2015 Urban Fellow
Research Topic: Water Quality and Hydrology
Faculty Advisor: James E. Saiers
Nutrient and Sediment Modeling in Watersheds across an Urban-Rural Gradient
The movement of nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediments within a watershed affects the efficiency of water treatment, the effectiveness of restoration activities on water quality, and the composition of life within the river. This movement of nutrients and sediment may be very different within watersheds of differing levels of development, in both space and time. In this study, I modeled nutrient and sediment loading in two watersheds within the larger Connecticut River watershed: the Passumpsic River in Vermont and the Farmington River in Massachusetts and Connecticut. I used two publically available models: ArcSWAT and InVEST. I validated these models with in-stream gauge data to reveal spatial and temporal patterns. The results from both models highlight the areas that contribute the most nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment to each river system. These areas can be targeted for land protection and other conservation practices, which ultimately can improve urban drinking water quality. Additionally, by altering the land use data, the impacts of proposed land use changes on water quality can be predicted. Finally, the models were compared, with the InVEST model providing less accurate annual values and the ArcSWAT model providing more accurate daily values.