» Watersheds

Plastic Debris in 29 Great Lakes Tributaries: Relations to Watershed Attributes and Hydrology

Plastic debris is a growing contaminant of concern in freshwater environments, yet sources, transport, and fate remain unclear. This study characterized the quantity and morphology of floating micro- and macroplastics in 29 Great Lakes tributaries in six states under different land covers, wastewater effluent contributions, population densities, and hydrologic conditions. Tributaries were sampled three or four times each using a 333 μm mesh neuston net. Plastic particles were sorted by size, counted, and categorized as fibers/lines, pellets/beads, foams, films, and fragments. Plastics were found in all 107 samples, with a maximum concentration of 32 particles/m3 and a median of 1.9 particles/m3. Ninety-eight percent of sampled plastic particles were less than 4.75 mm in diameter and therefore considered microplastics. Fragments, films, foams, and pellets/beads were positively correlated with urban-related watershed attributes and were found at greater concentrations during runoff-event conditions. Fibers, the most frequently detected particle type, were not associated with urban-related watershed attributes, wastewater effluent contribution, or hydrologic condition. Results from this study add to the body of information currently available on microplastics in different environmental compartments, including unique contributions to quantify their occurrence and variability in rivers with a wide variety of different land-use characteristics while highlighting differences between surface samples from rivers compared with lakes. Read More

EPA Office of Water

The Office of Water (OW) ensures drinking water is safe, and restores and maintains oceans, watersheds, and their aquatic ecosystems to protect human health, support economic and recreational activities, and provide healthy habitat for fish, plants and wildlife. OW is responsible for implementing the Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and portions of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, Ocean Dumping Ban Act, Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act, Shore Protection Act, Marine Plastics Pollution Research and Control Act, London Dumping Convention, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and several other statutes. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Office of Water works with the ten EPA regional offices, other federal agencies, state and local governments, American Indian tribes, the regulated community, organized professional and interest groups, land owners and managers, and the public-at-large. OW provides guidance, specifies scientific methods and data collection requirements, performs oversight and facilitates communication among those involved. OW helps the states and American Indian tribes to build capacity, and water programs can be delegated to them for implementation. Read More

NOAA Education Resources: Freshwater

Although NOAA is known for its work in marine habitats, the agency has resource management, stewardship, research, and monitoring responsibilities for many freshwater ecosystems. NOAA satellites monitor the water supply for the planet, mapping snow and ice fields and providing predictions of where, when, and in what volume water for drinking and agriculture will be available. River level forecasts are a key component of the agency’s mission to protect life and property as well as manage navigability of waterways. Monitoring and managing the freshwater habitats of anadramous fish like the Pacific Salmon in partnership with local agencies is another key role in freshwater environments. NOAA’s presence in the Great Lakes region of the U.S. represents one of the largest agency operations dealing with freshwater. Great Lake coastal zone issues, historic and ecosystem sanctuaries, freshwater estuaries, environmental monitoring, and fishery management research are all part of NOAA’s operations. The collections in this thematic area are designed to assist the educator in teaching concepts and processes related to freshwater environments and to increase stewardship of these important resources. Read More

Visual Tools for Watershed Education: National Leadership Forum Report (November 1999)

On November 17, 1999 some 120 education, environmental and communication leaders from across the nation assembled at the headquarters of the Academy for Educational Development in Washington, DC to take part in a forum that focused directly on how visual tools – maps, graphics, models and stories (mental pictures) –could help policy leaders, teachers, the media, and others to communicate meaningfully on the concept of watersheds. The modern need for addressing environmental and natural resource issues more systemically has given rise to greater emphasis on “watershed” approaches in planning, resource assessment and even political activism. It is rare in this day and age to have a discussion of water resources, fish and wildlife conservation, pollution control, flooding, weather, forestry, even land us management without making a mention of watersheds. Many public agencies and private land managers are fully and officially engaged in watershed management approaches. Even major new legislative initiatives discuss watersheds. Read More

Spatial analysis of Atrazine in the Elm Fork Watershed

This study assessed the water quality of the Elm Fork Watershed with regards to the herbicide Atrazine. Atrazine is a potential environmental endocrine disruptor and carcinogen. Overall, concentrations were lower than the four-quarter drinking water average of 3 µg/Lthe Maximum Contaminant Level set by the USEPA. However, three creek stations had four-quarter average concentrations greater than 3 µg/L, and virtually all samples exceeded the 0.1 µg/L standard set in Europe [1,2]. Statistically significant differences in concentrations were detected between the 27 sampling stations and areas of high concentrations were identified. However correlations between Atrazine concentrations and land-use and precipitation were not statistically significant. Further analysis with more detailed data should be conducted before any relationships are discarded Read More

Clearing the Waters: A focus on water quality solutions

This report discusses global water issues and offers a variety of proposals for countering the degradation of freshwater ecosystems for the benefit of public health and the environment. Read More

Nonpoint Source Kids Page

Six activities for understanding nonpoint source pollution. Read More

What Goes Around Comes Around: Water Cycle

This free, standards-based, online publication, developed for middle school science teachers, explores the water cycle–a series of steps involving changing states of matter through the processes of evaporation, transpiration, condensation, and precipitation. In middle school, students can begin to investigate the chemical and physical properties of water that enable it to behave in ways necessary for the water cycle to happen. Read More

The Water Cycle: Streamflow

Provides an overview of the role of streams in the water cycle and discusses factors that can affect streamflow. A sub-page of the USGS’s Water Science for Schools site. Read More

Stormwater Strategies Community Responses to Runoff Pollution

This May 1999 report from the Natural Resources Defense Council documents some of the most effective strategies being employed by communities around the country to control urban runoff pollution, which is among the top sources of water contamination in the country today. The collection of 100 case studies compiled and evaluated here is intended to serve as a guide for local decisionmakers, municipal officials, and environmental activists; it is also a resource for citizens concerned about the quality of their local environment. Added in October 2001 is a new chapter on low-impact development, which has emerged as a simple, effective and economical stormwater strategy that also carries a broader aesthetic appeal. Read More

Mission

EERL's mission is to be the best possible online collection of environmental and energy sustainability resources for community college educators and for their students. The resources are also available for practitioners and the public.

EERL & ATEEC

EERL is a product of a community college-based National Science Foundation Center, the Advanced Technology Environmental and Energy Center (ATEEC), and its partners.

Contact ATEEC 563.441.4087 or by email ateec@eicc.edu