Taking the pulse of the Wissahickon Creek using continuous monitoring
Laura Toran, Ph.D.
Department of Earth and Environmental Science,
The Wissahickon Creek flows from its headwaters in Montgomery County 43 km to join the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The watershed drains 165 km2 of which 27% is impervious and 24% is semi-pervious. Thus, it is no surprise that the stream is considered impaired. As municipalities increasingly apply stormwater management policies, how much do we know about the causes and locations of stream impairment? A team from Temple University designed an updated monitoring program to address water quality questions in the Wissahickon Creek. The study period from March 2016 to May 2018 was funded by a grant from the William Penn Foundation. After reviewing historic data, the monitoring program targeted the upper half of the Wissahickon. We implemented monitoring with an unusually high intensity of samples and data loggers, particularly for an urban stream. Samples for water quality and periphyton were collected at 1 to 3 km intervals, above and below tributaries and wastewater treatment plants. Loggers were also placed at 1 to 3 km intervals, collecting continuous data on dissolved oxygen, turbidity, water level, conductivity, temperature, and light over the course of a full year. Additional stream discharge monitoring stations were established to help calibrate a stormwater management model. A stream tracer test was conducted, turning several kilometers of the stream green for a day, to compare integrated stream metabolism measurements to point measurements. Metabolism rates were lower than expected for a stream that has significant nutrient input. The main stressor on the stream appears to be stormflow, which mobilizes sediment and strips habitats of algae intermittently. The shading provided by decades of stream buffer protection has helped reduce habitat stress. Learning specific causes of stream impairment leads to more effective management solutions.
Dr. Laura Toran is a professor at Temple University with over 30 years experience in urban hydrology, karst, and groundwater modeling. Her research is sponsored by the William Penn Foundation, the National Science Foundation, PennDOT, and EPA. Prior to joining Temple University, she worked for a decade at Oak Ridge National Laboratory on hazardous waste site characterization and she also served a program officer at the National Science Foundation. She is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, an associate editor of the journal Groundwater, and a certified drone pilot.
This seminar does qualify for 1.0 Professional Development Hour (PDH). A Certificate of Attendance will be available on site for AWRA-PMAS members only. The meeting price for non-members who wish to receive a Certificate of Attendance for the PDH is $10.00 ($3.00 for meeting + $7.00 for certificate).
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*Please note room change to Mayor's Media Room (18-025)