Nav: Home

Notre Dame researcher is studying role small dams play in pollution control

March 28, 2013

Sometimes, little things can add up to a lot.

In short, that's the message of a research study on small dams, streams and pollution by Steve Powers, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Notre Dame's Environmental Change Initiative (ECI).

"Small dams, reservoirs and ponds trap water pollution, which provides an important benefit to water resources," Powers said. "This is especially relevant in agricultural lands of the Midwest U.S., where there are lots of small, but aging dams."

Although small individually, the sum total of the small reservoirs and ponds have a global surface area comparable to that of all large reservoirs added together.

Powers and his fellow researchers showed in detail how a small aging dam, which was more than 100 years old and located in agricultural Wisconsin, trapped water pollutants associated with fertilizer and manure runoff. They also showed an increase in downstream transport of nutrient pollution after the dam was removed, which occurred because of concerns about the dam's safety.

"Many small dams are threatened by long-term structural decline and are also filling with sediment," Powers said. "If we don't better incorporate how small dams affect the movement of water and wastes through the environment, their benefit to downstream water quality could be lost. Meanwhile, legacy sediment and pollution currently trapped behind dams could release as dams lose their water storage capacity, fall apart, or are removed deliberately."

Powers notes that there is a crucial need to gain a better understanding of what small dams mean for our water quality before they crumble and disappear.

"I am continuing to work on the subject at a broader regional scale by looking at hundreds of stream and river monitoring stations throughout the Midwestern U.S. to detect signals of dams," he said. "One current goal is to try and figure out which regions are most vulnerable to water quality changes caused by accumulation of sediment and phosphorus behind dams."

The research paper appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences.

Powers is conducting his research as part of the Notre Dame Environmental Change Initiative's Land Use Project. The Environmental Change Initiative conducts policy-oriented research designed to help policy-makers manage environmental changes.
-end-


University of Notre Dame

Related Water Quality Articles:

Control of anthropogenic atmospheric emissions can improve water quality in seas
A new HKU research highlighted the importance of reducing fossil fuel combustion not only to curb the trend of global warming, but also to improve the quality of China's coastal waters.
Pharma's potential impact on water quality
When people take medications, these drugs and their metabolites can be excreted and make their way to wastewater treatment plants.
Study: Your home's water quality could vary by the room -- and the season
A study has found that the water quality of a home can differ in each room and change between seasons, challenging the assumption that the water in a public water system is the same as the water that passes through a building's plumbing at any time of the year.
Researchers create new tools to monitor water quality, measure water insecurity
A wife-husband team will present both high-tech and low-tech solutions for improving water security at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle on Sunday, Feb.
How anti-sprawl policies may be harming water quality
Urban growth boundaries are created by governments in an effort to concentrate urban development -- buildings, roads and the utilities that support them -- within a defined area.
China's inland surface water quality significantly improves
A new study shows that China's inland surface water quality improved significantly from 2003-2017, coinciding with major efforts beginning in 2001 to reduce water pollution in the country.
Studying water quality with satellites and public data
The researchers built a novel dataset of more than 600,000 matchups between water quality field measurements and Landsat imagery, creating a 'symphony of data.'
How to improve water quality in Europe
Toxic substances from agriculture, industry and households endanger water quality in Europe -- and by extension, ecosystems and human health.
Revolutionizing water quality monitoring for our rivers and reef
New, lower-cost help may soon be on the way to help manage one of the biggest threats facing the Great Barrier Reef.
Trees for water quality credits
In a new study, UC Santa Barbara Bren School professor Arturo Keller links reforestation to water quality credits.
More Water Quality News and Water Quality Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: Reinvention
Change is hard, but it's also an opportunity to discover and reimagine what you thought you knew. From our economy, to music, to even ourselves–this hour TED speakers explore the power of reinvention. Guests include OK Go lead singer Damian Kulash Jr., former college gymnastics coach Valorie Kondos Field, Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs, and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#562 Superbug to Bedside
By now we're all good and scared about antibiotic resistance, one of the many things coming to get us all. But there's good news, sort of. News antibiotics are coming out! How do they get tested? What does that kind of a trial look like and how does it happen? Host Bethany Brookeshire talks with Matt McCarthy, author of "Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic", about the ins and outs of testing a new antibiotic in the hospital.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dispatch 6: Strange Times
Covid has disrupted the most basic routines of our days and nights. But in the middle of a conversation about how to fight the virus, we find a place impervious to the stalled plans and frenetic demands of the outside world. It's a very different kind of front line, where urgent work means moving slow, and time is marked out in tiny pre-planned steps. Then, on a walk through the woods, we consider how the tempo of our lives affects our minds and discover how the beats of biology shape our bodies. This episode was produced with help from Molly Webster and Tracie Hunte. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.