Water Quality Model Passes Another Test

Feb 25, 2010 By Don Comis
Water Quality Model Passes Another Test
ARS researchers tested the SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model on the Warner Creek watershed near Frederick, MD, and found it could accurately predict pollutant levels over the long term in the small watershed, which is a mix of farm, forest and urban lands. Photo courtesy of Aisha Sexton, ARS.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A test of the SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) model on a small watershed with poor water quality in Maryland showed that the model accurately estimated pollutant levels over the long term, according to Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators.

Water resources engineer Aisha Sexton and soil scientist Ali Sadeghi, at the ARS Hydrology and Remote Sensing Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., worked with Adel Shirmohammadi of the University of Maryland-College Park on an eight-year study of the Warner Creek watershed in Frederick County, Md.

This approximately one-square-mile watershed drains into a tributary of the Monocacy River. High levels of nitrogen and phosphorus flow from the 966-square-mile Monocacy River Basin into the Chesapeake Bay, mostly from cattle manure and crop fertilizers. The Warner Creek watershed is a mix of farm, forest and urban lands.

The researchers found the SWAT model to be accurate in mixed land use watersheds in the Piedmont physiographic region studied, and thus suitable for use in the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program of the U.S. (EPA).

This program sets limits on pollutants such as silt, nitrogen, phosphorus, pesticides, mercury and bacteria for about 40,000 bodies of water that EPA has found to have poor . EPA lists the Monocacy River and the among 501 bodies of water in Maryland that are significantly polluted.

Sexton, Sadeghi and Shirmohammadi found that the model performed best on a yearly and multi-year basis. This indicates that SWAT would work well for TMDL assessments, particularly those estimating the long-term effects of conservation practices and weather variability.

A team of ARS agricultural engineers in Temple, Texas, led by Jeff Arnold, first developed the SWAT model in the early 1990s, using 30 years of ARS research data. The team maintains a website to support model users and continually updates the model. SWAT has users in more than 40 countries.

Explore further: Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

More information: swatmodel.tamu.edu/

Related Stories

Pointing a finger at the source of fecal bacteria

May 23, 2007

Excessive levels of fecal bacteria were to blame for almost 60 percent of Nebraska streams deemed impaired by federal and state environmental laws in 2004. In order to develop effective pollution-control strategies, ...

Squeezing More Crop Out of Each Drop of Water

Oct 09, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Studies in China and Colorado by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists and cooperators have revealed some interesting tactics on how to irrigate with limited water, based on a crop’s ...

Recommended for you

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

May 24, 2015

The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three ...

California farmers agree to drastically cut water use

May 23, 2015

California farmers who hold some of the state's strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.