest composition, hydrology, and other attributes of headwater wetlands to be directly proportional to decreases in surrounding natural land cover. In wetlands, hydrology is the primary factor influencing vegetation, soils, and ecosystem dynamics. Headwater wetlands are forested wetlands located at the upper reaches of small streams. These wetlands are characterized by a high water table, which originates as subsurface groundwater flow in the surrounding landscape. Due to their location in the upper reaches of a watershed, any hydrologic alteration within that watershed could have major impacts on these wetlands by altering the groundwater flow that characterizes them. Ditching, for instance, alters the hydrology of wetland systems by facilitating water drainage off adjacent lands. Increased sediments and nutrients from drained agricultural lands are also common, and are considered major pollutants in wetland environments. They can have many effects on wetlands environments, including shifts in vegetation, loss of wildlife biodiversity, alterations in aquatic food webs, decreased water storage, and reduced flood

abatement. Similarly, decreases in groundwater recharge, increased surface water flows, less infiltration of precipitation, lower stream baseflows, and increased erosion have been associated with urban land use. Hydrology is further disrupted by curbs, culverts, and other drainage features, which facilitate drainage in order to lessen flooding in urban areas. As a result, urban streams and wetlands tend to be â&#x20AC;&#x153;flashierâ&#x20AC;? than more natural environments, with greater peak flow and shorter

Photo by Flynt Barksdale

Headwater wetland in early spring showing high water table and emergent vegetation.

duration of high water. This limits the ability of the wetland to receive and store floodwaters. The increase in peak flows also changes the natural disturbance regime, which can have significant impacts on native stream organisms and riparian (bank area) vegetation. Wetlands are influenced by how the surrounding land is used. As these environments are impacted, species composition and forest structure may change. For instance, the prevalence of wetland vegetation may shift with changing water levels. Not only do increases in road density associated with both agriculture and urban land use modify groundwater hydrology, roads can also alter plant communities by providing preferential 195 migration corridors and points of establishment for invasive plant species. Such non-native invasions have proven to be major threats to native ecosystems. Shifts in community type can coincide with changes in productivity, which can alter food availability and food webs. Alterations in the landscape also decrease the ability for wetlands to store water, which, under natural conditions, provide stable water supplies to downstream systems, and, therefore, influence aquatic biodiversity. One of the most noteworthy functions of wetlands is that many retain (sequester) carbon. Wetland carbon cycling and decomposition rates

are driven by many factors; however, hydroperiod (the normal duration and depth of flooding/soil saturation) is by far the most important. Wetlands that are flooded or saturated for long durations can produce anaerobic conditions that reduce decomposition and enhance carbon sequestration. Other wetlands that flood periodically may actually have conditions that promote decomposition. As an example, decomposition is often optimized when a cycle of wetting and drying exists within a wetland. Links between the upland environment and wetland ecosystems are also vital in maintaining the productivity within forested wetland systems, as they receive both organic matter and nutrients 196 from surrounding upland landscapes. Headwater wetlands have been described as having near permanent saturated soils, and we would expect them to be highly effective at retaining carbon. Based on the close link between hydrology and the cycling of carbon, we expect urban headwater wetlands (with altered hydrology) to lose some of their capacity to function as carbon sinks compared to wetlands with less altered watersheds. Our study examined the effects of land use change on wetland structure, forest species composition, and function. We selected thirty headwater wetlands in Baldwin County, Alabama, which displayed a range of surrounding land use.

Data were collected on species composition and forest structure. We also collected data related to wetland function, which included information regarding soil and hydrological characteristics. Using the Regional Guidebook for Applying the Hydrogeomorphic Approach to Assessing the Functions of Headwater Slope Wetlands on the Mississippi and Alabama Coastal Plains (Noble et al. 2007), data were collected in a manner that allowed us to apply this wetland functional assessment tool. For each wetland, a hydrogeomorphic approach (HGM) functional capacity index score was determined for each pertinent function (wildlife habitat, carbon cycling, vegetation, and water storage) based on a variety of field and landscape measurements. The functional capacity of each wetland and the raw data used to calculate it were related to several metrics of land use in the contributing drainage catchment (e.g., the percentages of impervious surface area, forest cover, and agricultural cover). Our initial findings suggest that wetland forest structure and composition are affected by reduced forest cover in the watershed. Wildlife habitat appeared to be affected by land use change based on functional capacity scores; however, issues with the HGM methodology may have reduced clarity and lim-

ited statistical significance between land use and other functions. Another aim of our study was to quantify wetland function through the long-term (approximately one year) by monitoring wetland hydrology and aspects of carbon cycling. Fifteen of the original thirty wetlands were selected for this portion of the study. Groundwater levels were monitored to assess the ability of wetlands to retain excess rainfall. Variables associated with groundwater flow, such as maximum flow and minimum flow, were related to similar land use metrics used in the studyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first objective. Measures of carbon cycling included leaf litter fall, forest floor mass, and a ratio of leaf litter to forest floor mass which estimates the ability of particular wetlands to sequester litter fall. Litter fall dynamics were related to land use and groundwater metrics. Ultimately this portion of our study describes how land use changes may influence drainage and the capacity of wetlands to retain carbon associated with leaf litter. Our study of the headwater wetlands of Baldwin County aims to describe their importance. It is our hope that the findings of this research will provide crucial data to help planners better protect these important systems and minimize the negative effects of surrounding land use change.




etlands are important for maintaining water quality, providing important habitat, and storing water. Changes to their function may be crucial for Baldwin County.


Amphibians 198

By Diane Alix and Christopher J. Anderson

The Effects of Land Use Change on Amphibian Community Composition and Larval Development in Coastal Alabama


though historically drained and degraded, wetlands are now recognized as important ecosystems. They fulfill a number of important functions, including water quality improvement, flood control, recreation purposes, and wildlife habitat. Our work has focused on the impact of land use change on amphibians and their wetland habitat. As a group, amphibians are particularly reliant on wetland and aquatic habitats. Many North American amphibians use water for reproduction and have two-phase lifecycles requiring an aquatic larval stage prior to an adult terrestrial stage. Terrestrial habitat is equally important because many amphibians spend the majority of their lives in uplands. The requirement of multiple habitat types makes these animals more susceptible to habitat loss and destruction. Amphibians have an important role as a link between terrestrial and aquatic systems. Global declines, however, have come to light in the past few decades and are a cause for concern. No

single factor can be pinpointed in the search for the source of the declines. In reality, it is likely the result of a combination of factors, including habitat destruction and modification, invasive species, diseases, pollution, climate change, and increased ultraviolet radiation. Habitat loss can occur in a number of ways. Some causes are natural and systems can recover from them, such as fire and storm damage, but often habitat is modified by permanent, anthropogenicâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;humanâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;activities. Land use change can impact amphibians significantly. Their semi-permeable skin is sensitive to changes in water quality, which is influenced by sediments, heavy metals, and pollutants in runoff. In addition to degrading habitat, roads serve as an obstruction to movement and automobiles cause substantial mortality. Habitat modification in the form of deforestation occurs as well. Amphibian diversity has been shown to be reduced immediately after timber harvesting in forested wetlands but can rebound to

some extent, and populations are known to require a fairly large area around aquatic sites to remain viable. In addition, maintaining habitat corridors for migration is important for supporting metapopulations in a changing landscape. When wetlands dry or refill, animals have to move between them and require cover to do so. The hydrology of a watershed is greatly altered 199 by changes in land use. One of the most obvious results of urbanization is an increase in impervious surfaces, such as paved roads and buildings. Water has less soil infiltration and moves faster over impervious surfaces, thereby increasing the potential transport of pollutants and sediment to streams. The increase in surface water can result in flashier floods with higher peak discharges and less water contributing to streams as groundwater. Roads and culverts also redirect flow paths and lead to altered watersheds, while ditches in and around wetlands can alter water tables. The changes in flow regime can modify the width and

depth of streams, usually resulting in straighter, deeper, channels with reduced complexity. In addition, water temperatures are higher when riparian vegetation is removed and impervious surfaces contribute heated runoff. As a result, wetlands and streams with greater urban influence demonstrate lower species richness and shifts in the presence of native reptiles and amphibians. Our study aims to describe some of the impacts of land use change on amphibians through a combination of field and lab projects. With the field study, we will determine the amphibian assemblages of fifteen different headwater slope wetlands along a gradient of urbanization in coastal 200 Alabama. Headwater slope wetlands are freshwater, forested wetlands that are primarily driven by groundwater in their natural state. We will be looking at these systems on a watershed scale and determining land use categories by the amount of impervious surface cover, forest cover, and agricultural activity. We have selected 15 wetlands throughout Baldwin County, Alabama, that cover a range of surrounding land use change (forest to urban and/or agriculture) typical for the region. To survey the amphibians present, we will use two techniques. The first is area-constrained active searches, where a percentage of the wetland area will be surveyed during different seasons to find

animals present on site. The second technique employs automated recording devices that record vocalizing male frogs at intervals throughout the night. These will be put out for five nights at a time to account for variation in weather conditions and at different times throughout the year to account for species with different breeding intervals. Information from these techniques will help us determine species richness, diversity, and abundance within each wetland. The results will be used to calculate the site occupancy for each species, which will be compared among wetlands along the land use gradient. We expect to see a decrease in the number of sensitive species present and an increase in the number of more tolerant species present as watersheds become urbanized. A laboratory experiment will also be conducted to examine the impact of altered hydrology on amphibians in the larval stage. Because wetlands within urbanized watersheds have been shown to have flashier floods, we will subject tadpoles from an early stage to altered flows to determine if there is an impact on their growth rate and fitness. For instance, faster developing tadpoles are often at a disadvantage as adults because of their smaller size. Three hydrologic treatments will be applied to tadpoles shortly after hatching from their eggs. One will mimic a flashier flood regime with a

rapid increase and decrease in water level (typical of an urban setting) in their mesocosm and a second will have a gradual increase and decrease that takes several days to complete, mimicking a flood in a forested watershed. A third set will be kept at a stable water level as a control. At the end of each flooding cycle, the tadpoles will be evaluated to track their development according to various metamorphic stages. At the termination of the flooding regimes, all tadpoles will be weighed and their length measured. We expect to demonstrate that changes in land use have pronounced effects on amphibian species composition and larval development. We also anticipate that the urban flood will result in tadpoles developing faster and at reduced fitness levels because of the additional stress of a less stable environment. The information we gather from our study will offer insight into how wetlands are affected by urbanization and other land use changes. It will also help us better understand the impact of land use change on the animals that depend on wetlands to survive and thrive. Ultimately, we hope that our data and findings can inform conservation measures and future land planning in coastal Alabama.




and use change can impact amphibians significantly. Their semi-permeable skin is sensitive to changes in water quality, which is influenced by sediments, heavy metals, and pollutants in runoff.



Pervious Concrete: Evaluation for LID Water Quality Improvement by Michael Hein, Mark Dougherty, and Charlene LeBleu


Thanks to collaboration between Auburn University faculty, students, and facilities personnel, the university’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum got a state-of-the-art parking lot, and researchers learned quite a bit about the value of something called “pervious concrete.” Most concrete is impervious, meaning it is impenetrable. Water can’t get through, and there are serious environmental consequences when large areas are covered by impervious surfaces such as concrete, asphalt, brick, and stone. Stormwater runoff from these “hardscapes” can cause significant erosion because the water rushes across the surface instead of gently soaking into the ground. Suspended solids and debris accumulate downslope, and the runoff can carry pollutants that have been deposited on pavement surfaces by vehicles, including oil and grease from engines and transmissions and heavy metals from brake linings.

One alternative is â&#x20AC;&#x153;pervious paving,â&#x20AC;? which is widely accepted as a beneficial urban low-impact development (LID) practice. The problem is that pervious paving has not been adequately evaluated with regard to pollutant removal efficiency before, during, and after construction. When the Davis Arboretum needed a new parking lot, researchers saw the opportunity to design and construct a pervious concrete slab system to replace the worn pavement while at the same time collecting the data needed to evaluate its efficiency. The research, conducted at Auburn Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Donald E. Davis Arboretum from 2009 to 2010, established the benefits of a pervious concrete parking section in mitigating the negative effects of stormwater runoff quality from a newly constructed parking surface. The study also established a baseline infiltration rate measurement from which to track clogging of pavement over time. The collaborative team devised and installed in-place monitoring systems to conduct the field experiment. A major benefit was the use of side-by-side data gathered to indicate whether pervious concrete could effectively filter harmful impurities from parking slab runoff. An important side benefit was that students and faculty, collaborating with AU facilities personnel, gained valuable experience in placing pervious concrete.

During the twelve-month study, worn asphalt paving on the west side of the arboretum was replaced with a pervious concrete slab system and the system was equipped with an under-drain collection system and sample collection device. The east and west sides of the parking lot were equipped with instruments to measure the quality of stormwater runoff from an impervious asphalt slab (on the east side) and leachate (products

resulting from leaching of the soil) from a pervious concrete slab system (on the west side). An important objective was to test for key pollutants such as nutrients, metals, and total carbon and sediment in the water source. This would help researchers evaluate the ability of pervious concrete pavement to improve stormwater runoff quality. Students in biosystems engineering, landscape architecture, and building science, along with


faculty and AU Facilities and arboretum personnel, collaborated to design and construct the pervious concrete slab system, which provided eight new parking spaces. Collaborators constructed a subsurface collection system to capture filtered stormwater through the new pervious concrete parking slab, and a surface collection system to collect surface runoff from the older impervious asphalt parking section. Graduate students collected water samples from downslope sampling reservoirs after major rain events (rainwater), and after water was pumped from the arboretum pond onto the parking lot (stormwater) during controlled testing. Water 204 samples were analyzed at a private laboratory for nitrate-nitrogen, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and total phosphorus. In addition, the concentrations of aluminum, boron, copper, iron, manganese, sodium, and zinc were measured, as well as total suspended solids, oil, and grease. Student research assistants carried out in-house measurements of pH, alkalinity, hardness, turbidity, and conductivity. Infiltration rates were tested regularly through the pervious pavement, as well as through a confined eight-inch-diameter PVC pipe embedded vertically in the pervious pavement to subgrade at four sampling locations. Water quality from both pavements was evaluated and compared after col-

lection of leachate trickling through the pervious concrete system and of runoff from the impervious pavement surface. Surface runoff was collected from the traditional asphalt pavement test section by means of a surface drain installed at the lower end of the pavement, which is on approximately a 6 percent slope. Results from the eight-month collection period after initial installation of pervious pavement indicated a consistent reduction in contaminants in stormwater leachate compared to runoff from the adjacent impervious asphalt pavement. Reduction of measured contaminants ranged from 20 percent to 85 percent. Data also indicated a pH increase over 10 percent with corresponding increases in conductivity, alkalinity, and hardness, likely due to the chemical dissolution of fresh concrete admixtures. The project was a success on many levels. The Donald E. Davis Arboretum got a new parking lot, and twenty-seven individuals were certified as Pervious Concrete Technicians after passing the National Ready Mix Concrete Association exam. Since project completion, Professor Michael Hein has led numerous tours of the pervious concrete parking lot for small groups of interested faculty, students, and visitors, and the project was fea-

tured on the website of the new AU Center for Construction Collaboration and Innovation. The Alabama Concrete Industries Association has also published a story on the placement in its magazine, sent to concrete industry association members statewide. The McWhorter School of Building Science also featured the project in its semiannual alumni publication. The project showed the advantages of pervious concrete, and two more projects on the Auburn campus have utilized the technology. Other projects in the community are also utilizing the technology, and the Alabama Concrete Industries Association has committed funding for further study. Finally, many ideas for future study emerged as a result of this project. These include a continuation of chemical analysis, focusing on oil and grease in pervious concrete leachate vs. surface runoff from asphalt paving. Another possibility is a thermal pollution study, which compares the temperature of leachate trickling through pervious concrete to the temperature of surface runoff from asphalt paving. A study of the decomposition of hydrocarbons by microbes in residence within pervious concrete might be interesting, and a study of surface clogging of pervious concrete pores over time might lead to information about effective cleaning methods.





ost concrete is impervious, meaning it is impenetrable. Water canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t get through, and large areas of concrete, asphalt, brick, and stone can have serious environmental consequences.


Mobile Green Streets Initiative by Charlene LeBleu, Judd M. Langham, and Robert Stuart Wilkerson


Proposed Green Street design for Dauphin Street by Judd Langham.

The city of Mobile, Alabama, sits on the edge of a massive water system. The Mobile Bay drainage basin covers approximately 65 percent of the state of Alabama and portions of Mississippi, Georgia, and Tennessee. Serving as a drainage system for more than 40,000 square miles, the Mobile Bay watershed is the sixth largest in the nation. At 62,000 cubic feet per second on average, it has the fourth largest freshwater inflow in the North American continent. Mobile itself is projected to experience significant growth and development over the coming years. One project, the Mobile Green Streets Initiative, is focusing on mitigating the impact of coastal storm surges, remediating stormwater runoff, and promoting urban ecological sustainability while helping make one of Americaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s most beautiful urban waterfront landscapes even more beautiful.

Auburn University landscape architecture students at Mobile Green Streets Charrette in 2009.

The Green Streets Initiative, founded in 2006 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, uses a natural systems approach to manage stormwater, reduce flows, improve water quality, and enhance watershed health. The approach is quickly becoming popular

throughout the United States and the international community. It incorporates green infrastructure, which refers to the interconnected network of open spaces and natural areas, such as greenways, wetlands, parks, forest preserves, and native plant vegetation, that naturally manage stormwater, reduce flooding risk, and improve water quality. The initiative also emphasizes active living by integrating physical activity—like walking to the store or biking to work—into daily routines. The Mobile Green Streets Initiative focuses on the quality of life, walkability, and active living in the urban core, complementing the trend of residential population growth in the city center by reducing urban floods through inventive stormwater management designs. Leveraged benefits

Student Vann Webb proposed a green wall to complete a missing façade on Dauphin Street.

include enhanced pedestrian connectivity and accessibility, increased greenspace, and overall livability within a coastal-edge city. The Mobile Green Streets Initiative began with a public design charrette held in August 2009 to gather stakeholder input and build capacity. This research and outreach project included the Mississippi–Alabama Sea Grant Consortium Coastal Storms Program (the funding agency), the City of Mobile, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce, Coastal Alabama Clean Water Partnerships, the Downtown Mobile Alliance, citizens, business owners, public officials, and natural 207

Vacant lot on Dauphin Street.

resource professionals, among others. Auburn University landscape architecture (AULA) students assessed existing conditions and researched case studies of green street programs in other coastal cities, including Portland, Seattle, Boston, and Jacksonville, Florida. The hands-on process of the charrette, led by Charlene LeBleu, an associate professor in the Auburn University landscape architecture program, and Judd Langham and Bob Wilkerson, both of Birminghamâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2DStudio, LLC (both formerly of Barge, Waggoner, Sumner and Cannon, Inc. of Birmingham), was designed to help local stakeholders establish ownership of the proposed 208 green street site. Later, AULA graduate students, in collaboration with 2DStudio, LLC, assisted in developing concept plans using specifications from

Stage area, seat wall, and dining area.

the charrette and then presented their ideas to the Mobile City Council. Since by definition each design is a site-specific landscape design, it cannot be mass-produced and has to be developed specifically for the site by qualified professionals. AULA graduate students learned these techniques through hands-on experience. Ultimately, the Mobile Green Streets Initiative focused on a vacant lot on Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile. Owned by the Center of the Living Arts, Inc., the Dauphin Street Lot is centrally located in downtown and part of a busy street life. Since 2009, LeBleu and the Center of the Living

LID design concepts by Judd Langham.

Arts have continued to work together to explore green street/green infrastructure design options for the Dauphin Street Lot. In 2010, Leadership Mobile presented LeBleu with an award for her green street efforts. In 2011, her class provided additional student design concepts for consideration, and three designs were selected for further study. An additional charrette for the Dauphin Street Lot was planned in 2012. The planning and design results generated by the initiative have helped the Mobile community, watershed groups, private industry, and others. For starters, green infrastructure costs less than

Alley view of Mardi Gras cistern from Cathedral Square by Judd Langham.

traditional stormwater infrastructure, helpful when budgets are tight and communities are working to meet state and federal regulations. In addition, recreational fishing—from piers, shoreline, or boats—is dependent on the health of the streams and estuaries and on the use of resources by other user groups. Minimizing estuary pollutants also is crucial since the Mobile Bay estuary is a critical nursery for shrimp, bay anchovy, blue crab, and multitudes of other fish, crustaceans, and shellfish that support robust commercial fisheries and are important in the lifecycles of almost every aquatic species with commercial and recreational value in Alabama. The Mobile initiative has also supported the Coastal Alabama River Basin Management Plan efforts to restore portions of Mobile Bay


A bosc of trees for Dauphin Street lot by Adrian Sharp.

tributaries currently on the Section 303(d) List of Impaired Waters. The inevitable population growth and economic development issues in the area and the Mobile Bay watershed need to be holistically and sensibly addressed by government officials, planners, aca-

demia, developers, landowners, and others in ways that are environmentally protective and economically prudent. Innovative low-impact development and best management practices can help make that happen by intertwining hydrological stewardship with significant “place-making.”

Rain Gardens 210

By Mark Doughert y, Charlene M. LeBleu, Eve Brantley, and Christy H. Francis

The Magic of Rain Gardens


ain gardens are a popular low-impact development technique for dealing with stormwater runoff. Rain gardens treat (or “filter”) stormwater runoff, removing pollutants in the process. Their popularity is poised to grow since rain gardens are aesthetically pleasing. In addition, research is evolving towards specialized designs that target the removal of particular nutrients. The conventional rain garden design is based on the hydrologic function of an undisturbed forest habitat. The garden forms a bioretention area by collecting stormwater runoff, storing it, and filtering it into the soil. The filtering process takes place as the water comes in contact with the soil, the roots of trees, and herbaceous vegetation. The first flush (first one to one-and-a-half inches of rainfall during a storm event) of rainwater is ponded in the depression of the rain garden and soaks into the soil within twenty-four to forty-eight hours. This first flush typically contains the highest concentration of nonpoint source pollutants, such as excess

nutrients and bacteria that are washed off impervious surfaces. A typical soil mix for a rain garden includes organic matter (20 percent) blended into a sandy soil (50 percent) with about 30 percent of native topsoil. This mixture provides a source of water and nutrients for the plants while soil particles adsorb heavy metals, hydrocarbons, and other pollutants. The use of rain gardens has been readily embraced, and North Carolina has led the way for implementation of stormwater infiltration management practices. Surprisingly, however, very few Photo courtesy Mark Dougherty

Upturned pipe installed for rain garden.

bioretention field sites have been extensively tested over time, according to Dr. Bill Hunt, associate professor and Extension specialist in North Carolina State University’s biological and agricultural engineering department. A rain garden demonstration–research project at Auburn University’s Donald E. Davis Arboretum compared nutrient removal rates from a conven211 tional rain garden to a rain garden with an internal water storage (IWS) layer. Research like ours on rain gardens with an IWS layer is still relatively new. A rain garden with an IWS layer has a permanent waterlogged (saturated) zone. It has been reported that the use of an internal saturation layer increases denitrification (removal of nitrates and nitrites) in a laboratory setting, with two studies documenting an increase of nitrate-nitrogen conversion to nitrogen gas. A recent study by NCSU’s Hunt has also confirmed that the saturated area creates anaerobic (low oxygen) conditions that may reduce the outflow concentration of nitrate-nitrogen (NO3-N) and,

photo courtesy Mark Dougherty


Rajesh Sawant and Judd Langham assist with rain garden construction.

consequently, total nitrogen (TN). Upturning the drainpipe on a controlled rain garden drain outlet can easily create such a saturated zone within the soil. The length of the upturned vertical pipe controls the depth of water saturation (see pipe illustration).

Our Two Rain Gardens The two demonstration–research rain gardens were installed at the Davis Arboretum during the

summer of 2006. One rain garden is a conventional design, and the other is an internal water storage (IWS) rain garden. The finished rain gardens are trapezoidal in shape and approximately twenty-one feet by nine feet, with a surface area of approximately 189 square feet. Each is surrounded by a nine-inch earthen berm to promote ponding of a controlled, predetermined volume of stormwater. Diversion berms were constructed above each rain garden. Existing soil was mixed with purchased topsoil and fine-ground pine bark soil amendment to make a mixed media consisting of approximately 58 percent sand, 27 percent silt, and 15 percent clay. The conventional rain garden was layered from top to bottom with three-and-a-half feet of mixed media, a permeable fabric layer, and a sixinch gravel layer that incorporated approximately twenty-five feet of 10 four-inch slotted drain tiles. For this study, the rain garden was lined with an impermeable layer with a sealed drainage outlet that permitted capture of all applied runoff water. The IWS rain garden, has layers and lining identical to the conventional rain garden but also includes a one-and-a-half-foot upturned pipe that creates the IWS layer. The research was designed as a paired rain garden study to evaluate nutrient removal between

a conventional rain garden and one with an IWS layer, but Rain Garden No. 1 was unavailable during the study period. For that reason, Rain Garden No. 2 was operated as a conventional rain garden for eight controlled “runoff ” events from July until September 2006. Then, from late September until December 2006, the rain garden was operated with an IWS zone for nine additional “runoff ” events. Raising the drainage outlet one-and-a-half feet above the top of the gravel layer effectively saturated the subsoil of the rain garden with water. A predetermined volume of stormwater runoff from an on-site stormwater pond was pumped Photo courtesy Mark Dougherty

Manual rain garden monitoring.

photo courtesy Mark Dougherty

to the rain gardens, and each rain garden was equipped with seven landscape bubblers attached to pop-up spray heads that applied a fixed amount of stormwater runoff. Water from the stormwater pond was sampled before each â&#x20AC;&#x153;runoff â&#x20AC;? event. In addition, water samples were collected at the drain outlet over time to determine flow volume at timed intervals, and were combined in a bucket to form a flow-weighted composite. A final composite sample was taken from the bucket at the end of the sampling event to determine element concentrations. Nutrient concentrations measured included total Kjeldahl nitrogen (TKN), nitrate-nitrogen, ammonium-nitrogen, oxidized nitrogen, soluble (ortho-) phosphorus, and total phosphorus. Other concentrations analyzed were aluminum, calcium, copper, iron, potassium, magnesium, manganese, sodium, lead, and zinc. Particulate phosphorus was determined indirectly as the difference between total and ortho-phosphorus. Total nitrogen was determined indirectly as the sum of ammonianitrogen, organic nitrogen, and oxidized nitrogen. Organic nitrogen was estimated as the difference between TKN and ammonia nitrogen.


The Results of Our Project Samples were collected at periodic intervals during the simulated storm events to describe quality

Installed rain garden mechanism.

and quantity of outflow throughout the rain event. Significant removal of particulate phosphorus and total phosphorus constituents was found under both conventional and IWS operation of the rain garden, and some beneficial nitrogen removal was also detected from the IWS layer towards the end of the six-month study. Hydrologic benefits included drastically reduced outflow hydrograph peaks and total outflow volumes, effects that act to reduce total pollutant flux and subsequent delivery to local water bodies. These data support increased specialization and specification of design for targeting pollutants of particular concern to individual watersheds. Preliminary data from this study are instruc214 tive of how a new rain garden performs. Nitrogen loads generally increased under conventional aerobic operation until November 2006. In November, nitrogen loads began to decrease coincident with winter rains and cooler temperatures. Although only a small portion of the outflow volume was sampled, ammonium-nitrogen loading was reduced significantly towards the end of the IWS portion of the study, indicating the possibility of active denitrification within the IWS layer. Phosphorus loads in and out of Rain Garden No. 2 indicate generally decreased phosphorus loads under conventional rain garden

operation after August 9. Decreases in phosphorus load continued under IWS operation into September and did not appear to be affected by saturated soil conditions or cooler temperatures. The largest specific reduction of phosphorus load appeared to be for particulate phosphorus. Results of soil tests indicate that the soil in Rain Garden No. 2 had very low levels of phosphorus, medium levels of potassium, and high levels of magnesium and calcium. Low levels of soil phosphorus in the soil media decrease outflow concentrations of particulate and total phosphorus. Medium levels of soil potassium increase outflow concentrations of potassium. Likewise, outflow concentrations of magnesium Photo by Patrick Thompson

Rain garden flowers in bloom in mid-summer.

and calcium were measurably increased. Hunt reported that soils with a low phosphorus index and high cation (ion or ions with a net positive charge) exchange capacity (CEC) appear to remove phosphorus more readily. Results of the present study support these conclusions.

Conclusions and Lessons Learned Evaluation of outflow from a newly installed rain garden revealed trends related to the chemical and physical properties of the fill media, with outflow water quality shown to be strongly related to inherent soil properties, as would be expected. In addition, settlement and consolidation of in-place rain garden media immediately following construction resulted in gradually reduced outflow hydrograph peaks. Significant removal of particulate phosphorus and total phosphorus constituents was found under both conventional and IWS operation of the rain garden, including some beneficial nitrogen removal documented from the IWS layer. Beneficial hydrologic effects included drastically reduced outflow hydrograph peaks and reduced total outflow volumes, which, combined, would act to reduce total contaminant load to receiving waterways.




ain gardens are not only effective filters of stormwater runoff, but they can also be aesthetically pleasing.



Geographic ObjectBased Image Analysis for Improving Land Cover Mapping and Water Resource Management by Rajesh Sawant and Luke Marzen


The complex interactions of physical, biological, and social factors affect changes in landscape development patterns over time and space. Human use has an impact on land, and the resulting landscape is a mosaic of patches that vary in size, shape, and spatial arrangement. Land use and land cover have a direct relationship to many of the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s fundamental characteristics and processes, including the productivity of the land, species diversity, and biochemical and hydrological cycles. Land cover is continually shaped and transformed by land-use changes. For example, when a forest is converted to a suburban development, there is usually an increase in impervious surfaces and an increase in amounts of runoff and erosion. Understanding land-use land-cover (LULC)

is essential for many natural resource management and planning decisions. It is important to have timely and precise information about LULC changes of the earthâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s surface for understanding

relationships and interactions between humans and their environment. Geospatial technologies such as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and Remote Sensing

(RS) have made it possible to develop spatially explicit models of the social and environmental implications of LULC change. Spatial models of LULC change-drivers and their impacts can be used to evaluate causes and effects of past change, and are extremely useful tools for forecasting future land-use changes and their effects on the environment, particularly on water quality and quantity. Therefore, the understanding of land-use land-cover changes enables resource managers to visualize future scenarios, which can be evaluated to assess their impact on water resources, helping to formulate appropriate policies for sustainable development. Figure 1 depicts the flow of inputs for Soil Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) used in hydrologic modeling to study effects of land cover changes on stream flow, sediment, and nutrient load in streams within a watershed.

Remote Sensing Image Analysis and Classification of LULC

Fig. 1. Flow chart for inputs for SWAT model.

Remotely sensed data are widely used in landcover mapping and monitoring of our environment. Remotely sensed (RS) satellite imagery and aerial photography have been widely used in many urban area analyses and in various scientific research studies to aid in resource management decisions. RS facilitates space and time analysis of


Fig. 2a. An example of a pixel-based image.

our environment and the impact of human activi218 ties, providing a view of patterns for a particular time period associated with change in a landscape. RS is thus useful for studying landscape dynamics and modeling of changes in the landscape. RS imagery analysis has been commonly used for change-detection analysis and has potential use in management and planning of urban areas through gaining an understanding of land-use information Traditional methods for LULC mapping use a pixel-based image analysis (PBA) approach (see Figure 2a). A newer technique offers potential improvement for mapping accuracy: the object-oriented image analysis approach commonly known as Geographic Object-Based Image Analysis (see

Fig. 2b. An example of an object-based (GeOBIA) image.

Figure 2b) (GeOBIA). Typical methods of classification of remote-sensing imagery have concentrated on the various colors or spectral signature of surface features on a pixel-by pixel basis. GeOBIA approaches image analysis by combining color as well as spatial information such as texture and contex information in the image or from other GIS datasets. In GeOBIA the first step is to segment the image into objects, or what we call vector polygons (See Figure 2a and 2b). During the image segmentation process, parameters are defined for scale, shape, and compactness properties. After segmentation, desired LULC categories are created, and then classification rule sets are developed.

GeOBIA methods can utilize contextual information to improve classification, and rule sets can be applied to multiple images in change detection. LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) data, when used in conjunction with color and texture attributes of an aerial image, help delineate buildings and trees efficiently based on the contextual information of the height of building and trees (See Figures 3c and 3d). LiDAR is a Remote Sensing technology that combines laser light and positioning measurements to provide highly accurate digital elevation data. Similarly, spectral and textural information such as contrast and homogeneity of objects helps delineate objects into different classes. As an example, Figures 3a and 3b show aerial imagery that is classified into objects or vector polygons based

Fig. 3a.

Fig. 3b. Fig. 3c.

on the spectral and textural differences between vegetation and building roofs. LiDAR data allows us to calculate the height of objects delineated, which can be used to separate the canopy and buildings from the ground. (See Figures 3b and 3c for LiDAR digital surface data in 2D and digital elevation data in 3D, respectively.) Once we have the canopy and building objects separated from the ground, we can then separate buildings from canopy using texture as building rooftops generally have a smoother texture than a forest canopy. In GeOBIA, the automated segmentation process of imagery has the advantage of being efficient. The whole classification process can be served as a rule set, which is flexible and can be modified to rectify any mistakes in the classification process. Further, the rule set developed on a dataset can


Fig. 3d.

be applied to other similar datasets. In the future, these and other tools will help scientists and resource managers understand more fully and in detail how land cover and water resources interact. Better information and more insight will inform better decision-making.


Years of Floundering Lead Grad Student to Fisheries by Jamie Creamer


Some people are born knowing what they want to be when they grow up. Mollie Smith was not one of them. She had no clear vision of her future when she enrolled at Auburn University as a freshman in 2000, nor did she four years later, when she received her bachelor’s degree in psychology. But one thing she was dead certain about. “I did not want to get caught in a job that didn’t mean anything,” she says. It took a good six years and four unconventional work experiences on two continents for her to figure things out, but the Bridgeport, Alabama, native finally found her calling—and it brought her back to Auburn for a master’s degree that she intends to use fulfilling that Chinese proverb about teaching men to fish so they can feed themselves for a lifetime.

Smith, now a graduate student in fisheries and allied aquaculture, chalks her unlikely choice of careers up to pure serendipity. “When I finished college and had no real direction, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to flounder for a while and just pay attention to my heart,” she says. “And everything I did finally came together to put me where I am.” Her days of wandering included two year-long stints teaching English in China, which showed her she wanted to work internationally; a semester studying international development at the University of Pittsburgh, which was frustrating, she says, because “it was more about managing poverty than it was about doing something about it”; and a couple of stretches working in missions and then with a community development agency in the inner cities of Chicago and Pittsburgh, experiences that exposed her to a world drastically different from the rural northeast Alabama community she called home. “All those experiences opened my eyes to the huge needs that exist everywhere, here and around the world, and to the impending food and water crises that our world is facing,” she says. “Fisheries has allowed me to become part of the conversation on poverty and world hunger around the world.”

And she does seem headed toward making an impact on the global scale. Since starting in the fisheries master’s program fall semester 2012, Smith, a budding potter, has spent two weeks in Nicaragua on a water-purifying mission with the group Potters for Peace. She accompanied Karen Veverica, director of Auburn’s E.W. Shell Fisheries Center and a veteran in the field of international aquaculture development, on a four-week visit to fish farmers in Ghana and Uganda. She spent another two months in Ghana to help manage Auburn University feed trials supported by the soybean industry, and she has worked in Liberia, assisting Auburn fisheries professor Ron Phelps in training fish farmers in hatchery operations. “In aquaculture, we talk about ‘carrying capacity,’ in that there’s a finite amount of oxygen in a pond and if you overstock the pond and don’t use aeration, the oxygen won’t support the fish population,” she says. “Our environment has its own carrying capacity, and the way society functions now, it won’t be able to sustain the 9 billion people expected to populate the earth by 2050. “I think that there’s so much to be done in the world, and that even a little change can have an impact,” Smith says. “In my years of searching, I wanted to do something to help make a difference. Fisheries is so right for me.”


Mollie Smith has found her calling–and an artistic outlet in pottery.


Watershed Services: The Ecology, Business, Politics, and Social Impacts of Managing Inland Water Systems by Wayde Morse, Christopher J. Anderson, and Quint Newcomer


A collaborative course taught by faculty from Auburn University and the University of Georgia includes field experience in Costa Rica, where students learn about a program that provides landowners with cash incentives to manage their forestland. The field portion of the course originates at the University of Georgia’s field campus at the top of the San Luis Valley in the cloud forests near Costa Rica’s famed Monteverde Reserve. The students’ trip begins in the cloud forest, and they follow the watershed down through a mixture of cattle pasture, sugarcane, and pineapple into the mangroves of the Gulf of Nicoya on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Incentive programs providing payments to landowners to conserve forest and provide water-

shed services are growing as a tool to facilitate watershed management. Watershed services from forest lands provide benefits downstream such as improved water quality, water quantity, and timing of flows. For example, the biogeochemical and physical filtration provided by forests contributes to water quality. Established forests minimize soil erosion and runoff into streams, thereby reducing sediment, nutrient, and pollutant loads that would otherwise occur if they were removed. In addition,

forests help to regulate the amount and timing of downstream flows through infiltration of rain, increasing groundwater recharge and maintaining seasonal flows. The joint AU-UGA course provides students with the opportunity to thoroughly examine the environmental services that watersheds provide, their connection to human well-being and livelihoods, and the market mechanism and payment programs that have been designed to provide incentives for their maintenance. A specific focus is on the environmental service payment program in Costa Rica and the multitude of ways that markets have been arranged for paying for these services. The course, called Watershed Services, focuses on the ecology, business, politics, and social impacts of managing inland water systems, and is offered every other year to seniors and graduate students. The two-credit course includes lectures on campus as well as the embedded field experience in Costa Rica over fall break. Students explore a program of payments for watershed services from both an academic and a practical perspective, learning how the program is actually implemented, who pays for the services, and who benefits from them. The academic portion covers topics related to watershed service payment programs, including the

ecology of watershed services, valuation of services, policy development, and landowner livelihoods. Students select a subtopic to develop a white paper based on the scholarly literature, and due before the international field portion of the course. From this assignment, they formulate questions for program participants in Costa Rica, with the questions intended to identify missing information, future research needs, and program clarifications. The questions are formed into a coherent theme to be developed into an academic research publication that the faculty members and students will collaborate on and publish. While in Costa Rica, students meet, conduct interviews, and have discussions with people involved in the ecosystem service payment program, including local experts, representatives of non-governmental organizations, central program administrators and local landowners, community water associations,

private conservation organizations, and private industries (hydroelectric, beverage company) who pay for services, among others. Students ask questions and clarify missing or vague information about program implementation. In 2012, six graduate students and three faculty members conducted more than a dozen interviews and discussions. They have prepared a paper that focuses on a new water fee passed in 2005, which is only now being implemented. The on-the-ground program identified a number of critical issues not discussed in the literature, helping to explain why the new water law is only partially implemented and why certain sectors have chosen not to participate at all. For example, there are ongoing debates among 223 industry and government agencies about how the water should be charged (by quantity used, by profit from the use, or by costs of infrastructure to access). Additionally, some usesâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;such as hydroelectric and aquacultureâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;use the water but return it directly to the system to be used again by other industries such as agriculture, the final users as the water is absorbed into the soil or taken up in crops. There also is debate regarding how tourist hotels should be charged for the water, as new infrastructure is being specifically built for that industry. The students thoroughly explore all the issues and discuss them in the research article.

Water Challenges By Mark Dougherty


Designing Sustainable Systems in a Water-Limited World


rojected water scarcities into the 21st century are often presented to us as an insurmountable problem. We routinely read or hear about the increasing scarcity of freshwater resources along with uncertainly in world weather systems as a cause of global concern. Our own backyard in the southeastern United States has been afflicted with serious drought in recent memory. We are understandably concerned about our future and the future of our children. All of us, including the best scientists, technicians, water resource managers, engineers, landscape and city planners, architects, agricultural producers, sociologists, economists, and city, state, and private agencies have a common interest in finding solutions to local, regional, and global water challenges. We depend on the hydrologic cycle to replenish our freshwater supplies through rainfall as either (1) surface runoff that flows directly or indirectly into streams, rivers, and lakes, or as (2) infiltration and percolation deep into the soil, replenishing

groundwater aquifers. When we begin to run short of water at the tap, we readily recognize the supply problem—typically in the Southeast as a seasonal demand that has outpaced our shortterm supply. Although in Alabama we sometimes take our abundant water resources for granted, we all appreciate this vital resource when it becomes scarce. In humid climates such as the Southeast, we enjoy so many blessings from the flowing, fresh water brought by the clouds as rain and purified by the soil, rocks, plants, sunlight, and biota in the stream. Our water cascades from the upland and mountain areas drawn ever downward by gravity, then is used over and over, and is once again recycled through hydrologic processes that have continued since the earth was formed. But will these natural systems sustain us into the future? The United Nations predicts that the earth’s population will grow from approximately 7 billion now to 9 billion by the year 2050. Will more efficient irrigation and food production sys-

tems be needed to feed these increased numbers of people? Almost certainly the answer is yes. Fortunately, we have skilled people at Auburn University and throughout the world dedicating themselves to solving these kinds of serious challenges. We all need water to drink, to bathe, and to grow our food. We use about 79 percent of the freshwa- 225 ter we have to produce food, through agriculture. An example is the Colorado River in the western United States, which has most of its water diverted for agricultural irrigation. Distribution of water for food production and other basic human needs can be a tremendous challenge in areas that do not have access to groundwater supplies or nearby rivers or lakes. In the famous poem “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Coleridge, published over 200 years ago, we find the line, ”Water, water, everywhere … nor any drop to drink.” In this poem, a group of unlucky sailors is

stuck in the middle of the ocean without access to life-giving water. Water was everywhere, but they could not use it. Many people in the world todayâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;approximately one in five, according to the United Nationsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;have no access to safe drinking water. Fortunately, we have dedicated government and non-governmental bodies working diligently with others to overcome this disparity. The country of Singapore, for example, an island nation of more than 4 million people, now relies on saltwater desalination to supply approximately 10 percent of the freshwater supply for its more than 4 million people. But how sustainable are desalination processes that use fossil fuels from finite oil and 226 gas reserves? Are there sustainable alternatives to water supply that use energy from the sun, or solar power, to provide fresh water from salt water? Fortunately, we have people working and applying this technology throughout the world. Currently, Saudi Arabia is the largest producer of desalinated water in the world. Using ultra-high solar concentrators, firms such as IBM, Hitachi, and other technology leaders are working for more sustainable drinking water sources in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Australia, and others to supply growing worldwide populations. We can do a lot more to stretch the freshwater supplies that we haveâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;by conserving water. There

is no new water being created; it is all recycled. We live on a finite planet in a closed system revolving around the sun. We all need to consider the importance of water as a resource for our mutual survival and sustained prosperity. The United

Nations reports that the daily water consumption requirement for each person is approximately thirteen gallons for domestic use, not including raising food crops, running industries, or watering residential landscapes. According to the U.S.

Geological Survey, we use many times more than that in the United States—on average, more than 100 gallons per person per day for domestic use, including residential irrigation. Responsible use of water will help us secure sustainable development in Alabama, in the Southeast, and in the world, and is likely to become one of the most challenging areas facing our global society. Our common challenge is to strike a balance between a sustainable environment and an acceptable level of economic progress. One of our goals as research scientists and educators at Auburn University is to advance our awareness of the key environmental and social processes impacting all natural and human resources. We recognize that the methods we have used up to now to explain and analyze our world may not all prove sufficient to the challenges ahead. As a consequence, many of us are rethinking the way we approach societal problems. Value-driven design solutions that incorporate both science and human values are being applied more frequently to the complex problems we face, problems ranging from global climate change to preservation of the biodiversity of plant and animal species. By incorporating new tools such as geographic analysis into the design process, more intelligent understanding of related social and physical factors can occur. This comprehensive problem-solving approach, called

GeoDesign, can help us “connect the dots” by realizing the consequences of our human actions. There are several compelling arguments why simple solutions can no longer work for us and why new approaches are required. One of the most pressing arguments for acknowledging and embracing the complexity of the problems we face in the 21st century is the stark reality that the future condition of 9 billion persons defies conventional solutions. We as members of the Auburn University community are continuing the efforts of countless others who are striving for a better future. The first two lines of the Auburn Creed inform our work, “I believe that this is a practical world and that I can count only on what I earn. Therefore, I believe in work, hard work: I believe in education, which gives me the knowledge to work wisely and trains my mind and my hands to work skillfully.” We should expect nothing less from our academic institutions, and we should all stand together for that kind of practical good. The Auburn Creed continues, “I believe in honesty and truthfulness, without which I cannot win the respect and confidence of my fellow men. … I believe in the human touch, which cultivates sympathy with my fellow men and mutual helpfulness and brings happiness for all.”


Photo of Norwich Meadows Farm, Norwich, NY, courtesy of the author.



B y K y l e P. M o y n i h a n a n d J o s e G . Va s c o n c e l o s

An Investigation of Hydrological Characteristics of a Watershed in Eastern Alabama


n the spring of 2012, the Alabama Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC/AL) offered Auburn University an opportunity it couldn’t refuse. AGC/AL would support the creation of a unique multi-disciplinary work environment between students from Auburn University’s Building Science, Landscape Architecture, Biosystems Engineering, and Civil Engineering departments. The first goal: harness the creativity and skills of the students to improve the overall quality and value of an AGC/AL-owned tract of land. The second: provide an invaluable experience for every one of the students involved. The project site is approximately 450 acres in Pittsview, Alabama (see Figure 1). Each discipline is responsible for a portion of the project that not only satisfies its goals but also considers the goals of the other disciplines. Assignments were made to each team: • The Building Science team is responsible for designing and constructing a new entrance

to the property. It will also be involved in conceptual cost estimates for two earth dams and multiple outdoor facilities. Its members serve as the group’s main communication source by providing updates and passing along valuable information to everyone in the project. • Landscape Architecture students focus on the design of the multiple outdoor facilities, including the entrance, a large pavilion, composting toilets, and an entry kiosk. • The Biosystems Engineering team will redesign the current road system and consider adding culvert(s). It is also responsible for providing conceptual estimates for the earth work associated with the road construction. • The Civil Engineering team has responsibility for the conceptual design of one or two ponds, including conducting the hydrologi-

cal studies that will help determine location, size, and viability of sustaining the pond(s) on the site. The first step in the study—determining the local water budget—will be completed incorporating rain gauges, weirs, infiltration tests, and the use of a weather station. The students will obtain 229 knowledge on alternative ways to replicate small watershed behavior especially for the piedmont geology features, which we find so often in the South. Then, using multiple hydrological computer models and comparing the results to physical data collected, we will be able to determine which parameters in each model are critical for producing accurate and repeatable results. Preliminary studies indicate that up to two ponds may be constructed on the site (Figure 2). An important characteristic of the site, which complicates some steps of the water budget characterization, is the stream’s intermittent nature. It


Fig. 1. Siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s location in Pittsview, Alabama.

Fig. 3. Rain gauge and meteorological station setup.

suggests that at certain times of the year the local water table and the stream may be dissociated, which in turn complicates the inclusion of groundwater in the monitoring program.

In order to process the data obtained from the gauges, a software package called HOBO ware is being implemented. This software allows for a direct and accurate analysis of total rainfall and rainfall intensity. To promote Quality Assurance/ Quality Control (QA/QC), collected and processed rainfall data is compared with two offsite gauges that are located within a 10-mile radius of the site. As the project continues to unfold, the onsite and offsite gauges will be constantly compared for any major discrepancies between them. Another important component of the hydrological characterization on the site is infiltration tests. So far only three infiltration tests with a doublering infiltrometer (Figure 4) have been completed at the site. This test is performed by first filling the inside ring of the device until the water level is just at the end of the metal ring. Then the outside ring

The Hows and Whys The two-year project has just begun its initial phase. The investigation will involve the use of many sensors, data loggers, and instrumentation throughout the site to help in developing a rainfallâ&#x20AC;&#x201C; runoff relationship. Currently, three rain gauges are deployed in selected locations around the site that divide the water shed into three regions (Figure 3). Loggers are now collecting and recording data, which is downloaded every month. A Kestrel portable meteorological station is also installed in the site, providing relevant information such as local temperature, wind velocity, and atmospheric pressure.

Fig. 2. Satellite image of the tract of land with preliminary delineation of ponds (top) and respective topographic contour lines for the study site.

Fig. 4. Double ring infiltrometer.

is filled to the same level, which serves to concentrate the flow of water leaving the center ring and keep it from propagating outward. Water is added to both the inside and outside rings throughout the test, while keeping note of the quantity of water being added to the inside portion. As the test is run, a stopwatch keeps track of the time the test has elapsed and the value is then used to find an infiltration rate (units of length/time). Soils in this location are so diverse that this test must be

Fig. 5. Foundation and support posts.

repeated multiple times in order to obtain results, which can be used in the investigation. To obtain better results, we aim to create a grid system for the areas of interest. We will perform several tests within each grid square as the year passes, accounting for the seasonal changes. The tests will then be averaged for each grid, providing an infiltration map, which will clearly show the areas of the property most suitable for a pond. The next task performed for the hydrological analysis will be the installation of weirs at selected locations in the site streambed. Without generating any significant increments in the stream flow head, thus without causing impacts to the stream, flow rates will be monitored and related to the amount of rainfall that is generated in the site. Ultimately,

this will allow for a better understanding of the local rainfall-runoff processes. During the construction of the weirs, several important factors will be considered. First, with the

Upstream view of weir.

Pressure sensor.

Downstream view with pressure sensor in the upstream side of the weir.


alluvial soil that is present, erosion control is the number-one priority. With a small utility bridge located approximately fifty feet downstream of the weir, the excess turbulence created from the water flowing over the weir becomes problematic. Using multiple sizes of riprap to armor the channel bed downstream of the weir, we aim to dissipate this excess energy before it has a chance to erode and carry sediment from the channel bed downstream. Secondly, the seepage underneath the weir must be controlled. To reduce the amount of water flowing beneath the weir, a two-foot deep trench will be dug traversing the stream bed. Then masonry cinder blocks (Figure 5) will be placed 232 along with several 4x4 wood posts. After all of the material is in place, the weir boards will be set and the entire base of the structure will be filled with concrete creating one solid section. This will provide a solid foundation for the weir while preventing excess seepage beneath. Once constructed, the weirs will provide critical information for characterizing the rainfall-runoff relationships that exist at this location.

Soil Studies A web-based soil survey tool provided by USDA/NRCS was used to estimate the soils in the site, as well as their distribution and charac-

teristics. Initially, this user-friendly tool requires the definition of an area-of-interest region (AOI), which may be defined by creating a multi-vertex polygonal over a satellite image of the site. Then the tool provides a list of soil characteristics and features that may be included in the report. By selecting characteristics such as depth to water table, hydraulic conductivity, suitability of the soils to water impoundment, among other variables, it is possible to create a fairly comprehensive estimate of which soil properties are relevant to the project. Figure 6 presents a map of soil suitability to water impoundments. Green areas in Figure 6 indicate regions where soils are adequate to ponds, whereas yellow areas indicate regions in which there are some limitations due to the higher soil hydraulic conductivity.

Numerical Modeling After the siteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s water budget has been evaluated, a clay core earth dam will be designed. With the assistance of USDA software called WinPond, many elements from the site study will be incorporated into the design. The earth dam presents two major concerns. First, the type of soil selected for the dam is critical. This soil will be mainly supplied from areas around the site. In order to carry this out successfully, an extensive soil analysis must

be completed to find a suitable place where soil can be obtained to build up the dam. The core of the dam will be formed from proper clay that will not crack or swell throughout the seasons of the year. Installing the core will dramatically reduce the amount of water that is able to pass through and beneath the dam. Secondly, with the aid of WinPond, primary and auxiliary spillways will be designed to prevent dam failure. The primary spillway will act as the normal water-level control device. Using a ten-year design storm to simulate the largest event this spillway will be experiencing in the field, a conduit is sized to manage the increase inflow while keeping water levels well beneath the crest of the dam. To design the auxiliary or emergency spillway for the reservoir, another design storm is used to simulate excess volume from a rain event. This time a fifty-year design storm will be used which has the 2 percent chance of recurrence. The excess rainfall from this event will be routed through the pond, increasing the water level to just about the peak of the dam crest. Since the auxiliary spillway will be constructed at a level just below the crest, it will begin to route the flow around the side of the dam and safely to the downstream channel. Due to the high flows involved with this spillway, hydraulic structures will be designed to dissipate the energy and prevent a hydraulic jump as well as erosion at

the downstream end. Figure 7 presents a snapshot from a WinPond model of the dam being proposed for the site. Many hydrological computer models will be used in an attempt to simulate the watersheds

Fig. 6. Map indicating suitability of site soils for water ponds. Green: adequate areas; Yellow areas: adequate with restrictions (

behavior. Currently the following programs are in line to be used: Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT), Storm Water Management Model (SWMM), Hydrologic Engineering Centers Hydrologic Modeling System (HEC-HMS), and Watershed Modeling System (WMS). Each of these programs requires several different input parameters. The goal in using so many programs is to obtain numerous simulation results. Then the results will be compared with the field data collected from the water budget study. The parameter inputs will be changed within each model numerous times until an acceptable range is found that produces valued and repeatable data. Since the soil conditions in Alabama are so variable, there is a high sense of unreliability among

Fig. 7. Proposed earth dam embankment cross section provided by USDA/NRCS WinPond.

the application of current hydrological models. Once our research is completed, we expect to provide some critical guidelines for selecting adequate parameters in a watershed analysis, specifically toward the type of geology and land use found in Alabama. With the support of physical data obtained, the hydrological models will be evaluated and ranked on the ability of each to produce precise and repeatable data. This insight will allow others to confidently characterize a particular location of interest by following the guidelines we put in place.

Conclusions This investigation will allow for a better understanding of hydrologic processes in this study site, 233 which has characteristics that are shared by several other tracts of woodland in eastern Alabama. While providing AGC/AL with an accurate study on the viability and characteristics of the impoundments on the site, this study is furthering knowledge of intermittent streams flowing in the Piedmont region. By a multi-disciplinary collaboration, students are also learning how to consider different constraints in their conceptual designs while developing muchdesired skills that are sure to be valuable in their professional future.

The Sacred River Ganga 234

By Kelly Alley

Water Issues in India


ver the last twenty years, I have researched water-quality issues in the Ganga (Ganges) River Basin in India, and in the process have witnessed a feisty public debate about water uses. I started this research just after the establishment of the Ganga Action Plan, the governmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first program to prevent river pollution and establish wastewater management infrastructure in major cities along this 2,500-kilometer river. At the time and over the following five years, hopes were high as projects were put into planning. Civil society activists called for peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s participation in pollution prevention with the hope that dialogue would be forced open over time by expanding networks of experts and concerned citizens. Pushing up against government controls over funding and the construction of public infrastructure, environmental activists harbored the hope that they could intervene to improve the quality of life. In the early 1990s, I began to focus on the development of these environmental ideas, sciences, and move-

ments while researching the history of sanitation and wastewater management. As a broader cultural quest, I wanted to understand the meanings of the river Ganga as Mother Goddess, a powerful motif for nearly all Hindus in India and abroad. Goddess Ganga is an eternal purifier, sustainer and provider for all, a dynamic agent in the cosmos that links humans with the transcendental while remaining present, or immanent, in caste relations, birth and death, and the regeneration of life. My aim was to understand this worldview in historical perspective and as it relates to the claims of science and official environmentalism. Many of my early questions are posed in my book, On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River. For the first fifteen years of my research, I identified myself as a documenter of events including discussions, seminars, conferences, organizational movements, and data collection activities, for the most part outside government offices.

These meetings and networks gave me frames for understanding and contemplating how science exists in relation to the state and extra-state interest groups. I have worked longitudinally through time, conducting field visits over a series of years to assess public knowledge about the river, as well as institutional programs and challenges. After spending several years conducting small235 scale research in Banaras and Kanpur, two cities in the Ganga River Basin, I worked with the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and networks I met there and started to participate in ongoing activities through contributions to several court cases and citizen exchanges. I received a grant from the United States Department of Stateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Office of Citizen Exchanges to facilitate interaction between Indian and American scientists, lawyers, and NGO members on issues of river pollution in the Ganga River Basin. Later this network included river activists, lawyers, and professionals working on rivers throughout the country. One summer, students

in my Environmental Law class helped create a website to organize legal and scientific documents collected through interaction with members of the working group. I have used the site for a lab exercise that we administer in our core curriculum course, Introduction to Anthropology. My grant also funded travel to the High Court in Allahabad and the Supreme Court in Delhi, and very directly invested in the cases led by Indian lawyers that took to task big polluters and the regulatory failures of government agencies. I also walked the banks of the river to appreciate the magnitude of the pollution problem at all the major wastewater outfalls and have shown videos 236 of these experiences in my classes for many years. To understand this sacred river and the importance of the river basin for the people who live there, we need to see it in the context of their religious, social, and historical lives. The great Ganga (Ganges) River Basin in India holds more than one-fifth of the world’s population. Its cultural diversity, biodiversity, and water wealth give the river a revered position in the Hindu religion. To devotees of Hinduism, one of the world’s largest religions, the Ganga is a mother goddess, and she bears fruits to humanity, nurtures civilizations, and selflessly provides for all life.

The Ganga River and its tributaries cover more than one million square kilometers of China, Nepal, India, and Bangladesh. The Ganga basin in India, which includes the Yamuna Sub-Basin, covers one fourth of India’s geographical area. From the confluences of the Bhagirathi and the Alaknanda tributaries in the Himalayas, the Ganga gains additional flow from Nepal’s tributaries, glacial snowmelt, and monsoon rainfall. Now the basin’s sediment loads, which are integral to the river system, are driven by the deforestation of the Ganga’s plains and the Himalayan foothills. For at least two and a half millennia, this river has nourished human civilizations and great dynasties. Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage traditions have grown up along the riverbanks. By the 4th century BCE, Pataliputra (now near Patna, the capital of the state of Bihar) was one of ten ancient capital cities of India. At the headwaters of the Ganga in the Himalayas, sacred shrines at Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath mark the sources of the river’s sacred power. The temples of Kedarnath and Badrinath also celebrate their position at the snouts of the Himalayan glaciers. Farther downstream the sacred towns of Uttarkashi and Rishikesh and along the plains at Haridwar, Allahabad (Prayag), Banaras, Vindhyachal, Nadia,

and Kalighat, people worship Ganga’s waters through rituals of purification. According to the Hindu view, the sacred is not detached from the material realm of ecology and the built environment; rather, interpretations of sacred space explain the conjunction of divine power and the physical world. Hindu mythologies and sacred texts also weave together understandings of sacred and natural ecology. In this composite view, Ganga is a goddess who absolves worldly

impurities and rejuvenates the cosmos with her purifying power. She is also a mother who cleans up human sin and messes with loving forgiveness. Devotees recite eulogies to the Ganga written in the epic texts of the Ramayana, Mahabharata, the Puranas, and Mahatmyas. Ganga is inscribed in temple sculpture and art as a purifier, mother, sustainer, and daughter or co-wife of Siva. The Rg Veda describes Ganga’s character as a life force and goddess. In the Mahabharata, Ganga takes form as daughter of Bhagiratha, mother of Bhisma, and wife of Samtanu. Inscriptions outline how a bath in Ganga cures ailments, makes impure people pure, and leads to moksa or final liberation. Many of the stories of Ganga’s descent from heaven relate the main events of the Gangaavatarana from a chapter in the epic Ramayana. In this rendition, a powerful saint, angered by the arrogance of King Sagar’s 60,000 sons, burned them to the ground and left them in ashes. Many centuries later, Bhagirathi, a descendant of King Sagara, did tapasya (sacrifice for the divine) and impressed upon Ganga to come down to earth and purify the sons’ ashes. Brahma eventually agreed to the request and poured Ganga out of his jug and on to the locks of Lord Siva. From there, Ganga descended down the peaks of the western Himalayas and followed Bhagiratha across the plains to the Bay of

Bengal. At that spot, she purified the ashes by her touch and then flowed into the sea. Another story from the Purana, a treatise of the medieval period, relates the tale of Ganga’s descent through the God Vishnu. In it, Vishnu appeared as a dwarf and asked Bali, the Lord of the Universe, to take three strides. Thinking the dwarf ’s stride would be limited, Bali granted the wish. But then the dwarf (who was really Vishnu) grew much larger and extended three strides across this world, the heavens, and the netherworld. The toe of one foot scratched the highest tip of the cosmic egg encapsulating this world, and Ganga flowed out of this crack and over Vishnu’s foot. The verse tells how in its descent from the cosmic realm, the river washes away the sins of the world. After washing over Vishnu’s foot, Ganga descended onto the head

of Lord Siva, who contained her powerful flow with his locks of hair. In this way, Ganga’s descent is intricately related to Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva; Ganga herself is called tripathaga, or the union of three paths or aspects. Ganga’s form as water (jala, or Gangajala) is a central element of ritual practices for Hindus.


They show their respect to Ganga in oil lamp rituals (arati) performed on the riverbank and in temple worship (puja). Most important, devotees seek spiritual purification by doing ritual ablutions (snan) in the river. Snan, performed in the early morning hours, is an essential component of daily ritual for residents and pilgrims in sacred cities along the river. Hindus also immerse the ashes or bones of the cremated dead into the river to ensure their safe journey to the realm of the ancestors. Devotees also carry jugs of Gangajala to temples where they perform jalabhisek (pouring of Gangajala over a Siva linga) and other worship rituals. Use of Ganga water for puja (offerings to 238 deities) affirms the eternal essence of the river. In a devotee’s mind, these ritual uses of Gangajala are different from the uses of her made through the municipal “filtered water” systems.

In the sacred cities of Banaras, Allahabad, and Haridwar, narratives about Ganga’s purifying powers are held as personal and family convictions because they are supported by occupations and everyday ritual practices. For Hindus, the eternal and transcendent bring out the true essence of sacred ecology and Ganga’s purifying power. Religious texts and stories create a place for the coexistence of this sacred understanding and Ganga’s

In sacred places, pilgrims and residents revere and seek blessings from Ganga by undertaking the ritual of arati, a ceremonial offering of fire. While standing on the riverbank, devotees wave an oil lamp and other sacred objects in front of Ganga. The sounds of bells, gongs, drums, and conch shells play a prominent role. A devotee gains power by chanting mantras, or formulaic phrases from sacred texts. Singing also accompanies the last rites of the arati ceremony.

worldly predicaments. Science is also used to reaffirm the power of Ganga’s purity and of Hindu dharma (order and duty) more generally. Today over 800 million people reside in the Ganga Basin. From the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, the Ganga passes by more than thirty major cities and borders many smaller cities. The Ganga provides the largest source of municipal and industrial water for these cities. The Central Pollution Control Board has reported that three-fourths of the pollution of the river comes from the discharge of untreated municipal sewage draining from the urban centers. The Upper Ganga Plain in the state of Uttar Pradesh is also the most industrialized part of the river basin, home to sugar factories; leather tanneries; textile industries of cotton, wool, jute, and silk; food-processing industries related to rice, dal, and edible oils; paper and pulp industries; heavy chemical factories; and fertilizer and rubber manufacturing units. A number of these industries discharge wastewater that contains hazardous chemicals and pathogens. Four major thermal power plants also depend upon water from the Ganga, and the heated return flow affects river ecology. Apart from the very serious deterioration of water quality in the Ganga River Basin, basin residents also face depleting levels of groundwater.

As surface water quality has declined, residents have turned to groundwater for a good portion of domestic, municipal, agricultural, and industrial needs. But the future supply will need to be

recharged from adequate river flows, which are altered by hydroelectric dams and canals that reap energy and divert water to needy urban centers. The glaciers that shape the Himalayan

tributaries are also melting faster in the warming climate. More glacial melt can lead to flash floods, especially in riverbeds that have become disembedded from ecological and hydrological systems by dams and diversions. For Hindus, the two aspects of Ganga’s power—the material (bhautik) and the spiritual (adhyatmik)—intersect to form complementary aspects in the Hindu worldview, even as they are associated with the distinctly different domains of science and religion in popular discourse. Spiritual tenants, many religious leaders claim, also reflect or embody scientific theory. And many point out that the religious heritage of Indian society provides rich ecological knowledge 239 and wise rules for natural resource utilization. All together, the interpretations of Ganga offered by devotees, scientists, and ecologists are overlapping and complementary. Most river basin residents wish for the river to sustain or regain worldly cleanness and flow in an ecology that is resilient to a constantly changing climate. This will affirm the river’s ancient and enduring power to purify all life. Because these narratives tend to disregard the material, every-day, and this-worldly in favor of the eternal and transcendent, devotees are able to argue that Ganga’s power can outlast a great deal of worldly assault.


Reflections of a Researcher by Kelly Alley


The anthropologist almost always assumes an outsider position when working in another culture, even if that “culture” is within one’s own country, state, or city. It is important to understand the relationship between the researcher and the culture, and to be clear about who will benefit and in what way. For much of my research career, India has been a “developing nation.” Now, as Indian companies move forward with industrial and technological development and assume a stronger role in global trade and diplomacy, government offices are more oriented toward strategic and ad hoc multilateral arrangements in international relations. This means that the Indian government is more inclined to work in concert with many other nations on issues and problems. When I first started research, the agencies funding American scholarship of India were financed by PL 480 funds. These were funds set up by the U.S. government to aid India’s agricultural sector

and achieve food self-sufficiency during the Green Revolution. Today, American scholars are financed by universities, governments, and business corporations. Water and environmental research can be used to assess decisions on investment and analyze market potential from a wide range of positions. Data on climate change can be used to promote investment in energy and water projects. Research on water-user groups can be used to make the resource more or less excludable. Therefore, the researcher must be clear about where the sources of funding for research originate, what the funding agencies’ motivations may be, and whether they line up with the goals of the research or civic engagement project. Anthropologists will now negotiate with their hosts and will need to explain the benefits of their global exchange to others, especially if their partners do not at first see eye to eye. In the field of environmental studies and activism, these partnerships may include exchanges of scientific data and reports, collaborations on sustainable or appropriate technologies, educational cooperation, and legal and policy advice and models. So the researcher must be constantly adapting to the changing global field and must be sensitive to the needs of partners for real outcomes and benefits of scientific or anthropological research.

The benefits do not have to be financial, and they most certainly can be informational, collaborative, and humanistic. My work has taught me that in general more information is better than none (or very little), and reliable information is much better than information that is severely constrained or reshaped by censorship or limitations to education. Civil society’s activism about access to information and the public access to scientific conclusions will generally help individuals gain control over

their common water resources and enable them to debate the need for integrated river-basin management for all. The steady push-back by civil society groups against capital-intensive attempts to control these valuable resources will continue, as both the interests in industrial growth and the needs of sustainability and human survival compete with one another. The push and push-backs can also occur in the anthropologist’s own country and across countries with interests in Indian markets. The brainpower of the future will draw upon scientists and civil society to achieve competitiveness, make strategic investments, capture markets, and create a fair system for sharing water for basic human needs. So a concluding lesson: research241 ers must stay engaged and maintain contact with a network of collaborators, whether scientists, civil society groups, or activist individuals. The researcher’s position in a network may change over time—indeed, a researcher may move in and out of many networks—but the key is to remain involved. Interdisciplinary collaborations especially are valuable since problems are usually bigger than a single discipline or profession can handle. Higher education, scientific research, and humanistic inquiry will continue to be important for setting guidelines for resource uses into the future, and can help keep those resources vital and available to all.


Mapping Hydropower Projects Across the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau: A Geographic, Political, and Socioeconomic Initiative by Stephanie Canington


Water is an invaluable human resource. Without adequate access to water, the quality of human life will collapse. With the effects of climate change on the rates of glacial melt within the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau, regimes of safeguarding water availability are being established through the creation of numerous hydropower dams. Our project focuses on the nine rivers—the Indus, Amu Darya, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yellow, Yangtze, Sutlej, Mekong, and Salween—receiving glacial melt from the Tibetan Plateau, whose freshwater reserve is crucial across South, Central, and Southeastern Asia. The countries affected include Pakistan, India, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and Cambodia. A multi-disciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students, led by Kelly Alley, professor of Anthropology, assisted by Chandana Mitra,

assistant professor in the Geology and Geography Department, and including Ryan Hile, a student in the Geography Department, is developing an online “dam-plotting database” using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and relevant press and scholarly publications. This database will be instrumental not only to researchers and government and nongovernment agencies, but also to those facing detrimental effects of seasonal flooding and erosion. Tying two fields—anthropology and geography—into a collaborative effort helps the team examine the many aspects and implications of hydrology for the region. Together we are creating quite an extensive and informative database that will help inform decisions and practices for the region’s future.


The map above depicts located dam sites (constructed, under construction, and proposed) within the Ganges and Brahmaputra basins. Source: National Geographic basemap in ArcGIS.

Creative Artistry 244

By Adrienne Wilson, Ann Knipschild, Haley Grant, and Pau l a B o b row s k i

Photo by Jeff Etheridge

Liquid Metamorphoses


reative scholarship advances the arts and plays an important role in multiple disciplines. It is dynamic in nature and embraces such diverse areas as public scholarship, creative artistry, research-based practice, scholarship of application, scholarly practice, evidence-based design, and design research. There are both qualitative and quantitative measures for creative scholarship that are commonly applied by experts who recognize the value of certain exhibits and the quality of a design produced by professional practice or a benchmark design, which is as valuable as traditional research studies. Weighing the impact of outcomes requires expert judgment and should not be taken lightly or for granted. To increase the understanding and appreciation of what it means to be a creative scholar, the authors conceived a performance project that combined elements of dance, music, and art. The project reflects creative scholarship that is taking

place across the nation in many of our top academic institutions. Focusing on the common theme of water, it was designed to demonstrate creative and collaborative scholarship that occurs in a variety of arenas on the Auburn campus.

Painting by Hale Aspacio Woodruff (American 19901980). Used with permission.

Music and movement share many qualities. In performance they are often inextricably linked. Some aspect of water inspired every facet of this creative project. The movement in the project was sparked by the painting “Woman by the Sea” by Hale Aspacio Woodruff. The choreography was crafted through improvisations based on water, waves, sand, and seashells with inherent spiral 245 designs. Once the choreographic phrases were sculpted into a cohesive progression, the search began for musical accompaniment. Because of its lyrical and haunting tone, the instrument chosen to accompany the choreography was the oboe. The musical selection, Benjamin Britten’s “Arethusa” for solo oboe, was chosen because musical depictions of water pervade the score and result in wave-like phrases that sound beautiful on the mournful oboe. Once rehearsals were complete, the performances took place in the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art at Auburn University underneath “Amber Luster,” a chandelier by American artist Dale

Chihuly (part of the museum’s permanent collection), next to the flowing water of a shallow pool, and amidst the reflections of surrounding glass. Musician and dancer brought both disciplines together to wordlessly negotiate the performance, honoring the fluidity and wave-like phrasings shared through musical notation, choreography and breath. The inner play of music and dance through the visual imagery of water required softening of boundaries between disciplines, attention to the similarities inherent in each performer, and a common spirit of exploration among the performers. Metamorphoses comes from the Greek word for 246 transformation. The concept of transformation can be organic, metaphysical, or musical. Meta can mean with, between, or after. All definitions are appropriate for this collaboration. Musically, the word refers to the transformation of a musical figure or idea into a rhythmically or melodically altered repetition of the original. Choreography shares this definition. The body is capable of manifesting an idea in both rhythmic and melodic ways.

playing musical notes smoothly and connectedly). Breath itself is a liquid experience. A dancer uses breath to shape the body, to create phrasing in the movement, and to produce the image of fluidity, a qualitative mode of physical dynamics. For a musician, the phrasing of notes on the page may also be interpreted through fluid and liquid imagery as the wavelike motion of the notes creates the melody. Fluids in the body, charged with breath, assist the dancer in crystallizing movement phrases that project clearly articulated ideas. Liquid movement through space is evident as the dancer uses spatial awareness to create visual interest. Her entire body can ride an imaginary wave in space. Bones and muscles ride the liquid action. She can create a

A Liquid Experience Water, dance, music, and breath share qualities of liquidity, fluidity, and legato (an Italian word that translates as “tied together” and refers to

Photo by Andrew Dunn

sense of fluidity by accessing the interplay of bone and muscle supported by the internal liquidity of the body. Elevation and depression of the scapula flow like undulating waves. Carving the body gathers while arcing scatters, much like ocean waves as they gather momentum and splash upon the shore or the rocks. The dancer controls the movements of her arms and legs with these motions. According to Eric Franklin, an internationally renowned dancer and choreographer, fluid motion is inherent in our very structure: “The building blocks of our body, the cells, are both filled and surrounded by fluids. Therefore fluid motion is inherent in our very structure.” He also describes the relationship of breath, flow, and water: “Breath is a very important image intimately connected with movement flow. When the breath stops, so does the flow. Breath creates drama. At the core of body language, breath reflects our state of being. Movement that is supported by a nonrestricted breath flows. Water is the essence of flow. Water flows inside us in various consistencies and chemical makeups. Our breath nourishes the water in us.” Peggy Hackney, a dancer and specialist in body movement, also writes of breath and flow: “Flow is the key to mobility. Breath creates flow in your body. The word ‘flow’ in the English language refers to movement that is characteristic

of fluids, and fluids are substances readily able to change shape. Both liquids and gasses are fluids. In the process of breathing, the fluid of the liquid blood carries the gaseous fluid (oxygen), streaming and circulating to enter our cells and bring them life food. Thus, breathing gives us a chance to enjoy both the wateriness and airiness of fluids. By attending to our breathing we physically bring life and also remind ourselves metaphorically that we are fluid by nature, just as our universe is mostly water and air.” Breath is vital to creating musical sound. The oboist blows air through a reed that has been soaked in water, which allows the fibers of bamboo cane to vibrate. Her breathing is then transformed into a steady stream of air conducting the vibration of the reed through the wooden oboe itself to create a reverberant sound that becomes the musical voice. Live performance is dynamic and ever changing. Performers and instruments react to varying environmental conditions, especially with changes in humidity and atmospheric pressure. Therefore, each performance is unique. In this project, oboist and dancer each responded to the elements of tempo (speed of the music and dance), dynamics (loudness and softness of the music), and planned for intensity and relaxation of the phrases.

The Composer and Water – Ann Knipschild The famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin writes of 20th century British composer Benjamin Britten, “If wind and water could write music, it would sound like Ben’s.” Britten lived much of his life on the coast of the North Sea. Menuhin notes, “His imagination, formed by the sea and the elements of wind and water, with all in fact that is Nature and the countryside.” In fact, water is a theme in many of Britten’s works, including the operas Peter Grimes (the story of a fisherman from Aldeburgh, England), Billy Budd (based on Herman Melville’s novel about a sailor), and Noye’s Fludde (an account of Noah’s ark and the great flood). During his writing of Billy Budd, Britten took a break to compose Six Metamorphoses for Solo Oboe, op. 49, which was premiered during the Aldeburgh Festival at an outdoor concert by oboist Joy Boughton on June 14, 1951. The original autographed copy of the musical score contains the dedication “For JB to play on the Meare.” The Meare is a shallow lake at Thorpeness village north of Aldeburgh. Wind and water played an unexpected role in the actual performance: at one point, the music blew into the lake, and the water caused the ink to run on some of the pages. The stains can

still be seen on the manuscript. Britten based his Six Metamorphoses on mythological characters found in the Roman poet Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The story of Arethusa, found in Book V of Ovid, is the subject of the final movement of Britten’s work. Arethusa was a Nereid (sea nymph) in Greek mythology. One day while Arethusa is bathing in a stream, the river god Alpheus chases her, causing her to flee. She prays for safety to the goddess Artemis (also known as Diana), who transports her in a mist to Sicily where she turns into water. At the beginning of Britten’s “Arethusa,” there is a short inscription that reads “[Arethusa] who, flying from the love of Alpheus the river god, is turned into a fountain.” Cascading 247 lines of musical arpeggios (a musical technique in which notes are played in sequence) depict the continuous and evolving flow of water in the examples from “Arethusa.” Evidence of Britten’s interest in the sea and his influence on the communities of the Suffolk coast of England is found today in the sculpture “The Scallop,” which was dedicated to him in 2003. “The Scallop” is a four-meter high steel structure on Aldeburgh beach where Britten was known to take long walks for musical inspiration. It has the inscription “I hear those voices that will not be drowned” from his opera Peter Grimes. Maggi Hambling, the

sculpture’s creator, states “An important part of my concept is that at the centre of the sculpture, where the sound of the waves and the winds are focused, a visitor may sit and contemplate the mysterious power of the sea.”

Metamorphoses of an Idea – Adrienne Wilson 248

I was invited by Scott Bishop, curator of education at the University’s Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, to create a site-specific performance at the museum using a temporary exhibition, The Arthur Primas Collection: Promises of Freedom, as a source of inspiration. Although it included more than 75 artworks in various media, including paintings, sculptures, collages, and charcoal drawings, my love for and attraction to water led me to choose Woodruff ’s “Woman by the Sea.” The painting depicts a woman holding a seashell while reclining against what appears to be a large rock, with the ocean visible in the background.

Although this is a powerful and very familiar image for me personally, it also reminded me of one of my student dancers, Haley Grant. Haley had worked on a movement study that was based on being at the beach and writing her boyfriend’s name in the sand. I asked her if she would be interested in working on a longer solo idea. We discussed the possibility of reviving the choreography and expanding it to relate to the painting. Once she agreed, we began our coaching sessions. Choreography, in its simplest manifestation, is movement with intent. The actual intent depends on the choreographer and/or the performer, though sometimes they are one and the same. In the context of my aesthetic and my formal training, every movement choice is integral to the final product. There are no “random” movements. The goal is to create a world that engages the viewer from beginning to end, embodying the original intent. It is not crucial (to me) that the exact meaning be understood; only that there is some kind of experience.

As a teacher, coaching means sharing my knowledge of and experience in choreography. Haley and I share a love of water and all things connected to the ocean; therefore finding imagery based on water was relatively easy. Improvisation, inspired by the thought of a person dear to her, encouraged the flow of Haley’s movement. Her original choreographic study included writing her boyfriend’s name in the sand and transferring his name into body movement. Using breath and the concept of “riding” the breath to create wave-like movement phrases became one of the themes. Also, attention was given to the spiral, a shape found in seashells and in pools of water trapped between rocks. The body is able to reproduce these spirals by rotation of the torso, shaping of the arms and legs through carving motions, and ascending and descending. For this presentation, we decided to play with Haley’s own name, using choreography that allowed her to write with her whole body and moving through space with the grace and fluidity of water. Once that phrase took on its shape, we discovered that alternating between quick and sustained time added fluid life of the movement. The momentum building up and then away from quicker parts of the phrase imitated waves breaking against the shore.

“Adrienne and I are both very inspired by the ocean and the water,” Haley notes, “so ‘Woman by the Sea’ immediately spoke to us. We started the choreographic process by imitating some of the patterns and motifs created by the water. The rolls of the waves and flicks of the water as it bounces against itself gave us a bank of material to begin with. We also explored the action of writing in the sand. From there we developed the movement further and created the piece. Dr. Knipschild suggested the music, which was an amazing fit.” The choice of location for performing “Woman by the Sea” was conscious and deliberate. After spending a good deal of time wandering through the museum’s various galleries and spaces, I chose the rotunda primarily because of the dominating presence of Chihuly’s glass chandelier. The sculpture is created from sand and must go through stages of being in (hot) liquid form before taking on its final hardened shape. The twisting spirals in the design are reminiscent of the spirals found in the movement vocabulary of the dance solo.

The relationships between the audience, the performers, and the performance space also suggest the aspects of liquid and fluidity. The audience was encouraged to gather around the edges of the alcove and consider their presence in a more fluid way. In other words, they were free to move around and in tandem with the performance, whether in reaction to the movement itself or to shifting position(s) in order to see the solo from different angles. Audience members gave feedback after the performance: One person “loved being up close and personal to the performance,” while another stated she was “at first, confused about where to go but then became caught up in the action.” A third person said that it was “a fascinating concept to have the audience surrounding the performers and performance space” and that he “felt more connected to the experience.”

Conclusion The entire process of this project can only be described as one of continuing transformation. Choreographer, musician, and dancer, we all were

open to ideas that evolved during the rehearsals and performances. In Book XV of Metamorphoses, Ovid discusses the transformative process using water, time, and motion in his description of the vision of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras: “And since I am embarked on the boundless sea and have spread my full sails to the winds, there is nothing in all the world that keeps its form. All things are in a state of flux, and everything is brought into being with a changing nature. Time itself flows on in constant motion, just like a river. For neither the river nor the swift hour can stop its course; but, as wave is pushed on by wave, and as each wave as it comes is both pressed on and itself presses the wave 249 in front, so time both flees and follows and is ever new. For that which once existed is no more, and that which was not has come to be; and so the whole round of motion is gone through again”. Water, dance, art, and music were brought together in this creative process, a truly collaborative experience, involving Auburn University’s faculty and students from different departments in scholarship that reached a wide and diverse audience. The combinations of various genres, people, creative forces, and inspiration provided by water in varied aspects transformed the individual elements into a cohesive whole that resulted in creative scholarship that transformed the listener.

Point Source Discharge

By Suresh Sharma, P u n e et S r i va stava ,


and Latif Kalin

Using Seasonal to Inter-Annual Climate Variability for Point Source Discharge Permitting in a Complex River System


ndustrial and municipal facilities, including sewage treatment plants, discharge waste that can contribute to pollution of our rivers, streams, and lakes. However, individual states, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, strive to mitigate the effects of discharges through a permitting process that holds the individual facilities responsible for monitoring and managing their discharges. The Clean Water Act authorizes the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program, which controls water pollution by regulating point sources—industrial and wastewater treatment plants, for instance—that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Through the program, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters. Since 1972, when it was established, the NPDES permit program has helped significantly improve our water quality.

Ammonia: Toxicity and Dissolved Oxygen Ammonia is considered to be one of the most significant pollutants in the aquatic environment because it is highly toxic for aquatic life. The main sources of ammonia in surface waters are municipal or industrial wastes, in addition to agricultural runoff, nitrogen fixation, and animal excretion of nitrogenous wastes. Two criteria, toxicity and dissolved oxygen, are important for permitting ammonia nitrogen (a measure of the amount of ammonia) in freshwater systems Toxicity-based ammonia limits are determined using the Ammonia Toxicity Protocol and the General Guidance for Writing Water Quality Based Toxicity Permits. The protocol and guidelines are based on Criteria Maximum NH3–N toxicity limit=

Concentration (CMC) or Criteria Continuous Concentration (CCC) the selection basis for which is the Stream Dilution Ration (SDR). The SDR is defined as the ratio of facility design flow (Qw) and the sum of seven-day consecutive low flows with a ten-year recurrence interval (7Q10) calculated separately for summer and winter flows. If the SDR is less than 1 percent, the water body is considered 251 stream-dominated, and CMC is applied to determine the ammonia toxicity limits. Otherwise, the water body is considered effluent-dominated and CCC is applied. Ammonia toxicity limitations for summer and winter are determined based on allowable summer and winter stream ammonia nitrogen (NH3-N) using the following equation:

([(Allowable Instream NH3–N)*(7Q10+Qw)]–[(Headwater NH3–N)*7Q10)]) Qw

Dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration is one of the most commonly used indicators of lake, stream, and river health. Aquatic organisms are under stress when DO drops below 4 mg/L. Under continuous hypoxic or anoxic conditions, most aquatic organisms perish, and, hence, most states want to maintain a daily DO concentration average of 5 mg/l, with no less than 4 mg/l at all times. DO concentration in a stream decreases due to the addition of waste and, conversely, increases due to re-aeration as the water moves downstream. However, as more and more waste is added, DO concentration decreases at a greater rate. Compared to winter, summer DO is very 252 low because the solubility of oxygen decreases significantly with the increase in temperature and re-aeration decreases due to low stream flows. Besides seasonal variation, DO and ammonia levels in a stream may be affected by climate variability caused by phenomena such as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Point Source Discharge Permits Permits for conventional point source discharges are generally based on regulatory hydrological criteria (which computes flow by using the single lowest flow event from each year of record and then examining these flows for a series of years) or

biological low flow criteria (which examines all low flow events within a period of record, even if several occur in one year, using site-specific durations and frequencies). However, accurate low flow estimation requires long-term data sets that are rarely available, and using incomplete date can result in over-or underestimation of low flow. Overestimated low flow may threaten water quality protection, and underestimated flow may increase the risk of uneconomical wastewater treatment. Some state agencies suggest using the Hydrograph Controlled Release (HCR) approach, which helps take advantage of the ability of streams to assimilate more discharge (referred to as assimilation capacity) during high flow periods. However, when extreme drought conditions persist for a long time, point source dischargers relying on the HCR approach may have to hold their discharge. Permitting standards are often set using 7Q10 (again, the sum of seven-day consecutive low flows with a ten-year recurrence interval). Unfortunately, using 7Q10 for permitting may not capture extremely low flow conditions, such as droughts, for two reasons: (1) low flow estimation at a particular location is sensitive to the length of data record and (2) there is always a possibility of encountering flows lower than 7Q10. High stream temperatures and high pH levels during low flow conditions can cause ammonia nitrogen released

from waste water treatment plants (WWTP) to become toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

Chickasaw Creek Watershed Study Our study, funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments program, aimed to demonstrate how the NPDES permitting process can be improved by incorporating climate information. By considering seasonal to inter-annual (year to year) climate variability caused by the El Niño Southern Oscillation, we hoped to reduce uncertainty in low flow estimations, and consequently improve the rigor of water quality protection. Our research explored historic ENSO events together with stream flow, stream temperature, and dissolved oxygen (DO) levels to evaluate the toxicity and DO-based ammonia in different ENSO phases. The information we gathered helped assess the period of high flows and low flows in regard to the Chickasaw Creek watershed’s ability to assimilate pollutant discharges. The research also analyzed extremely high and low flow conditions for inter-seasonal transfer of pollutant loads, which is helpful for wastewater treatment plants operating under the HCR approach. The Chickasaw Creek watershed, located in Mobile County, Alabama, is 714 km2 in size and is

dominated by Coastal Plain geology. Currently, the Stanley Brooks Wastewater Treatment Plant, which has an active NPDES permit, is discharging into Chickasaw Creek. The most significant impairment to water quality (hypoxia) in the creek is due to low DO concentration. Historical monitoring efforts suggest a severe threat of low DO concentration downstream of its confluence with Eight Mile Creek.

Climate Variability and Water Quality Because inter-annual climate variability resulting from ENSO has a significant effect on stream flows in the Southeast United States, climate variability information can be used to interpret water quality in rivers and to improve the conventional approach of NPDES permitting. An ocean–atmospheric phenomenon that occurs in the equatorial Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere above it, ENSO results in varied climatic effects in different parts of the world. The terms “El Niño” and “La Niña” describe the respective warming and cooling of sea surface temperatures off the west coast of South America. Low frequency climate forcing, such as ENSO, has been found to have strong predictable effects on temperature, precipitation, stream flow, and water quality in different parts of the world. Considering

the potential link between ENSO and stream water quality, and also considering that NOAA can provide reliable ENSO forecasts, this study hypothesized that ENSO forecasts can be successfully used in NPDES permitting for better protection of aquatic life in streams and rivers.

Research Methods and Focus Research for the project included creating simulations of stream flow using USGS gage data from 1990 to 2005. Streamflows, nutrients, temperature, and DO using hydrologic, hydrodynamic, and watershed-scale water quality models. Stream flows were calibrated on daily as well as monthly scales. Since water temperature is an important parameter for simulating biochemical transformation and DO, we calibrated water temperature after the streamflow calibration.

As mentioned earlier, there is one major point source, the Stanley Brooks Wastewater Treatment Plant, in the watershed. The point source was taken into account in the model by using time series inputs for flow and concentrations. Atmospheric data, such as ammonia and nitrate, were taken from National Atmospheric Deposition Program. Since several physical and chemical processes affect the interaction between the nutrients, phytoplankton, and carbonaceous material, and affect the DO level in a stream, we simulated a number of water quality variables. Chickasaw Creek and its tributaries downstream from the USGS gage were represented using ten different cross sections based on the geometric 253 properties of the stream network, computational requirements, and distribution of point and nonpoint sources. The hydraulic model consists of one major branch, Eight Mile Creek. The upstream boundary conditions were obtained from the USGS gage data. Hourly stream flows were derived from the USGS gauging station after model calibration and validation, and were used as an upstream boundary condition. Point source discharge from the Stanley Brook WWTP was used as a boundary condition. The downstream boundary conditions and initial conditions were derived using HEC-RAS software. The meteorological station

(Coop ID-015478) located at the Mobile Regional Airport was utilized for climate data. Once we configured the model, we calibrated parameters for the DO model. The main parameters subjected to calibration were stream temperature, biochemical oxygen demand, ammonia nitrogen, and DO. Using the calibrated and validated models, we quantified the impact of ENSO on DO and stream temperature. We also analyzed the correlation between stream flows, stream temperature, and DO with ENSO using 55 years of ENSO information and model-simulated data. Differences in El Niño and La Niña were evaluated at a significance level of p-value <0.05. Results suggest that DO, 254 stream flows, and temperature are directly linked to ENSO.

Seasonal ENSO Results Our analysis indicated that in two seasons, winter (December-April) and summer (AugustOctober), variations in the stream flow, dissolved oxygen, and stream temperature can be attributed to ENSO. Therefore, we wanted to evaluate the differences in ammonia under two different climatic conditions (El Niño and La Niña) in the two seasons. We used the USEPA-prescribed equation to determine the allowable ammonia nitrogen for different seasons. We explored both the climatic

conditions that can accommodate higher assimilation and the climatic conditions that demand stricter regulation using seasonal 7Q10. For this, we estimated 7Q10 for both summer and winter seasons. El Niño exhibited strong association with higher stream flows, and even the lowest stream flows encountered in El Niño periods over fiftyfive years of historical records (2.53 m3/s) were substantially higher than the adopted 7Q10. This allows 28 percent more permissible discharge in the Chickasaw Creek watershed in El Niño winter season after satisfying the minimum DO requirement of 5 mg/l. This result was derived using average pH in different ENSO phases. Besides inter-seasonal variation, significant variation in stream characteristics within the season (intra-seasonal variation) in different ENSO phases was observed. We also observed the possibility of releasing more pollutants in the La Niña phase in the August through October season (associated with higher stream flows and higher DO, but with a great deal of variability) because the continuation of La Niña in the successive season will require stricter regulations. The possibility of storing the pollutant in a previous season and releasing it in the following season is possible when we encounter an El Niño period in the August-October season and NOAA predicts the continuation of

El Niño phase for the consecutive season. This provides an opportunity to reduce the pollutant load in El Niño August-October, and transfer the pollutant to the successive El Niño winter season. This approach of inter-seasonal pollutant transfer to the next season, utilizing the prior knowledge of ENSO forecasts and without compromising the minimum water quality threshold, is particularly suitable for the flow-based treatment plant or the treatment plant operating under an HCR approach. This approach is still useful for small, community-based, wastewater treatment systems and sometimes eliminates the need for the further treatment. Therefore, when the impending drought is extended for a number of years, the system will need to continuously hold pollutant, which can be managed properly using ENSO information. The potential link of ENSO forecasts to variations in stream flows, stream temperature, and DO provides an opportunity to release pollutants based on the assimilative capacity of the stream.

ENSO for the Identification of Critical Conditions Identification of the critical condition for NPDES permitting and total maximum daily loads is an important but very challenging issue. For this, we divided the summer into two seasons,

May-July and August-October, to identify the critical conditions. We recommend different 7Q10 for the two seasons as more assimilation can be achieved in May-July (7Q10 = 1.1 m3/s), and more strict criteria should be adopted for August-October (7Q10 = 0.88 m3/s). ENSO signature demonstrates two other critical conditions in different seasons: the La Niña period in May-July is characterized by substantially less DO than the El Niño period in this season. This period would be critical for both toxicity and DO limits if the La Niña continues for a number of years. Similarly, El Niño in August-October is characterized with less DO. The resulting hypoxic condition in the stream will be further detrimental to aquatic life (called a critical condition) as the stream experiences increased temperature and decreased stream flows simultaneously. August-October is a period when ENSO demonstrates a better response as compared to MayJuly. This is consistent with previous research. La Niña in the August-October season tends to correlate with higher stream flows (but with a high degree of variability, attributed to summer thunderstorms) and also produces the lowest stream flows. Therefore, releasing more pollutant in this period is risky.

When stream flows become extremely low (less than anticipated 7Q10) due to extreme meteorological drought conditions, stream flows become primarily a function of the previous season/ month’s underground storage. Further evaluation of the cross correlation function between low stream flows and the preceding ENSO characteristics show that stream flows in the August-October season manifest cross-correlation with sea surface temperature anomalies in Niño 3.4 region (Niño 3.4 index) in the winter and spring seasons, with 0.17 for two season lag and 0.13 for one season lag. Hence, it can be concluded that the ENSO characteristics provide sufficient clues to understanding stream flow characteristics in AugustOctober. Also, ENSO information gives sufficient warning for the impending drought condition. When drought continues for a long time, stream flows will be considerably less than the adopted 7Q10, and may require further reduction in the point source discharges. Extremely low flows will be a function of winter and spring stream flows, sea surface temperature, and precipitation.

Summary and Conclusion The conventional method of point source permitting neither fully utilizes the assimilative capacity of the stream nor captures extreme drought. Hence,

the specific objective of our research was to demonstrate how short-term climate information can be used for improved point source discharge permitting. Three inter-seasonal dry periods—La Niña winter (December-April), La Niña summer (May-July), and El Niño fall (August-October)— were identified as periods of critical conditions. Wet periods, such as El Niño winter (December-April) and La Niña fall (August-October), were identified as periods of high stream flows and assimilation. We found that El Niño winters can assimilate more ammonia nitrogen for Chickasaw Creek watershed than what is allowed using conventional seasonal 7Q10 for the season. This period can be utilized to assimilate the preceding season’s (El 255 Niño in August-October) waste, because El Niño in August-October generally represents the critical condition, provided that the pollutant could be stored temporarily. The potential link between inter-annual climate variability caused by ENSO can be utilized in NPDES permitting, especially when local droughts due to ENSO can be predicted a few months in advance. ENSO can be a useful tool for allocations and NPDES permitting in the future. Analysis suggested that ENSO forecasts provide sufficient warning for modifying point source discharges in a way that they protect stream water quality.

By William G. Deutsch


Alabama Water Watch and Global Water Watch

Models of Community-Based Watershed Stewardship


citizen volunteer water-monitoring program at Auburn University began with a handful of lake and stream groups in Alabama and has grown to a worldwide network of data collection and action. The development of both the Alabama Water Watch (AWW) and Global Water Watch (GWW) programs represents the powerful impacts and excellent partnerships that a land-grant university like Auburn can have with nonprofit groups, government, and commercial enterprises. AWW started in 1992 with core funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). It was a time of looking back on twenty years of implementing the federal Clean Water Act and realizing that water regulations had done much to control industrial pollution but relatively little to control the polluted runoff that comes from urban and agricultural lands. Without broad-based public awareness and informed citizen groups who wanted to become

personally involved in protecting and restoring their water bodies, many kinds of water contamination were difficult or impossible to control.

United States The Alabama Water Watch program has worked with 265 community groups over twenty years. Cumulatively they have monitored more than 2,500 sites on 800 water bodies. Their training resources, quality assurance plans, and online database have provided the model to begin several GWW programs worldwide.

Alabama had a lot to lose if its massive network of 77,000 miles of streams continued to degrade. These streams are not only important for economic development, including transportation, hydropower generation, agriculture, municipal drinking water sources, and tourism, but they are home to some of the most diverse communities of aquatic organisms in the world. In fact, Alabama is desig257 nated as an aquatic biodiversity “hotspot,” first in the nation in the number of fish, turtles, salamanders, crawfish, mussels, and other “water critters.” In 1819, the founders of Alabama recognized the importance of our rivers and designed a state seal that featured them. Alabama is a “Water State,” and ample amounts of clean water for humans and all living things are vital to our future. ADEM approached Auburn with the concept of volunteer monitoring, and the grant to get it started, based on the strong water science reputation and credibility of the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. The department took the

challenge and started developing training materials and a customized water test kit to begin meeting with interested citizen groups statewide. Citizen


Brazil GWW was invited by ChildFund International to help several communities monitor drinking water at day-care facilities, help renovate earthen ponds, and design rainwater rooftop catchment systems. GWW expanded in northern Brazil through the federal agricultural agency EMBRAPA.

groups and environmental organizations had already begun talking about assessing their water bodies, partly because the government admitted that less than 10 percent of Alabama’s streams were evaluated in a given year. One organization went so far as to tell ADEM, “We’re going to monitor our water…do you want to do this with us or without us?” Though state and federal grants were required to begin and sustain AWW, participating citizen groups realized the importance of creating a grassroots organization that could continue if government grants ended. Within the first two years of the program, the Alabama Water Watch Association (AWWA) was incorporated and registered as a nonprofit, 501.c.3 organization as an affiliation of several water-related groups and individuals, with a board of directors whose members work to enhance AWW and support its monitoring groups. Together, the university-based program, nonprofit association, and monitoring groups formed the “three-legged stool” of Alabama Water Watch. The goal of AWW is to improve both water quality and water policy in Alabama. This is accomplished by educating citizens about water issues in Alabama and the world, using standardized equipment and techniques to gather credible water information and empowering citizens to use their

data to protect and restore their local waters. The AWW vision is to have a citizen monitor on every water body in Alabama. There were many skeptics in this early stage of AWW. Alabama ranked dead last on a “Green Index,” created by researchers the year the program began, which ranked states for their environmental quality and policy. Some said that Alabamians were not interested in the environment, let alone in spending time learning about and systematically testing water. AWW, they said, was doomed to fail. Several other states had implemented volunteer monitoring programs with mixed results, and some had multiple programs that were uncoordinated and disjointed. With all the challenges of getting the program started from scratch, it turned out to be good for Alabama to begin with a “blank slate” and lessons learned from other programs. AWW volunteers learn about watersheds and how to evaluate physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of water. Three types of certification workshops are offered, and many people are cross-trained to conduct two or all three types of testing. Water chemistry monitors determine pollution sources and long-term trends in water quality by measuring six water variables with a portable test kit. Results are compared with

water quality standards that define conditions for healthy water bodies. Bacteriological monitors detect levels of E. coli and other coliform bacteria in water as indicators of contamination, and to determine if water is safe for drinking and swimming. Bio-monitors assess stream health using “aquatic bugs” (benthic macroinvertebrates) as water pollution indicators, and calculate a biotic index of water quality that complements the chemical and bacteriological evaluations. It is difficult to develop a quality assurance plan for citizen volunteer data, but AWW determined that such plans were necessary to establish the credibility and usefulness of the citizen data. Many hours in Auburn laboratories were spent comparing the results of using the AWW test kits with standard methods of water analyses, but these studies were required to develop a practical way for nonspecialists to collect valid information. Unfortunately, not all commercial products for water testing are reliable, so there was a long process of sorting out what techniques were acceptable to volunteers…methods that optimized the desired qualities of being relatively inexpensive and simple, yet accurate. The emphasis on credible data paid off and paved the way for AWW’s reputation as being a “community-based, science-based” program.

The EPA approved the chemical testing QA plan in 1994 and the bacteriological QA plan was approved as one of the first in the nation in 1999. Both plans have been updated and reapproved, but the basic methods of monitoring water have

remained essentially unchanged, to the relief of the volunteers! With a “data-to-action” focus, AWW helps volunteers collect, analyze, and understand their data to make positive impacts. A distinc-


Ecuador About thirty indigenous Quichua communities participated in GWW monitoring of drinking water supplies in the Cotacachi region of Ecuador. GWW manuals were first translated into Spanish for this project.

tive feature of the program is a sophisticated but user-friendly relational database that monitors can use to enter and analyze their data from their living rooms. Initially, AWW data was submitted to the program office at AU on mailed-in data sheets and the information was keypunched onto computer spreadsheets. This procedure soon became

untenable as thousands of data records poured in, and requests for what it all meant surpassed the database’s capacity. Development of a more powerful database has been a painstaking and expensive process, but it is a key element of AWW’s sustainability. From the early days of AWW staff trying to interpret the


Peru The Suma Marka group near Lake Titicaca, Peru, has organized GWW workshops for several community organizations, and students at local universities are partnering with them to evaluate lake and stream water quality.

“hen scratching” of hand-written forms, virtually 100 percent of monitors now enter their data online. They not only get the instant gratification of seeing their data as it is entered, but they also now have a host of online tools for understanding the information. Data may be graphed in a variety of ways, with monitor control of the time periods displayed, and the ability to add trend lines and compare one site with many. Simple numbers accumulate to become a data set, which becomes understandable information, which forms the basis of informed action for positive impacts. AWW also developed training modules for veteran monitors to become certified trainers in each of the three areas of monitoring as well as for quality control of the data. The program began with just a few university staff conducting all the workshops, but now about twenty certified volunteer trainers conduct about 70 percent of the training sessions. A goal is for many AWW groups to have their own trainers and QA officers, so that new recruits can be more easily certified and guided into becoming strong and consistent monitors. To the skeptics who said it wouldn’t work: AWW celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2012 and can look back on an amazing grassroots effort on the part of Alabamians. More than 1,600 free

workshops have been offered since 1992, upwards of seventy to eighty per year now, and the AWW office phone keeps ringing for more training opportunities, data interpretation sessions, and information about how volunteers can do more to make a difference. About 6,000 volunteers from 265 community groups have been certified as water monitors, and they have cumulatively tested 2,500 sites on 800 water bodies and submitted more than 72,000 data records statewide. The data represents one of the most complete sources of information about water quality condition and trends on several streams – in some cases, the only source. AWW data has been used in countless ways by ADEM, EPA, researchers, and environmental consultants for environmental regulation, assessments, and planning. But the most important ways have been through the citizen volunteers and their groups. They collect and own the information, with the strongest vested interest in its application. The many ways that volunteers have used their data may be grouped into three major categories.

Environmental Education In the AWW context, environmental education is the use of citizen data and activities to raise community awareness and appreciation of water resources. Many schools have integrated AWW

monitoring within classroom exercises or extracurricular activities, and teachers have made up about one-third of all AWW group leaders. School groups have used AWW techniques to win several local, state, and regional awards, including the Best Environmental Education Project (BEEP), awarded annually by the Environmental Education Association of Alabama. The AWW program developed a curriculum for grades four through twelve called Exploring Alabama’s Living Streams, which was endorsed by the Alabama Math, Science, and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) of the State Department of Education. Scores of teachers have attended training workshops on how to apply this in the classroom, and hundreds of students have benefited. The curriculum became a great way to link AWW monitoring groups with classrooms. Instead of teachers relying on time-strapped AWW program staff to respond to requests for classroom visits and demonstrations, the “local experts” go to the schools and share their monitoring experiences and related activities.

Protection and Restoration Many AWW groups now have ten or more years of data from several sites in their watersheds, an invaluable source of information that often exceeds

that of the state regulatory agency or other sources. The goal is to “protect the good and restore the bad” using monitoring data to pinpoint sources of problems and document positive remediation. One approach that is gaining popularity among groups is the “Bacterial Blitz.” This is a time when several certified monitors sample for E. coli bacteria at many sites on the same day to get a watershed-scale snapshot of pathogen concentrations. On virtually every blitz, a surprise “hot spot” of high bacteria counts is found, and many of these problem sites have been fixed with collective efforts of volunteers, landowners, and municipalities.

Advocacy for Improved Water Policy Having intimate knowledge of a particular watershed’s condition by long-term monitoring lends itself to a unique and powerful way to advocate for positive change. When local, vocal, voting citizens approach their politicians with water data they’ve collected and can defend, they often get things done. The AU-based AWW program helps volunteers get the skills and credibility they seek for collecting valid water data and meeting quality assurance standards that are recognized by governmental agencies and other users of the information. AWWA stands beside groups as they put their data to action, using a good mix


of strategy, timing, and “fire in the belly” to make things happen. Many policy successes of AWW monitors have taken five to ten years to come to fruition. Notable examples have been the upgrades of several streamuse classifications by ADEM, resulting in greater legal protection for a water body. AWW volunteers on Wolf Bay and the Magnolia River were very instrumental in getting their water bodies classified as Outstanding Alabama Water, the highest level of protection offered by the state. The Lake Watch citizen group of Lake Martin was one of the first to participate in AWW and, after many years of effort, played an important role in getting its lake 262 designated as the first Treasured Alabama Lake by executive order of the governor.

Extending AWW Beyond the United States Even the early success of AWW caught the attention of governmental and private organizations that were interested in promoting community-based water monitoring in other countries. Global Water Watch (GWW) is the outgrowth of this interest for international watershed stewardship activities. The AU Fisheries Department had a decades-long history of work overseas through the International Center for Aquaculture and Aquatic Environments,

and this extensive experience and tradition facilitated GWW’s expansion. The first opportunity for GWW was through a large-scale sustainable agriculture and natural resource management project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). With a strong emphasis on community participation, this project supported establishing GWW in the Philippines and Ecuador. The Philippines project was successfully implemented for twelve years and continued on a smaller scale for many years after the USAID project ended. At its peak, there were multiple citizen groups participating on the islands of Mindanao and Bohol, with financial support from local and provincial governments, a banana company, and Heifer International (HPI), a large nongovernmental organization. Through HPI, GWW expanded to Thailand and China, and the AU–HPI partnership has continued to the present with other environmentally related projects in other countries. ChildFund International (formerly the Christian Children’s Fund) financed GWW to begin activities in the semi-arid state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Activities included water monitoring of rivers and drinking water supplies, renovations of degraded ponds, and construction of rooftop rainfall catchment systems for poor rural families. Foundations helped establish GWW in Mexico and Peru. The

GWW–Mexico program has expanded activities through local trainers to ten states, and became a registered nonprofit organization with federal and state support. More recently, inquiries for beginning GWW activities have come from a national park in Colombia, an agricultural school in Honduras, and the Green Belt Movement in Kenya. After many years of implementing water monitoring and data-to-action efforts in Alabama and several countries, principles, lessons learned, and case studies were summarized in a 2010 book titled Community-Based Water Monitoring: A Practical Model for Global Watershed Stewardship. The book is a synopsis of experiences across many cultures, languages, and worldviews, and has been translated into Spanish for application among many GWW groups in Latin America. It is clear that people worldwide have a growing interest in learning about and doing what is necessary to protect and restore their water. New monitoring technologies, expanding environmental awareness, and democratization of natural resource management have combined to give average people unprecedented opportunities to positively impact their water and their community. The Auburnbased Water Watch programs have been privileged to play a leading role in this effort.










ew monitoring technologies, expanding environmental awareness, and democratization of natural resource management have combined to give average people unprecedented opportunities to positively impact their water and their community.


Adaptive Management of Flows from Dams

By Elise Irwin

A Win-Win Framework for Water Users


labama is blessed with more than 77,000 miles of rivers and streams that carve through the terrestrial landscape of the state. When you think about it, every road you drive on crosses a river and many of our major cities are located on the bank of a river. In fact, Alabama’s capital cities—Cahawba (Dallas County; 1820-1826), Tuscaloosa (Tuscaloosa County; 1826-1846), and Montgomery (Montgomery County; 1846-present)—were all located on major rivers. It is estimated by the U. S. Geological Survey that 10 percent of the freshwater resources in the continental United States flows through Alabama. When you look at a map of its hydrology, the state is blue! Water in rivers and streams in Alabama is used for many things. Clean drinking water is critical to Alabamians, and citizens consume drinking water from sources that include rivers and streams. Along with rich water resources, Alabama also has the most diverse aquatic fauna (fishes, mussels, snails)

in North America. Alabamians enjoy many types of recreation on reservoirs, lakes, and rivers in the state; water-based recreation generates billions of dollars for the state’s economy every year. Clearly water resources in Alabama have multiple consumptive and non-consumptive uses, which makes water management difficult at times. Rivers and streams have served many functions for society since the land was first inhabited by humans. Native American communities were usually located on rivers, and rivers were managed for transportation and fishing. During early settlement history, rivers of Alabama were major avenues of transportation of people and goods, and these “highways” were often more dangerous to travelers than terrestrial roads such as The Old Federal Road, which not so coincidently dead-ended near Mount Vernon, Alabama, on the Mobile River. Managing the rivers for navigation was important to early settlers, and “king cotton” was the main commerce on the Alabama River; de-snagging, or removal of trees in

the river, of the Alabama River was done as early as 1820. Many river modifications have been proposed over the history of the state, including a canal connecting the Hiawassee River to the Coosa River to open up commerce into Alabama; the need was apparent in 1821 when an estimated 12,000 gallons of whiskey was portaged over land from Tennessee to the Coosa River for downstream distribution. However, it wasn’t until the late 1800s/early 1900s that river improvements, such as the Montgomery Power and Light lock and dam on the Alabama River, were constructed. In 1913 the first large (high) dam, Lay Dam, was completed by the Alabama Power Company at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lock 12 site and within a year was transmitting power to Birmingham. By 1930 the utility company had constructed five more large dams on the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers. In 1925 at the dedication of Martin Dam at Cherokee Bluffs, Thomas Martin, president of Alabama Power Company, noted:


The continued progress of our State consists in lifting the burdens of drudgery from the shoulders of man to the tireless shoulders of the dynamo. Every loafing stream is loafing at the public’s expense and every added kilowatt of power means less work for someone, more freedom, and a richer chance for life. However, even with the benefit of electric power, some citizens were opposed to the building of the dams. In 1919, a dam downstream of the Martin Dam site broke, causing issues for the inhabitants on the Tallapoosa River. The reservoirs that were formed behind the Coosa Dams were sources of malaria, and as many as 700 lawsuits 266 were filed against the Alabama Power Company. Even though not a family within three miles of the impoundments escaped the disease, the company won the first lawsuit and all others were dismissed. Conflict over water management in Alabama has deep and old roots. Today there are twenty-five large dams in Alabama owned by Alabama Power Company, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are also tens of thousands of small dams, most of which are located on streams. Because Alabama has abundant water resources and Alabamians use the resource for

many things, conflict over use and allocation of water is inevitable. In Alabama, citizens have rights only to surface water if they own the land that touches the water. In addition, state and federal laws and regulations govern aspects of water quality and water withdrawals but do not address water allocation among users. Citizens are often at odds with how water is allocated and conflict often ensues. The ways that citizens may voice concern over water allocation are really not clear, adding frustration and more potential conflict. Many citizens have organized groups with common interests in water resources; these have been effective grassroots efforts designed to be proactive about how water is managed close to home. Examples of these near Auburn include Lake Watch of Lake Martin and Save Our Saugahatchee, Inc. Even though these organizations have effected change in some cases, they are usually not decision-makers when it comes to water allocation and water rights. There are various agencies that regulate water in Alabama. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gives the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) the oversight of water quality in compliance with the Clean Water Act of 1972. The Alabama Office of Water Resources is charged with management of Alabama’s water resources, and it disseminates

information to the citizens of the state. The Office of Water Resources also reviews water management plans proposed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). All federal projects (such as federal highway building) must comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and all citizens must comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Management of water bodies in the state typically involves the oversight of more than one of these federal regulations, adding complexity to water management.

Adaptive Management of Water Resources: A Better Mousetrap? If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hardbeaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.—Ralph Waldo Emerson In the absence (so far) of a state policy on water use and sustainability, is there a way to manage

water resources that include multiple (usually conflicting) uses and the values of different stakeholders? This question is especially relevant in the face of global climate change that imposes (if nothing else) uncertainty about the future of weather and critical rainfall. Various frameworks for water management have been proposed, including integrated water resources management (IWRM); however, this approach does not account for the fact that water systems are unpredictable, complex, and usually respond unexpectedly to management intervention. Another approach is adaptive water management (Irwin and Freeman 2002; PahlWostl et al. 2007), where societal needs (or values) are accounted for in a transparent, open forum with managers and scientists. Adaptive management frameworks allow for decision-making in the face of uncertainty, can account for changes in applicable policy and environmental states, and allow for learning about effects of management actions on the water management problem in question (Williams and Brown 2012).

Adaptive Management Below R. L. Harris Dam As noted above, many high dams are in place in Alabama, and these structures provide power, navigation, and recreation activities. On the other

hand, dams alter natural hydrology in river systems, and management of flows from the dams can be detrimental to downstream resources and/ or activities, such as fisheries or boating opportunities. The Tallapoosa River has four dams along its course in Alabama: Thurlow Dam (pictured at flood stage), Yates Dam, Martin Dam, and R.L. Harris Dam (uppermost dam in the system). Each of these dams is regulated by FERC and each has a license to operate, which accounts for various aspects of the dam management routine. Licenses issued by FERC are usually active for fifty years with no clause for modification short of legal means.

The River System and Management Context The Tallapoosa River below R.L. Harris Dam is a 78-kilometer reach where river flow is strongly influenced by the daily generation schedule at the dam. Harris was constructed for hydropower, with potential benefits including flood control, recreational opportunities on the reservoir created by the dam, and economic growth associated with the reservoir. The dam has two turbines (135 mega-watts) that account for about 10 percent of the total capacity of the eleven privately owned hydropower dams in the eastern Mobile River

Location of study site in the Alabama portion of the Tallapoosa River Basin. The river is regulated below Harris Dam and unregulated above R. L. Harris Lake. United States Geological Survey gages are maintained at Heflin and Wadley, Alabama.

drainage. Since completion in 1983, Harris Dam has been operated primarily as a hydro-peaking facility, which means that water is released in pulses, usually four to six hours in duration, through one or two turbines, each with the capacity to pass 226 m3/s. Historically, generation occurred once or twice daily, five days a week, and usually included no generation on weekends. As a result of


the hydro-peaking operation, the flow regime was characterized by extreme low flows and high flows associated with one- or two-turbine generation. Comparison of pre- and post-dam flow data indicated that high flows were dampened, low flows were lower and more frequent, and seasonal shifts in flow amounts (or magnitude) were measured (Irwin and Freeman 2002). Also, the temperature regime below the dam changed: during spring and summer months, temperature decreased as much as 10°C during generation events (Irwin and Freeman 2002). During non-generation periods, the FERC license for Harris Dam requires that flow as recorded at the USGS stream gage at Wadley, 268 Alabama (22 km downstream from the dam), is not to fall below the pre-dam historic record lowflow of 1.27 m3/s. The river below the dam is one of the longest and highest-quality segments of Piedmont river habitat remaining in the Mobile River drainage, and one of the most biologically diverse river drainages in North America (Lydeard and Mayden 1995). Extensive areas of rocky shoal habitat are abundant along this portion of the river. The native fish that live there number at least fifty seven species, including at least five species endemic (found nowhere else in the world) to the Tallapoosa River system. Prior to construction of Harris Dam, the

river also supported productive sport fisheries for black bass (Micropterus spp.) and catfish (primarily channel catfish Ictalurus punctatus and flathead catfish Pylodictis olivaris), as well as river boating activities (D. Catchings; ADCNR, personal communication). Declines in fish and the loss of access to the river because of changes in flow regime have been major concerns since construction of Harris Dam. However, altering the peaking operation could threaten the power utility’s flexibility to provide and sell electricity on demand during periods of peak consumption. Changes in dam operation could also affect water levels and therefore values for home owners and other recreationists who use the lakes in the system, particularly at Harris Reservoir. Management issues in the study reach below Harris Dam were based on how dam operations impacted values (what people really cared about) associated with power production needs; water availability for economic development, consumption, boating, angling, and other recreational activities (upstream and downstream of the dam); and the general health of the Tallapoosa River ecosystem. These conflicting management objectives had been vocalized for many years, yet the ability of stakeholders to reach agreement over what and how to change has not been realized.

Multiple stakeholders wanted to develop of a plan of action. One option was to ask FERC to reopen the regulatory license and order evaluation of dam operation with respect to competing objectives. This option was not desirable to the power company, particularly in light of previous experiences where a reopened regulatory license resulted in a re-negotiated flow regime developed without options to amend the license based on meeting (or not meeting) stakeholders’ objectives. Formal discussions with stakeholders and the publication of Irwin and Freeman’s (2002) framework provided a roadmap toward implementation of adaptive management below the dam. The stakeholders recognized that quantification of system function during management would assist with reduction in uncertainty related to future FERC regulations. The license will be renewed in 2023.

Stakeholder Objectives To begin the adaptive management process, a workshop was conducted to determine the stakeholder objectives (see for transcripts of the workshop). The goal of the workshop was to develop a structured way to make a decision about providing different flows at the dam that would satisfy the most stakeholders. The participants varied from biological experts to folks

Photographs depicting multiple uses of the Tallapoosa River. Top left: stable reservoir levels are needed for recreation and fish populations. Middle and bottom left: angling and boating activities are important on the river. Top right and middle: native aquatic fauna is incredibly diverse and the five endemics, including the lipstick darter (top) and two crayfish species (middle), live below the dam. Bottom right: downstream flows (as depicted here at Thurlow Dam during a flood) are needed for power generation, navigation, and maintenance of water quality.

who lived on the reservoirs and the river, but all had a common interest in making positive progress toward making the right changes. Stakeholders (twenty-three groups participated) were polled by professional facilitators ( com) using an interactive session regarding the things about the river and reservoirs that were most important to them. These values are called fundamental objectives in a structured decision-making process (Clemen 1996) and were as follows (not in order of importance): 1. Maximize economic development 2. Maximize diversity and abundance of native fauna and flora 269 3. Minimize bank erosion downstream from Harris Dam 4. Maximize water levels in the reservoir 5. Maximize reservoir recreation opportunities (e.g., angling, boating, swimming) 6. Maximize boating and angling opportunities downstream from Harris Dam 7. Minimize total cost to the power utility 8. Maximize power utility operation flexibility 9. Minimize river fragmentation 10. Minimize consumptive use Stakeholders ultimately agreed upon these equally weighted fundamental objectives as complete and

representative of the interests of all parties involved. In addition, stakeholders agreed to adopt the concept of adaptive management as a framework for future discussions and management decisions.

Development of a Decision Support Model Objectives established at the workshop were used in the development of a decision support tool to assist stakeholders in making the complex decisions necessary to change the flow regime below Harris Dam. To make the decision, stakeholders’ objectives were incorporated into a decision network that included the chance that different out270 comes would happen under different management options. For example, the stakeholders understood that if too much water was released from the dam then lake levels could be impacted. They needed to find a way to balance the impact on the values of the different stakeholders; given the complexity of the decision, the network was invaluable. Because the decision network was visual in nature, the stakeholders could see what was happening to their objectives as different management scenarios were “tested.” This “modeling” approach allowed for making an initial decision without knowing everything about the system. Uncertainty was acknowledged (see Irwin and Kennedy 2009 for more information).

The decision model indicated that stakeholders would be most satisfied if more water from the dam was released, October boatable flows were provided, and stable flows (in spring and summer) were provided for fish spawning potential. This management regime was named the “Green Plan,” and the daily amount of water that was released from the dam was determined by the daily amount of water at the USGS Heflin gage on the previous day. Water was delivered through the turbines in twenty-to-thirty minute pulses or through regular power generation, depending on the volume needed to meet the management target. Management was initiated in March 2005 and response to flow management on stakeholder objectives have been measured yearly. In general, most stakeholders have been somewhat “satisfied” with the outcome of the management regime; however, it appears that improvements may be possible. For example, black bass recruitment (number of young bass/ sample) and “boatable” day (number of weekend days where flow is between 500-2000 cfs) targets were not consistently met under the green plan. In addition, when the decision model was updated with new information each year (the model gets smarter), the “right” flow decision varied, indicating that a different management regime may be more beneficial.

Monitoring of specific objectives is critical to determine if management is working to maximize benefits to stakeholders. In this photo, Auburn University staff and students are collecting fish to determine if flow management at the dam has been beneficial for a suite of species.

The status of the project is ongoing with stakeholders considering a re-evaluation of their objectives in summer 2012. In an adaptive management context this is called double-loop learning (Williams and Brown 2012) and is important because as we learn more about how a complex problem is constructed we also tend to adjust our expectations and desired outcomes. If this type of adjustment is done in a structured and transparent way then conflict over changing objectives will be minimized. Overall the project has been a success: stakeholders have learned how their objectives responded to management and they remain committed to continuation of the project at least up to the time when the FERC license will be evaluated and renewed (2017-2023). In addition, the project is one of the few aquatic examples of adaptive management, where the “loop” has been closed and re-evaluation will likely change future management (see the case study summary in Williams and Brown 2012). Conflict resolution where water rights are involved requires communication, cooperation, and trust, terms that usually do not apply when conflict over water arises. Adaptive management of the flows below Harris Dam allowed for modification of flows below the dam without re-opening

the FERC license, which was a win-win for the stakeholders because regulatory red-tape and potential litigation does not provide a framework for testing potential solutions to the actual problem. Consequently, the adaptive management framework has been proposed to find solutions to water allocation issues below several other dams in the Southeast (including Weiss Dam, Coosa River, Alabama, and Tim’s Ford Dam, Elk River, Tennessee).

Success of the project is attributed entirely to the stakeholder’s innovation, leadership, and patience through the learning process. Finally, because of population growth in our region coupled with potential changes in climate, demand for water resources may increase and additional conflict could arise. Embracing frameworks such as adaptive management that consider social values and are informed with scientific findings will be important in the future.


Works Cited Rodekohr et al., pages 24 –33 Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders, Inc. 2009. English, Mary R., R. Arthur. 2010. Statewide Water Resources Planning: A Nine-State Study. Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. 138 p. Magnusun, P.A. 2009. Memorandum and Order: UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT MIDDLE DISTRICT OF FLORIDA. re Tri-State Water Rights Litigation Case No. 3:07md-01.


Southeast Regional Climate Center. 2012. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Saunders Hall, Campus Box 3220, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3220. Stephenson, D. 2000. The Tri-State Compact: Falling Waters and Fading Opportunities. J. LAND USE & ENVTL. L (16:1 − 83-110). Tannehill, I.R. 1947. Drought: Its Causes and Effects. WSB News. 2011. Ga. Claims ‘Total Victory’ In Tri-State Water War.

Irwin, pages 258-265 Clemen, R. T. 1996. Making hard decisions: an introduction to decision analysis. Duxbury Press, Pacific Grove, California. Irwin, E. R., and M. C. Freeman. 2002. Proposal for adaptive

Acknowledgments management to conserve biotic integrity in a regulated segment of the Tallapoosa River, Alabama, U.S.A. Conservation Biology 16:1212-1222. Irwin, E. R. and K. D. M. Kennedy. 2009. Engaging Stakeholders for Adaptive Management Using Structured Decision Analysis. Pages 65-68 in Webb, R.M.T., and Semmens, D.J., eds., 2009, Planning for an uncertain future—Monitoring, integration, and adaptation. Proceedings of the Third Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5049, 292 p. Lydeard, C., and R. L. Mayden. 1995. A diverse and endangered aquatic ecosystem of the southeast United States. Conservation Biology 9:800-805. Pahl-Wostl, C., M. Craps, A. Dewulf, E. Mostert, D. Tàbara, and T. Taillieu. 2007. Social learning and water resources management. Ecology and Society 12(2): 5. [online] URL: Williams, B. K., and E. D. Brown. 2012. Adaptive Management: The U.S. Department of the Interior Applications Guide. Adaptive Management Working Group, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC.

The Aral Sea Crisis: Ancient Problem, Ancient Solutions by Elizabeth Baker Brite Funding for this research was provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Doctoral Dissertation Grant #7948. Poison: Arsenic Contamination in Groundwater by Ming-Kuo Lee, James Saunders, and Ashraf Uddin This research was partly supported by a grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (award NSF-0445259) to Saunders, Lee, and Uddin. We thank geology graduate students Mohammad Huq, Mohammad Shamsudduha, Jamey Turner, and Brian Woodall for their involvement and assistance in field sampling and laboratory analysis of sediment and groundwater samples. Wetlands: Earth’s Kidneys by Amirreza Sharifi, Latif Kalin, Mohamed Hantush, and Sabahattin Isik The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through its Office of Research and Development partially funded and collaborated in the research that led to this article under contract EP-C-11-006. It has not been subject to Agency review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred. Examining the Influence of Shoreline Development on Salt Marsh Habitat for Estuarine Fish by Madeline Wedge and Christopher J. Anderson We wish to thank Dr. Ash Bullard for his help on this project; Dr. Dennis DeVries for his input and use of his laboratory and bomb

calorimeter; Dr. Scott Phipps for use of Weeks Bay Reserve facilities; Dr. Elise Irwin for allowing us to use a research boat. We would also like to thank Tammy DeVries, Chris McKee, Carlos Ruiz, Craig Roberts, Flynt Barksdale, and Diane Alix for their help with fieldwork and lab processing. Funding for this project came from the McIntire-Stennis Cooperative Forestry Program.

Construction III-Stormwater class for the service-learning hours they contributed to this effort; our stakeholder groups (Auburn Day Care, Head Start, Joyland Day Care, Lee County Adult Day Care, Lee County Boys and Girls Clubs); and the City of Auburn Recreation Department.

The Role of Human Activities on Flooding: Does It Matter Where We Develop? by Navideh Noori, Latif Kalin, Charlene LeBleu, and Puneet Srivastava

Special thanks to Dr. Chris Anderson, advisor, and committee members Dr. Graeme Lockaby and Dr. Latif Kalin. Thanks also to the Center for Forest Sustainability, Auburn University, and to the Nature Conservancy. Author also appreciates the assistance and support of Brad Schneid, Diane Alix, Madeline Wedge, Joe D’Angelo, and Amir Sharifi.

This work is a result of research sponsored in part by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Department of Commerce under Grant #NA10OAR4170078, the Mississippi– Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and Auburn University. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations Green for Life! Implementing Low-Impact Development in Auburn, Alabama by Charlene LeBleu, Rebecca O’Neal Dagg, and Carla Jackson Bell This project was financially supported by Saugahatchee Management Plan Grants and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (319 Clean Water Act). We would like to thank graduate students Matthew Biesecker (master of Landscape Architecture), Michael Glebowski (master of Design Build), and Joshua Lamberth (master of Landscape Architecture) for their design and supervision assistance; the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Learning Community and the Master of Landscape Architecture

Headwater Wetlands: A Study of Land Use and Land Change by W. Flynt Barksdale and Christopher J. Anderson

Creative Artistry: Liquid Metamorphoses by Adrienne Wilson, Ann Knipschild, Haley Grant, and Paula Bobrowski Acknowledgment for Six Metamorphoses After Ovid, Op. 49 by Benjamin Britten c) Copyright 1952 by Hawkes and Son (London) Ltd. Reprinted by permission. Rain Gardens: The Magic of Rain Gardens by Mark Dougherty, Charlene LeBleu, Eve Brantley, and Christy H. Francis Funding for this research-demonstration project was provided by the USGS through the WRRI Program, under Section 104, Water Resources Research Act of 1984 to the Alabama Water Resources Research Institute. Special thanks to the Auburn University Arboretum staff members for their support and tireless effort in making this project a successful researchdemonstration study. This research is summarized from a larger published work and research report.

Adaptive Management of Flows from Dams: A Win-Win Framework for Water Users by Elise Irwin This research was funded by the United States Geological Survey, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Alabama Power Company. The Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Geological Survey; the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division; the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, Auburn University; the Wildlife Management Institute; and the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service.


Contributor Biographies Diane Alix is a master’s student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Science at Auburn University. Before coming to Auburn, she completed her bachelor’s in Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut. Her interests include wetland and wildlife conservation and management, particularly involving amphibians, reptiles, and birds. Kelly Alley is a professor of Anthropology at Auburn University. She has worked in the Ganga 274 (Ganges) River basin of India for over twenty years, studying interpretations of the sacred river Ganga and problems with river pollution and wastewater management. She is the author of On the Banks of the Ganga: When Wastewater Meets a Sacred River (2002). She is now working on water governance in the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna basin. This research is supported by the Center for Forest Sustainability and the College of Liberal Arts at Auburn University. Christopher J. Anderson is an assistant professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences and associate director of the Center for Forest

Sustainability at Auburn University. He earned a Ph.D. in Natural Resources (Wetland Ecology) from Ohio State University in 2005. His research focuses on the role of land use change and other human disturbances on the condition and function of streams, riparian areas, and wetlands. Thomas Baginski is a professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department in the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University. He holds a Ph.D. from Pennsylvania State University and is a member of the National Academy of Inventors. Ali Baharanyi is a native of the Democratic Republic of Congo. His family was given asylum in the United States when he was a child, and he went on to earn an M.S. in Biosystems Engineering/ Agronomy and Soils at Auburn University. Baharanyi currently serves as a combat engineer with the United States Army. Daniel Ballard is watershed coordinator with the City of Auburn Water Resource Management

Department (WRM). His responsibilities include day-to-day management of the WRM water quality monitoring programs; review of site development plans for compliance with local, state, and federal environmental regulations; management and maintenance of the WRM GIS water quality database; coordination of education and outreach initiatives; and design and preparation of the Auburn Water Works Board Consumer Confidence Report. Ballard received his B.S. in Zoology (biodiversity and conservation track) and his master’s in Landscape Architecture from Auburn University. W. Flynt Barksdale is a master’s candidate in Forestry in Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Science. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Forestry from Auburn University in 2008. Carla Jackson Bell is the director of Multicultural Affairs for the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction at Auburn University. She holds a Ph.D. from the Union Institute and studied at the

Savannah College of Art and Design. Under her leadership and direction, Auburn University architecture students won first place in the 2011 and 2012 National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA) student design competitions. Paula Bobrowski is a professor in the Auburn University Department of Political Science and the Associate Dean of Research, Faculty Development, and Graduate Studies in the College of Liberal Arts. She holds a B.S.N. from Oregon Health & Science University, an M.B.A. from the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. from Syracuse University. Claude E. Boyd is the Butler Cunningham Eminent Scholar in Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University. His work has focused on water quality and water supply in aquaculture and in recent years has included aquacultural environmental issues. Among his many awards are the Research Achievement Award, Surathani Prawn Producers Association, Surathani, Thailand; Creative Research Award, Research Advisory Council, Auburn University; Honorary Life Membership Award, World Aquaculture Society; Appreciation Award, USDA Joint Subcommittee on Aquaculture; and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. chapter of the World Aquaculture Society.

Eve Brantley is an assistant professor in the Auburn University Department of Agronomy and Soils and the water resource specialist for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. She has worked as a local watershed coordinator, as facilitator for the Coastal Alabama Clean Water Partnership, and as coordinator of a citizen watermonitoring program. Brantley earned a bachelor’s degree in Biology from Berry College, a master’s in Forest Resources from Clemson University, and a Ph.D. from Auburn University’s School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. Elizabeth Baker Brite is currently a postdoctoral teaching fellow in the Honors College at Auburn University, where she teaches interdisciplinary coursework in sustainability. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology (archaeology subfield) from the University of California, Los Angeles in 2011. She has worked in the Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan since 2005 and has conducted archaeological research in California, Peru, the American Southwest, and India. Stephanie Canington is a senior in Anthropology at Auburn University. Philip L. Chaney has been a faculty member in the Department of Geology and Geography since 1998.

He teaches Human–Environment Interaction, and his research focuses on atmospheric weather hazards and water resources. Sunwoo Chang holds B.S. and M.S. degrees from Seoul National University in South Korea. Chang graduated from Auburn University in December 2012 with a Ph.D. and currently works at the Korea Institute of Geosciences and Mineral Resources as a postdoctoral researcher. Jesse Chappell is an Alabama Cooperative Extension Service specialist with statewide responsibility for aquaculture issues and opportunities. He works with commercial aquaculture interests. While his primary activities are in Alabama, he is also involved with several international marine and freshwater projects. Chappell received a bachelor’s in Zoology in 1973 and a master’s in Wildlife Biology 1974, both from Clemson University. He completed his Ph.D. in Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University in 1979. Kaye Christian works for the Auburn University Department of Agronomy and Soils and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System as a water program specialist. She received a bachelor’s in Horticulture from Auburn University and went on to complete a master’s in Horticulture in 2010.


Her work focuses include native plants, water conservation, and watershed management and stewardship. T. Prabhakar Clement is a full professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at Auburn University where he currently serves as the Harold Vince Groome Jr. Endowed Professor. Before joining Auburn University, Clement was a senior research engineer (1994-1999) at the Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Washington. He has served on two National Academy of Sciences and Engineering panels, and numerous other NSF and DOE review panels. Clement is the lead author of 276 the U.S. Department of Energy’s public domain bioremediation model RT3D. He is also one of the coauthors of the U.S. EPA’s natural attenuation screening tool BIOCHLOR. His research accomplishment related to the RT3D project received the Federal Laboratory Consortium Seal of Achievement in 1999. He received the Senior Research Award for Excellence from Auburn University’s Alumni Engineering Council in 2006, and Outstanding Civil Engineering Faculty Member Award from the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering in 2006. Marlon Cook directs the Groundwater Assessment Program for the Geologic Survey of

Alabama and manages the Hydrogeology Group at GSA. He is involved in research to protect and develop the groundwater and surface water resources of Alabama. This work includes aquifer assessments, hydrostratigraphic and geochemical analyses, and watershed investigations, including nonpoint source pollution, flood and sedimentation assessments, and public water supply assessments. Jamie Creamer is a communications specialist with the Auburn University College of Agriculture. As a writer and editor, she works on Ag Illustrated, a quarterly publication of the College of Agriculture and the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station, and on Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station publications. Domini Cunningham graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Architectural Design from Florida International University in 2005. Following graduation, he worked with two architectural firms as a project manager, where he became intrigued with landscape architecture. He enrolled in the graduate programs for landscape architecture and community planning at Auburn University in 2009 and has since found a new love for urban design through his interaction with faculty and students, and while working on charrettes.

Rebecca O’Neal Dagg is the associate dean for Research and Academic Affairs in the College of Architecture, Design, and Construction. O’Neal Dagg holds an M.A. in Architecture from Harvard University. Her research/creative work is focused on architecture theory, representation, and design pedagogy. At Auburn since 1999, she teaches architecture in the School of Architecture, Planning, and Landscape Architecture and is a past recipient of an American Institute of Architects Education Honor Award. Robert Dean Jr. is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Auburn University. His research interests include MEMS devices (sensors, actuators, microoptics, micro-fluidics, and silicon and non-silicon MEMS), MEMS systems (multi-device, packaging, interface electronics and evaluation), advance packaging (process development, 3-D packaging and packaging for harsh environments), instrumentation, and power electronics. William G. Deutsch is a native of Rochester, New York, and has degrees in Zoology, Biology, Anthropology, and Aquatic Ecology. He has been a research fellow in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University for

twenty-four years, and has a one-third appointment with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. He directs both the Alabama Water Watch and Global Water Watch programs, and has led several other research and outreach projects. Dennis DeVries is a professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University. His research interests lie at the interface between the basic field of ecology and the applied fields of fisheries and natural resource management. He has conducted research in all types of water bodies in Alabama and has published more than seventy papers on his work. He holds a Ph.D. from Ohio State University. Mark Dougherty has been an associate professor in the Department of Biosystems Engineering at Auburn University since 2004. He received his bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Engineering from Texas Tech, a bachelor’s degree in Geography from Clarion State College, and graduate degrees in Biosystems Engineering and Civil Engineering from Virginia Tech. Dougherty teaches and conducts research in land and water resources and has expertise in fluid mechanics, hydraulics, and the civil design of water and wastewater systems.

Katie Dylewski is a water program specialist at Auburn University in the Department of Agronomy and Soils. She received a master’s degree in Horticulture from Auburn University in 2010. Her focus areas include watershed management, native streamside vegetation, and low impact development. Emile C. Ewing holds an M.S. in Electrical Engineering and an M.B.A. from Auburn University. She has worked extensively in Uganda and currently works at Robins Air Force Base. She is also a seven-time All-American swimmer and a two-time SEC Champion. Samuel R. Fowler has a Ph.D. in Agricultural Economics from Mississippi State University. He has served as director of the AU Water Resources Center since 2008. He also currently directs the Alabama Water Resources Research Institute, the AU Environmental Institute and Natural Heritage Program, and AU Cooperative Environmental Studies Unit. He serves as the point of contact with EPA Region 4 for the Auburn University Center of Excellence in Watershed Management. Prior to accepting these assignments, Fowler worked for thirty-two years in various positions within the Alabama Cooperative Extension System and

retired as the associate director. He is a tenured faculty within the Agricultural Economics Department at Auburn. Christy H. Francis is the former curator of the Donald E. Davis Arboretum at Auburn University. She holds a master’s in Industrial Design from Auburn University and currently lives and works in Louisiana. Yanyan Gong received her bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science from Ocean University of China. She is currently pursuing her Ph.D. degree in Environmental Engineering in the Auburn University Department of Civil Engineering. Her research focuses on mercury immobilization using nanoparticles and on sorption/desorption and degradation of persistent oil components in sediments. Johnny Grace III is a research engineer with the USDA Forest Service specializing in erosion control, forest roads, and environmental monitoring. Haley Grant graduated from Auburn University in 2012 with a B.S. in Interior Design and a minor in Dance. While a student at Auburn, she participated as a dancer and choreographer in the Theater Department’s dance productions, including a


water-inspired performance in Adrienne Wilson’s Meaning in Motion at the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art. Beth Guertal is a professor with expertise and teaching and extension responsibilities in a variety of environmental plant and soil interactions. Terry Hanson is an associate professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures and co-director of the Aquaculture and Fisheries Business Institute. He obtained his Ph.D. in Natural Resource Economics in 1998 from Auburn University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology and obtained 278 an M.S. in 1984 from Auburn University’s Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures. He has applied economic analysis to projects related to marine coastal economies, reservoir recreational fishing valuation, and aquaculture production and marketing. Mohamed Hantush is a senior research hydrologist at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Risk Management Research Laboratory. He holds a B.Sc. in Civil Engineering from Kuwait University, and M.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in Civil Engineering (Water Resources) from the

University of California at Davis. His primary research interests are groundwater–surface water interactions, transport and fate of pollutants in the environment, ecohydrologic modeling, application of distributed models to watershed management, and uncertainty estimation. Michael Hein is a professor in the McWhorter School of Building Science. He holds an M.S. in Structural Engineering from Princeton and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Tulane. His areas of research include engineering design issues, environment management, and sustainable construction techniques. Leigh Hinton served as a writer and editor in the Auburn University College of Agriculture until her retirement in December 2012. Elise R. Irwin is the assistant unit leader for Fisheries in the Alabama Cooperative Extension Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and associate professor in the Fisheries Department. She conducts research, educates students, and provides technical assistance related to ecology and management of riverine fishes and other aquatic resources. Sabahattin Isik is a postdoctoral fellow in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn

University. He received his Ph.D. and bachelor’s degrees from Istanbul Technical University in Turkey and his master’s degree from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Isik was a visiting scholar in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at Texas A&M University before joining Auburn University in 2009. He worked as an assistant professor of civil engineering at Sakarya University in Turkey between 2001 and 2006. Katie Jackson directed the Office of Research Information for the Auburn University College of Agriculture until her retirement in 2012. She is currently a freelance writer and is at work on a book detailing early environmental efforts in Alabama. Latif Kalin is an associate professor in the Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences. He holds master’s and Ph.D. degrees from the Purdue University School of Civil Engineering. His research interests are in the areas of modeling land use change and urbanization impacts on hydrology and water quality, and modeling nutrient cycling in wetlands. Ann Knipschild is a professor of Music in the Department of Music at Auburn, where she teaches oboe and music theory. She received the doctor

of musical arts degree from the State University of New York at Stony Brook and the master of music degree from Yale University, studying oboe with Ronald Roseman. She has been featured in concerts throughout the United States and in Puerto Rico, Greece, Italy, Austria, England, and the Netherlands. In addition to her performing, she creates scholarly editions of baroque music for Musica Rara, Breitkopf & Härtel, and Doblinger. John Koehler is a graduate student in the Political Science Department at Auburn University. He is working on his Ph.D. in Public Policy and Public Administration. His research interests include the American Presidency and executive branch organization. He holds a master’s degree in International Affairs from Florida State University and undergraduate degrees in Political Science and Philosophy from Florida Atlantic University. David LaBand is a professor and chair in the School of Economics at Georgia Tech University. He earned an M.S. and Ph.D. in Economics from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and served as a professor and director of Graduate Programs for the economics department at Auburn University. Previously, he chaired the Economics Department at Salisbury State University, Maryland. The author

of five books and editor of four collections, Laband has published more than 130 articles in prestigious journals, including the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Political Economy, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Labor Economies, and the Journal of Human Resources. Judd M. Langham teaches in the Auburn University College of Architecture, Design, and Construction Master of Landscape Architecture Program as an adjunct faculty member. He is the principal designer of 2D Studio LLC, based in Birmingham, which he founded after extensive experience in Philadelphia, New York, Michigan, and Maryland. Charlene LeBleu is an associate professor in the landscape architecture program at Auburn University. Her primary areas of interest and research are green building and water quality issues, especially issues related to low impact development design. She is the vice president of the Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association, a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP), and a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). She has a bachelor’s degree in Forest Resources and Conservation from the

University of Florida and master’s degrees in both Community Planning and Landscape Architecture from Auburn University. Ming-Kuo Lee obtained his undergraduate degree in Geology at National Taiwan University, and went on to complete a Ph.D. in Geology at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993. He currently holds the Robert B. Cook Professorship in the Department of Geology and Geography at Auburn University. Qiqi Liang is a Ph.D. student in Environmental Engineering at Auburn University. She holds a 279 B.S. in Environmental Science from Sun Yat-sen University (Guangzhou, China) and is currently carrying out research projects on contaminated site remediation and developing innovative nanomaterial and nanotechnologies for groundwater and soil remediation. She recently began working in CH2M Hill as an environmental engineer at Environmental Services Business Group. Graeme Lockaby is a professor and associate dean in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University, where he also directs the Center for Forest Sustainability.

Krisztian Magori is a postdoctoral fellow in Disease Ecology at the Center for Forest Sustainability in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. He is a 1999 graduate of Eotvos University in Hungary with a master’s in Ecology and Evolution and a 2004 graduate of the same institution with a Ph.D. in Biological Physics. Before joining the Center for Forest Sustainability, he served as a postdoctoral researcher at the Odum School of Ecology at the University of Georgia. Luke Marzen is a professor in the Auburn University Department of Geology and Geography. 280 A physical geographer, he has spent much of his career investigating the relationships between human activity and the natural environment using remote sensing and geographic information systems (GIS). Recently he has been working on remote sensing methods to forecast drought in order to improve water resource management. Richard T. McNider is Distinguished Professor of Science Emeritus at the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. A mathematician/atmospheric scientist, he studied oceanography and meteorology at Florida State University, where he earned an M.S. degree, and

completed his Ph.D. in Environmental Science at the University of Virginia. He founded the Earth System Science Center at UAH and served as Alabama State Climatologist from 1982-1994. He also served as executive director of the National Space Science and Technology Center and is a fellow of the American Meteorological Society. Clay Messer is currently a staff engineer with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Christian Miller is an Alabama Cooperative Extension Service specialist in nonpoint source pollution for the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center and shares his knowledge and services with Mobile Bay National Estuary Program and the Alabama Clean Water Partnership. He is a 2001 graduate of Jacksonville State University with a bachelor’s degree in Biology and Environmental Science, and a 2003 graduate of Auburn University with a master’s in Fisheries Science and Aquaculture. Golbahar Mirhosseini is a Ph.D. candidate in the Civil/Biosystems Engineering Department at Auburn University. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering and a master’s

degree in Environmental Engineering. His Ph.D. research is focused on assessing the impacts of climate change on rainfall patterns and water resources management. Andrew Morrison is an environmental scientist with CH2M HILL in Atlanta, Georgia. He completed his master’s degree at Auburn University in 2010. He received his bachelor’s degree in Geography from the University of Georgia in 2006. He has also worked with International Paper and Green Diamond Resource Company on the impact of silvicultural practices on water quality and hydrology. Wayde Morse is an assistant professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Idaho and worked with the Center for Tropical Agriculture Research and Higher Education (CATIE) in Costa Rica as a research fellow in the innovative Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) program funded by the National Science Foundation. Kyle P. Moynihan is a graduate student in Civil Engineering at Auburn University. His research is directed toward hydrological studies involving free surface and groundwater flows.

Quint Newcomer is the director of the University of Georgia’s field station and residential center in San Luis de Monteverde, Costa Rica, and is adjunct faculty in the Odum School of Ecology and a core faculty member in the Latin American and Caribbean Studies Institute at the University of Georgia. He earned a Ph.D. from the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Rewati Niraula is a Ph.D. student in the Department of Hydrology and Water Resources at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Before joining the hydrology program in 2011, he completed his master’s degree in Forestry at Auburn University. Niraula also holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Environmental Science from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He is interested in anything related to water, particularly watershed modeling with an emphasis on hydrology and the water quality of the systems. Navideh Noori is a Ph.D. student in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. She has a master’s in Civil Engineering– Water Resource Engineering from the University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran.

R. A. Norton is professor of Poultry Science at Auburn University and serves as the faculty liaison to the Auburn University Cyber Initiative. Katherine Petty holds an M.S. in Civil Engineering from Auburn University. Her undergraduate degree was earned at the University of Virginia. Donn Rodekohr is a spatial analyst with the Agronomy and Soils Department in the College of Agriculture at Auburn University. He serves as the statewide program coordinator and research coordinator for a multi-year $877,000 grant recently awarded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to five Alabama colleges or universities, including Auburn. Thaddeus Roppel is an associate professor in the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at Auburn University. His interests lie in cooperative robotics, sensor fusion, and MEMs sensors. He holds a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Michigan State University. David Rouse is Alumni Professor of Fisheries and department head of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University. His field of specialization is crustacean and molluscan aquaculture.

James Saunders is an Auburn graduate (B.S.). He completed an M.S. at the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. from Colorado School of Mines. He taught at the University of Mississippi (Oxford) before joining Auburn about twenty some years ago. He is an economic geologist by training and also has expertise in high-temperature geochemistry. Rajesh Sawant graduated with a master’s degree in Geography from Auburn University in May 2012. He has also obtained dual master’s degrees in Landscape Architecture and Community Planning, also from Auburn University, in 2009. Prior to enrolling to Auburn University, he was a practicing horticulturist in India. He also has a bachelor’s 281 in Agriculture and a master’s in Horticulture. His research interests are in spatial analysis of landscapes, ecosystem services, and green infrastructure. He is passionate about design and the development of sustainable communities. Vaishali Sharda is a postdoctoral fellow in the Irrigated Agriculture and Extension Research Center at Washington State University. Her research focuses on climate variability and water resource management, watershed modeling, hydrology, crop water requirement, and geospatial technologies. Sharda holds a Ph.D. in Biosystems

Engineering from Auburn University, and an M.Tech in Farm Power and Machinery from Punjab Agricultural University in India. She has extensive research experience in studying the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) signal and its impact on surface water availability in the Southeast United States. Amirreza Sharifi is a doctoral candidate in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University. He holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Civil Engineering. His Ph.D. research is focused on process based modeling of nutrient and carbon cycles in wetlands, with special emphasis 282 on water quality. Suresh Sharma holds a Ph.D. in Biosystems Engineering from Auburn University and currently is a post-doctoral researcher at Purdue University. Puneet Srivastava is an associate professor of Biosystems Engineering at Auburn University. He holds a master’s degree in Biological and Agricultural Engineering from the University of Arkansas and a Ph.D. in Agricultural and Biological Engineering from Pennsylvania State University. He is interested in the effect of climate variability and change on hydrology and water quality, the

monitoring and modeling of hydrologic and nonpoint transport and transformation processes, and the application of GIS, remote sensing, and neural networks for natural resources management. LaDon Swann is the director of the Mississippi– Alabama Sea Grant Consortium and the director of the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center. He also serves as an associate research professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures at Auburn University. Ashraf Uddin completed an undergraduate education in Geology at the University of Dhaka (Bangladesh), as well as a master’s in Geology and Geophysics from the University of Hawaii and a Ph.D. in Geology from Florida State University. Uddin also has postdoctoral training at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and has been teaching at Auburn University since 1999. He currently serves as president of the Alabama Geological Society. Jose G. Vasconcelos is an assistant professor in the Hydraulics and Hydrology Group in the Department of Civil Engineering, Samuel Ginn College of Engineering at Auburn University. He previously taught at the University of Brasilia and

has extensive experience working and consulting in the field. He holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Civil Engineering from the University of Michigan. William C. Walton is an assistant professor in the Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures and an Extension specialist with Alabama Cooperative Extension. He earned a Ph.D. in Fisheries Science from the University of Maryland and is stationed at the Auburn University Marine Extension and Research Center in Mobile and conducts research at the Auburn University Shellfish Lab on Dauphin Island, Alabama. Ruoyu Wang did his M.S. degree at Auburn University under Dr. Latif Kalin from 2008 to 2010. For his thesis, he explored the hydrologic and water quality responses to changing climate and land use/cover in the Wolf Bay watershed, South Alabama. After graduation from Auburn, Ruoyu started his Ph. D. study in Engineering at Purdue. Madeline Wedge is a graduate student at Auburn University pursuing a master’s degree in Forestry. She graduated from LaSalle University with a bachelor’s in Biology and was a participant in the Research Experience for Undergraduates program

at the University of Maryland. Her research interests include population ecology and community ecology, particularly of fish. Robert Stuart Wilkerson is principal planner and founder of 2D Studio. He began his professional career in Birmingham following graduation from Auburn University with a degree in Business Administration and Finance. He later earned an M.A. in Landscape Design from Auburn and has most recently been involved in stream restoration, landscape design, urban park design, streetscapes, and brownfield redevelopment. Adrienne Wilson is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre at Auburn University. She holds the Master of Fine Arts degree from the College at Brockport and degrees in Piano Performance from Ithaca College. She teaches contemporary/modern dance technique and rhythm tap, and also serves as choreographer for dance productions. She is an active member of the American College Dance Festival Association and the National Dance Education Organization, where she presents creative work and scholarly research. Her work has been performed in New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Tennessee, and Alabama.

Amy N. Wright is an associate professor of Landscape Horticulture at Auburn University. Her research focuses on sustainable landscape horticulture and includes work with native plant use in the landscape, rain gardens, and green roofs. She also teaches undergraduate and graduate level classes in the Horticulture Department and helped supervise the creation of the Alabama Smart Yards Manual. She holds a B.S. in Chemistry and an M.S. in Horticulture from Virginia Tech and a Ph.D. in Horticultural Science from N.C. State. Wesley Zech is the Brasfield & Gorrie Associate Professor of Construction Engineering and Management in Civil Engineering at Auburn University. He holds a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering / Construction Engineering and Management from State University of New York at Buffalo. His research and teaching responsibilities embrace a variety of design and construction environments, including design and evaluation of erosion and sediment control practices. Man Zhang is now a senior staff engineer at Geosyntec Consultants in its Minneapolis office. Her graduate research at Auburn University focused on developing and applying nanoscale materials for groundwater and soil remediation,

and investigating the fate and transport behavior of nanoparticles in the subsurface. Her academic research experience also included design and operation of biological wastewater treatment facilities as well as fine membrane filtration. Dongye Zhao is the Elton Z. and Lois G. Huff Endowed Professor of Civil/Environmental Engineering at Auburn University. He earned a Ph.D. in Civil/Environmental Engineering at Lehigh University. His research interests include developing new nanomaterial and nanotechnologies for environmental cleanup. Xiao Zhao is a graduate assistant in the Civil Engineering Department at Auburn University and is currently conducting research in a BP oil spill program. He holds a bachelorâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s degree in Environmental Engineering from China and came to the U.S. to pursue a Ph.D. in 2010. His research focus is the interaction between dispersed oil and marine sediments in the sea and deep sea to unveil the behavior of oil during and after the oil spill incident.


AU Speaks - On Water  

Welcome to Auburn Speaks, our annual book series highlighting Auburn research. This, our second issue, focuses on Auburn University's ongoin...

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