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Urban Resident Education Integrating Investigations of Non-Point Source Pollution in Groundwater and Public Perceptions/Technical Understanding
YEAR: 2008
INVESTIGATORS: Mimi Wagner, William Simpkins

The quality and quantity of groundwater resources in Iowa are a growing concern because of increased pressures on quantity and concerns about contamination. Interactions between land management, groundwater, and surface water are conceptually well understood but the impact of temporal shifts on groundwater and surface water are largely unknown. Groundwater and streamwater quality are of particular concern in cities such as Ames because of their reliance on groundwater as a water supply. Recent monitoring near College Creek in Ames identified nitrate in groundwater at two of four transects and significant total P and SRP concentrations present in all 12 wells and in streamwater. Recent groundwater modeling of the Ames aquifer suggests direct interaction between surface water transported through tributaries running through the city and the Ames aquifer. Because most streams that enter the alluvium of Squaw Creek and South Skunk River becoming losing streams at that point, contaminants in the streams will impact the city’s water supply. Thus, efforts to prevent contaminants from getting to streams in headwater areas are necessary to protect groundwater quality downstream. Those responsible for the contaminant loading become as important as the presence of the contaminants themselves. This research proposes the addition of a strongly integrative groundwater-streamwater component to an ongoing urban stormwater research/non-point source pollution research and stream stabilization effort on College Creek in Ames. Our proposal occurs at an interesting and exciting time for College Creek and the Ames community. The City of Ames is partnering with ISU researchers whose work with water resources in the community are supported by multiple agencies and institutions. The City also committed $291,540 of its operating budget over the next three years to match an IWIRB grant they were awarded for College Creek stream stabilization and riparian enhancement. As this momentum for addressing non-point source pollution grows, it is also understood that only a very limited amount of research has been dedicated to exploring groundwater from the perspective of the urban residentthe group likely responsible for much of the contaminant loading occurring in headwater areas. This proposal includes an innovative community-based education based on biophysical and social investigations of the urban groundwater-streamwater system at the neighborhood scale. We focus specifically on interactions between land management, groundwater, soil water and streamwater within the urban residential landscape. Monitoring of a nested well site adjacent to College Creek in Ames is accompanied by simultaneous investigation of groundwater perceptions and technical understanding among a statically representative sample of urban, riparian landowners. Research activities are organized to utilize the results from each component to inform the others. Early monitoring results are utilized to develop a social assessment tool to characterize the perceptions & misconceptions residents hold concerning local hydrologic processes and conditions. Social assessment results add landowner behavior data that, when integrated with monitoring and modeling, contribute to a greater understanding of nutrient movement between the landscape and hydrologic system. Finally, educational curriculum is developed to integrate both monitoring results as well as any lack of understanding or misconceptions identified during social assessment.