Poster Presentations

This year we have 29 posters to share with you at the Water Resources Conference. Posters will be set up on the ballroom concourse, next to the Grand Ballroom. This year we will feature poster highlights during the Tuesday luncheon session. You can also check out the posters during breaks and at the Tuesday evening reception. Learn more about the posters and authors below.

Gurparteet Singh, Jessica Gutknecht, Jacob Jungers, University of Minnesota; Jared Trost, US Geological Survey

Nitrogen fertilizer application is critical to high input annual grain crops including maize (Zea mays L.) and also positively impacts crop yield. Hence, growers tend to increase N application rates far above the amount required by the crop. As a result, the excess N gets leached below ground in the form of nitrate-N making agricultural N fertilizer application one of the major causes of nutrient pollution in surface and subsurface waters. Perennial cropping systems with larger and denser root biomass, including intermediate wheatgrass, reduced N leaching while not significantly impacting IWG yields. Additionally, optimizing N application rate and timing have the potential to significantly reduce nitrate-N leaching. In this study, soil water nitrate concentrations and soil water content from intermediate wheatgrass and business as usual cropping systems are compared. The impact of fertilizer rate and timing was observed on grain yields and nitrate concentrations for both cropping systems. Findings from this research can potentially aid in the development of cropping strategies that reduce nitrate-N pollution, while continuing to produce high yield crops.

Tiffany Schauls, MPCA

Habitat improvement projects often occur on streams that are healthy and provide good trout fishing opportunities for anglers. The Rice Creek project is a unique opportunity in SE MN that hopes to showcase the potential improvement in habitat and aquatic life health to an impaired/degraded stream. Improving fish and macroinvertebrate communities are both indicators of success related to habitat improvement work. However, information on macroinvertebrate community changes within habitat improvement projects has often been very limited. This project aims to measure changes in fish and macroinvertebrate communities, to help determine if aquatic life health will be restored and provide detailed information on how each community was impacted by the project. Coordination between TU/MPCA/DNR currently includes pre-project data collection to generate datasets necessary to determine effectiveness of the habitat improvement project, which is currently scheduled for the summer of 2023.

Henry McCarthy, John Clark, Metropolitan Council

The Metropolitan Council has developed a water supply planning atlas to support Twin Cities communities with their water supply planning efforts. This engagement tool supports regional plan development and aims to better connect communities, residents, and other stakeholders to water issues throughout the area. To do so, various water challenges are identified and described for the region and within seven subregional chapters. Local water suppliers were engaged in early 2023 so that the atlas content reflects local perspectives and promotes collaborative issue identification and problem solving between neighboring communities and their agency partners.

The Water Supply Atlas for the Twin Cities Metropolitan Planning Region is currently being updated to reflect the input gathered during conversations with local water suppliers and is expected to be posted online as a series of PDFs in early summer of 2023. Through summer and into fall of 2023, subregional groups identified in the atlas will meet with Met Council staff to help shape subregion chapters for the next Metropolitan Area Water Supply Plan. The Atlas will be used to inform conversations around coordinated water supply and resource planning.

This poster will outline the process of creating the atlas, the range of topics covered in the atlas, and how the atlas is being used as an engagement tool to support regional plan development.

Hannah Wilson, Alvine Laure Ekame, Cynthia Hakala, Minnesota Department of Health

MDH has a vision to ensure that “safe and sufficient drinking water is available for everyone, everywhere in Minnesota”. In 2022, the Drinking Water Protection (DWP) section convened a workgroup to investigate how to incorporate health equity into our section’s work to help us achieve that vision.

The state legislature is working on a bill (HF2989) related to the criteria for prioritizing drinking water infrastructure projects, including lead service line inventories and replacement. This bill will require systems to consider equity when requesting state funds if enacted.

To make it easier for public water system staff to identify health equity concerns, DWP is developing a new public-facing mapping and screening tool. It will allow stakeholders to evaluate socioeconomic indicators related to drinking water access and projects across the state. Data from the EPA’s EJScreen application is being used as a starting point, but DWP is expanding on it to create a tool applicable to the specific concerns of Minnesotan communities.

The workgroup is also refining the state’s definition of “disadvantaged community”(DAC) as it relates to drinking water. This language will be key in ensuring the equitable distribution of state and federal funding, especially as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has increased both the supply and demand for drinking water state revolving fund dollars. The workgroup is reviewing the factors used to refine DAC definitions in other states. A common finding is that using a single criterion, such as median household income or population, can be too limiting to encompass the needs of different communities. The new DAC definition should incorporate both urban and rural communities.

The screening tool is a work in progress, being iteratively refined to address legislators’ evolving concerns and priorities. After the legislative session adjourns in late May 2023, DWP will work in earnest on making the screening tool usable for PWS staff.


Grace Andriacchi, University of Minnesota

From 2013 to 2019, the Twin Cities area of Minnesota experienced the wettest seven years on record. This wet period exposed numerous water problems in the Lake Nokomis area. In 2014, the City of Minneapolis started receiving complaints from homeowners who were experiencing wet basements and yards, sinkholes, extended periods of saturated soils, and deteriorating private sewer laterals. In response, the City of Minneapolis put together a multi-agency team to investigate these concerns. This team evaluated six hypotheses across the Lake Nokomis area.

After analyzing each hypothesis, the team concluded that the landscape around Lake Nokomis contains lacustrine deposits, including peat bogs and wetlands from pre-development. Historically, underlying peat soils have created issues for parkland and infrastructure in the area. Peat soils can cause perched water tables to form, potentially contributing to the water issues. Residential development around the lake began during the start of the Dust Bowl in the 1920s and continued throughout the 30-year dry period. Houses were built next-to, in-between, and on top of artificially filled wetland areas. The 2013 to 2019 wet period caused greater water infiltration and raised water tables by nearly 2 feet. Groundwater recharge rates also increased by 2 to 6 inches per year during that period. After the team’s initial analysis, they determined three major areas of concern: Lake Nokomis Parkway, West Nokomis, and Solomon Park.

The University of Minnesota has continued to conduct research to further examine the cause of these water issues. Monitoring wells have been installed and soil borings have been performed across the area. Organic deposits and impermeable soils have been found in some areas around the lake. The University team plans to continue investigating the hydrology and soil contents in the areas of concern through field work, data collection and analysis, and communication with the Nokomis-area community members.

Kaitlyn Hembre, University of Minnesota; Amit Pradhananga, University of Minnesota, Center for Changing Landscapes; William Herb, University of Minnesota, St. Anthony Falls Lab; Ray Newman, University of Minnesota, Dept. Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Biology

Many lakes in Minnesota are impaired for water quality (eutrophication), in particular water clarity (Secchi depth), algae (chlorophyll-a) or nutrients (total phosphorus) and interventions such as carp removal and alum treatments are often used to reduce internal loading after external loads are controlled. Water quality and clarity improvements due to reductions in nutrient loading often lead to increases in aquatic macrophytes, which provide desired fish habitat and water quality. However, if aquatic invasive plants are present, those species may expand rapidly with greater water clarity and become a nuisance while displacing native aquatic plants. Thus, management of invasive species may be required to restore native plant communities even after treatment for nutrient loading. We are examining the response of native and invasive aquatic plants and water quality in seven lakes (and one untreated reference) in western Wisconsin and the Twin Cities Metro area that were treated with alum to improve water quality. We are developing 1 and 2-D lake models that include macrophyte response to further explore these relationships. We are also using a combination of surveys and interviews with key lake managers to assess planning and perceptions of management outcomes for these treatments. We will document the relationships between alum, water quality, and the macrophyte community response as well as the planning process used to address these concerns. Our preliminary results indicate improvements in both water quality and the plant community after alum treatment with variability between lakes. Our study will provide recommendations for effective approaches and practices to address water quality and native and invasive aquatic plant management.

Mariel Jones, University of Minnesota; Salli Dymond, Northern Arizona University; Stephen Sebestyen, USDA USFS Northern Research Station; Xue Feng, University of Minnesota

Minnesota peatlands make up more than 10% of the state’s ecosystems, the second highest total acreage in the US after Alaska. Peatland systems play a critical role in the sequestration and storage of carbon, regulation of downstream water quality, and mediation of streamflow. The stability of peatland carbon stores is highly dependent on the local, seasonal hydrology. Shifts in water availability from winter to summer due to decreasing snow patterns may cause increases in methane fluxes to the atmosphere. However, the inherent ecosystem variability within wetlands has also been shown to act as a natural buffer to these hydrological and biogeochemical changes. But the cascading effects of seasonal hydrology on peatland carbon remain understudied. Complex surface heterogeneity and both subsurface and surface hydrologic connectivity make understanding the dynamics of snow, frost, runoff generation, and methane production in bog systems difficult.

In this study we take two approaches, both aimed at improving our understanding of the role peatlands play in regulating changes due to rising winter temperatures. First, forest canopy data from two Northern Minnesota peatlands are paired with snow surveys to examine the effects of tree cover on snowpack development across the heterogeneous landscape. Then, temperature and soil moisture data along watershed transects demonstrate the coupled effects of soil frost in controlling snowmelt infiltration and lateral flows between the upland forest and downslope bog. Preliminary results show that (1) that snowpack is lower in the uplands compared to the bog due to denser canopy in the upland areas and (2) slower snowmelt rates in coniferous areas lead to more distributed spring streamflow response. We anticipate that these results will provide both first-order data on the effects of snowmelt on streamflow dynamics in peatland watersheds and shed light on how snowpack evolution will influence spring and summer water availability.

Katharine Faber, William Pomerantz, William Arnold, University of Minnesota

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a diverse class of emerging pollutants that are ubiquitous in environmental and biological matrices. Current analytical methods fail to detect a substantial fraction of PFAS, leading to underestimates of total PFAS concentrations and associated health and ecological risks. We are developing a fluorine nuclear magnetic resonance (19F NMR) method to analyze total PFAS in aqueous matrices. We anticipate that the method will enable simple, rapid, and inclusive estimates of total PFAS in environmental samples. An advantage of 19F NMR is the ability to analyze total PFAS and other fluorinated pollutants, such as trifluoroacetic acid and fluorinated pharmaceuticals, in a single analysis. Additionally, 19F NMR analysis provides chemical shift information that can be used to assess PFAS binding to proteins and other material. Results demonstrate sample extraction for 19F NMR analysis with high efficiency, accurate quantification of total PFAS in simple mixtures using an internal standard, and substantial reductions in instrumental run times using a paramagnetic relaxation agent (<30 min per sample vs. 180 min without agent). We will present complete method validation results and results from protein binding studies and/or surface water sample analysis. Such studies, enabled by 19F NMR, can improve our understanding of total PFAS environmental burdens and binding dynamics to guide regulation and remediation to protect public health.

James Jahnz, Allison Gamble, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has reported water quality trend results for phosphorus, nitrate, and suspended solids at long-term monitoring sites for several years. Those results have typically been shared internally, becoming available to the general public through reports. The purpose of the Long-Term Pollutant Trend Data Viewer is to make access to statewide water quality trend results more widely available, and to increase understanding of water quality trends through data visualization tools. The Long-Term Pollutant Trend Data Viewer will be available to the public by the time of this presentation.

Leslie Ludtke, Philip Margarit, Joe Magner, University of Minnesota

The Pineland Sands in north central Minnesota is an economically important area for growing agricultural crops, specifically potatoes. The region has countless lakes and streams that are intricately connected to the Pineland Sands Aquifer System below. Wild rice that’s native to the region’s surface waters is economically significant and culturally sacred to the Anishinaabe indigenous peoples. Intensive irrigation has steadily increased throughout recent decades and the effects of the increased groundwater consumption on the surrounding surface waters are currently unknown.

This study was tasked with developing a set of regional and local MODFLOW groundwater models for the underlying aquifer system to try and understand the impacts of intensive agricultural activity on water quality and quantity in the region. In conjunction with the groundwater models, water quality and quantity measurements are being taken within the field. Water quality analyses include major cations and anions, stable isotope, and pesticides. The regional model encompasses the northern portion of the Pineland Sands Aquifer System, and the localized models are focused on the Shell and Straight River Watersheds. SWAT models are additionally being developed and coupled with the MODFLOW models through groundwater recharge and chemical loading rates. Simulations will be run using these modeling tools to investigate impacts from changes in groundwater pumping and agricultural chemical application rates. The object of this study is to try and understand the threshold at which intensive irrigation can continue before having adverse effects on the region’s surface water bodies, which hold important wild rice beds and fish populations.

Brady Haukos, Bryce Hoppie, Department of Biochemistry, Chemistry, and Geology, Minnesota State University, Mankato

Evapotranspiration (ET) by emergent plants forms a substantial component of most wetland water budgets. The ET originating from the cattails (Typha) in a large wetland in Brown County, Minnesota, was determined by utilization of in situ lysimeters. Results from continuously operating submersible pressure transducers placed within experimental and control lysimeters were corrected for head-specific infiltration rates obtained from laboratory-based assessments of hydraulic conductivity. Diurnal ET rates were verified for accuracy by comparison with evaporation rates derived from a nearby land pan (Ep) as well as open water (EL) and Reference-ET (ET0) numerical estimates.

Results show that Typha ET is the most dominant cause of evaporative water loss within the wetland, with values that range from 6 mm/d to 17 mm/d. Comparable Ep, EL, and ET0 values were decidedly lower, with ranges from 2 mm/d to 10 mm/d, <1 mm/d to 2 mm/d, and 1 mm/d to 3 mm/d, respectively. The crop coefficient (Kc) of the Typha was 4.63 relative to equivalent ET0’s. High-resolution drone-based infrared imaging demonstrated that the results from the test site applied equally to the remaining Typha within the wetland.

Although successive diurnal Typha ET rates varied by up to 150%, a marked increase in the average diurnal ET was evident in the results from late August through mid-September. Principal component analyses indicate that physical factors, including average and maximum air and soil temperatures, total solar and net radiation, cumulative light hours, and vapor pressure deficit were minor contributing factors to these observed variations in diurnal ET. Unexpectedly, the most significant physical factor was found to be the inverse of the wind run over the Typha that were included in this experiment.

David Austin, Jacobs Solutions

Total phosphorus (TP) removal rates in wetlands are rate (performance) limited by geochemistry. Long-term inflow TP equals outflow TP unless wetland geochemistry favors permanent phosphate binding to calcite or aluminum (Al) in sediments. Intensified wetlands raise and control P removal rates by geochemical augmentation with alumina. Dose concentrations are soluble (non-flocculating) and below the US EPA 2018 Al chronic toxicity concentration.

The largest treatment wetlands for P removal are the stormwater treatment areas (STAs) in South Florida. STAs have treated approximately 8.2 trillion gallons of water since 1994, removing 3,221 tonnes of TP over an area of 52,000 ac (21,000 ha). Could this approach be used in the upper Mississippi River TMDL by pumping to reclaimed wetlands in the Minnesota River Basin? Consider 100 tonnes TP/year as a meaningful mass removal rate for the TMDL.

STAs are passive with a low first-order TP areal rate removal constant of 12.5 m/year. The geochemically augmented wetland rate is about 125 m/y. Assuming inflow TP of 300 µg/L and outflow 100 µg/L, pump station capacity would be about 362 MGD (1.36M m3/d). The total Al chronic toxicity threshold per the EPA 2018 model is about 1000 µg/L, limiting the inflow Al concentration. At STA removal rates the area would be 22,000 wetted ac (8900 ha), intensified wetlands 2,200 wetted ac (890 ha). Only the latter are realistic.

At the chronic toxicity limit, the nominal aluminum chlorohydrate (ACH) consumption rate would be about 1340 kg/d. A 50% ACH solution injection rate would be 11.4 L/s (3.0 gpm). The nominal Al deposition rate would be 56 g/m2/y. Step feed would allow higher Al loading if needed because of high Al demand driven by suspended solids and organic substrates.

The Florida approach to large watershed TP management by large wetlands is practically feasible in Minnesota for geochemically augmented wetlands. Moreover, there is potential for P trading and habitat restoration.

Eimienwanlan Ibhagui, Anthony Parolari, Marquette University, Department of Civil, Construction, and Environmental Engineering

Green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) is becoming ubiquitous and popular in cities globally as nature-based solutions to address stormwater challenges, including urbanization and projected alterations in precipitation due to climate change. Research has shown that GSI systems are effective in capturing and infiltrating stormwater, thus reducing peak flows and volumes reaching wastewater treatment plants and receiving waters. However, the performance of GSIs may degrade over time due to clogging, poor design and construction, or lack of maintenance. There is little understanding of the mechanisms by which performance degrades and the physical and biogeochemical processes that control infiltration rate changes over time. We hypothesize that infiltration rates are jointly controlled by sediment accumulation and macropore generation by bioturbation. To address this hypothesis, we will study selected GSI basins in Minnesota to relate stormwater and sediment loading, in-situ infiltration rates, soil structure and texture, and root density and depth. Using this data, statistical and processed-based models will be developed to forecast infiltration rates as stormwater basins “age.” Sampling will occur in Summer 2023 and this presentation will present on preliminary results. Findings from this research will enhance our understanding of how contributing area and basin characteristics impact GSI infiltration rate. This knowledge will benefit stormwater managers by informing appropriate GSI maintenance scheduling and providing insight into the underperformance of stormwater infiltration systems over time.

Zachary Aanerud, Fabian Fernandez, Paulo Pagliari, Rodney Venterea , John Nieber, University of Minnesota  

Nitrogen (N) fertilizer is crucial for crop production, but it also contributes to environmental contamination. Nitrate in surface- and ground-water and ammonia and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere are primary contaminants from N fertilizers. This ongoing study started in 2021 at the University of Minnesota Southwest Research and Outreach Center in Lamberton, MN, to comprehensively assess the effects of varying N fertilizer rates (0 to 320 kg N ha-1 in 90 kg N ha-1 increments) on corn grain yield, profitability, and nitrogen loss (nitrate, nitrous oxide, and ammonia). The N rates were split applied with 90 kg N ha-1 as ESN pre-plant and the rest of the N was applied as Agrotain (urea + N-(n-Butyl)thiophosphoric triamide) at V6 development stage. The economic optimum N rate (EONR) was calculated at a fertilizer to corn price ratio of 0.0056 US$1.10 kg-1 N ($0.5 lb-1) and $196.84 Mg-1 of corn ($5 bushel-1). The EONR in 2021 was 130 kg N ha-1 (116 lbN acre-1) and the grain yield at the EONR was 6.68 Mg ha-1 (106 bu acre-1) and in 2022 the EONR was 177 kg N ha-1 (158 lb N acre-1) and the grain yield at the EONR was 6.99 Mg ha-1 (111 bu acre-1). The low yield and EONR reflected drought conditions in 2021 since there was minimal nitrate leaching (1.8 kg NO3-N ha-1), minimal nitrous oxide emissions (0.54 kg N2O-N ha-1) with the only significant emissions occurring after rainfall events, and ammonia volatilization was relatively low and similar between treatments. Compared to 2021, in 2022, early-season precipitation caused three times more N loss as nitrate leaching and two times more nitrous oxide emissions on average but slightly less ammonia volatilization and resulted in a higher EONR. However, dry conditions for the reminder of the growing season along with corn rootworm damage resulted in low grain yield. The 2023 season has contrasted with the previous two. Preliminary results highlight that weather conditions have a profound influence on successful N management.

Ossai Alu, University of North Dakota

The states of the lower and upper regions of the Colorado River basin are largely dependent on surface water resources for use in areas such as agriculture, industry, and municipal activities. However, a severe drought running well over a decade and other climate change effects, have had lasting effects on the ecosystem, economy, and agriculture of the region leading to the call for timely implementation of conservation efforts to stem present and future losses to human activities in the region. The largest consumer of water in the region is the agricultural sector and it is important to understand what effects the reduced access to surface water resources has had on such a large sector as the agricultural industry. This paper focuses on the river basin to determine the effects of this multiyear drought has had on the cropping decisions made by farmers over time. Land surface temperature and vegetation parameter data are utilized to obtain drought indices over a period covering the years 2000-2022, precipitation data covering the period as well is used to validate the results of the temporal drought analysis. The findings are then compared to crop production data obtained from the United States Cropland Data Layer (USDA-CDL). As such the analysis of the multiyear drought shows the effect it has had on crop production in the region as farmers have had to make conservative decisions on crop acreage and the types of crops planted based on the availability of water in the region, though there is evidence that even with the limited water resources, cultivation of water intensive crops like almonds and alfalfa still persisted.

Stephen Gregg, University of Minnesota

The conventional maize (Zea mays L.)-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation in the upper Midwest is controversial due to environmental degradation, especially water quality. Diversified cropping systems are known to improve the quality of the environment. We hypothesize that below-ground biomass play a fundamental, yet not well known, role in modulating resource use and therefore enhancing the environment. A field experiment was initiated at three University of Minnesota Research and Outreach Centers. Objectives are to determine 1) a functional relationship between above- and belowground biomass to facilitate root biomass estimations, 2) how roots modulate resource use (nitrogen and water) and within-plant C sequestration, and 3) associations between root traits and gas exchange. Treatments include five crops: maize, soybean, intermediate wheatgrass [Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Buckworth & Dewey], winter rye (Secale cereale L.), and winter camelina (Camelina sativa L. Crantz). Data collection includes above- and below-ground biomass for C and N content, soil and soil solution for plant available nitrogen (PAN), soil volumetric water content, and root imaging analysis. Preliminary results for near maturity maize and soybean show total root biomass was similar between crops at one location (4908 ± 906 and 4829 ± 550 kg ha-1, respectively), but varied at the other two with one producing 180% greater maize root biomass and the third 220% greater soybean root biomass. Across locations and depths, root length for soybean and maize was similar (475 ± 46 and 435 ± 36 km ha-1). The concentration of total PAN in the soil solution across the season was typically higher in soybean compared to maize, with PAN in soybean twice that of maize in one location. The study will be completed in fall 2024. Data collected will be used to model the effects of root traits on resilience and stability of crops in current and future climate scenarios.

David Austin, Jacobs Solutions

Total maximum daily load TMDLs for nutrient impaired lakes have a fundamental flaw. A nutrient TMDL describes necessary conditions to meet water quality standards (WQS) but does not address sufficient conditions. A short list of TMDL “blind spots” merits wider attention:

  1. Oxygen debt. In well-stratified lakes sediments can accumulate oxygen debt, creating a vicious cycle of self-perpetuating anoxia, high internal nutrient loading, and stable eutrophic states little affected by reductions in external nutrient loading. Climate change exacerbates this problem.
  2. Alternative stable states. A nutrient TMDL assumes linear reversibility of eutrophication. However, regime shift in ecosystems ensure that high algal turbidity will endure even if total phosphorus goals are met. Many nutrient-impaired lakes are in a highly stable ecological state.
  3. Invasive species effects. Over the last 15 years it has become clear that lakes with high carp biomass will be immune to water quality improvements until carp populations are suppressed. There are other invasive species effects that may have similar impacts.
  4. Naïve aqueous geochemistry. Mechanistically, eutrophication dynamics depend on sediment-water biogeochemical dynamics that vary widely. There is no “universal” lake geochemistry, yet models used in the TMDL process have no sophisticated geochemical modeling capabilities.

The scientific evidence for these TMDL weaknesses is overwhelming. Moreover, consistently effective in-basin water quality engineering practices, for which the TMDL process is irrelevant, have been developed in the 21st Century in drinking water reservoirs.

In the light of current scientific knowledge and engineering practices, reform of the TMDL framework first requires open recognition of its weaknesses across the water quality community: government, academia, industry, and concerned citizens. This presentation will present examples of TMDL “blind spots” and practices/approaches to work through them.

Kaitlyn O'Connor, ISG

The wetland bank program is a system where public and private entities can restore wetlands to create credits that are used to offset authorized wetland impacts elsewhere within the watershed. The number of credits—and ultimately dollars—a landowner can earn from a privately owned wetland bank relies, in part, on the quality of vegetation within the wetland restoration. In this way, the wetland bank program incentivizes landowners to be active managers.

Although rural landowners may not have ecological restoration experience before starting a wetland bank project, with some guidance from a consultant, they can often leverage their agricultural skills and equipment to establish native plant communities and effectively manage invasive species on their property. In this presentation, we will discuss how storytelling can be used to inspire a commitment to high quality restoration outcomes, tools to effectively convey technical information in an approachable way, and lessons learned while collaborating with landowners.

Innocent Anosike, Chinyere Anosike, Dr. Yeo Howe Lim, University of North Dakota

Recent studies by US Global Change Research Program and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) shows that the water availability at the Upper Red River of the North (URRN) and in North Dakota at large, will witness some changes (most times dwindling) because of stress to the water resource, which is mostly exacerbated by climate change. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) - National and Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers (CASCs), climate change is predicted to further limit the water availability in the URRN because, it has increased the frequency and intensity of precipitation, resulting in an increase in flooding due to intense rainstorms and rainfall events; and drought in the summer because of the warmer temperatures which enhances evaporation, and thereby reducing the surface water and drying out soils and vegetations. Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on water availability and quality in the URRN watershed because, climate change thus promotes periods with extremely low precipitation than they would be in summer and fall in the Red River Basin. This led to the climate change mitigation project for the URRN with the intention of this research to address major flooding across the Upper Red River basin in North Dakota and Minnesota by 2027, and the implications on water availability and quality (water resources development). It is important to recall that adaptation to the impacts of climate change on water availability and quality can take various forms which includes water conservation measures, water storage and management, water harvesting, water reuse and recycling, desalination, water governance and policy, and diversification of water resources.

Britta Larson, Kelly Duhn, Chan Lan Chun, Nathan Johnson, University of Minnesota Duluth

Wild rice (Zizania palustris) is an emergent aquatic plant native to the Great Lakes Region that is economically and culturally significant to the Anishinaabe people. The abundance and distribution of wild rice have declined due to factors such as hydrologic changes, competition, and contamination. Current restoration efforts, including invasive species management, regulation of shoreline development, and beaver dam removal have had few long-term successes. Plants are known to recruit microbes to help obtain labile nutrients (e.g. nitrogen and phosphorus) that are otherwise inaccessible to the plant. As wild rice populations diminish and other plants take over, the sediment microbiome shifts to have microbes specific to co-existing or outcompeting plants. This project examined the growth of wild rice and the biogeochemical shifts in response to introducing a sediment microbiome inoculum from a self-sustaining wild rice bed to sediment from struggling wild rice. A single-plant microcosm method was used to characterize changes in microbial community composition and water chemistry induced by the microbiome amendment. Preliminary analysis suggests that the inoculum is important for increasing total phosphorus in the porewater for the recipient wild rice plants. Nitrogen concentrations in the porewater and the seed biomass were not significantly different between treatments. Microbial community composition differs between the sediment and roots, indicating that the wild rice roots preferentially recruit microbes over life stages in our experimental conditions. Further analysis will determine the direction of the microbial community shift in relation to the inoculum community, which eventually influences the growth of wild rice. The anticipated completion of this project is spring 2024. The outcome could help establish a basis for larger-scale future experiments to determine if a microbial inoculum is a viable approach for long-term restoration success.

Eric Roerish, Sam Westlund, SRF Consulting Group; Steve Neary, Wisconsin Department Bureau of Structures

The design of the new State Trunk Highway 130 Bridges over the Wisconsin River in Lone Rock, Wisconsin took a coordinated and collaborative effort between the Department of Transportation, Contractors, Geotechnical and Water Resources Engineers, Bridge Designers, Regulatory Agencies, and the FHWA Hydraulic Team. The new crossing is located approximately 800’ west of the existing crossing that is composed of three steel truss bridges. The new alignment will consist of two prestress concrete girder bridges comprising 14 spans in total, and approximately 2,031 feet in length. SRF conducted the hydraulic analysis and design of the new crossing, and the structural design of the northern 1,107’ long bridge.

At the crossing there are two channels, one is the outlet of Long Lake and the other is the Wisconsin River. These are connected by a floodplain that is composed of a high value wooded wetland. The channel bottom is very dynamic with ever-changing dune structures. Of special note is shallow bedrock (erodible sandstone). This project was the first in Wisconsin to have the design completed on the expedited schedule of a Design Build Project.

Regulatory modeling of proposed bridges was completed with HEC-RAS, while SMS 2-D modeling was employed for scour assessment. FHWA Toolbox and HEC-18, Evaluating Scour at Bridges Fifth Edition, scour computations were completed with SMS output, including the 2010 NHRCP abutment scour. To assess the erodibility of the shallow bedrock, the 2017 Predicting Scour of Bedrock in Wisconsin, by Wisconsin Highway Research Program was utilized. The results of the various assessment methods were coordinated with the Design Build Team to optimize the foundation types and construction methods. Weekly permit coordination was held with Wisconsin DNR and US Army Corps of Engineer staff to help guide the process.

Construction started the spring of 2023 and will be completed in 2024, with the removal of the old structures in 2025.

Godbless Kwmae, David Saftner, Mei Cai, Matthew Aro, University of Minnesota
Minerals, forestry, agriculture, and industrial activities produce a significant amount of by-products and waste materials in Minnesota. Implementing strategies to reuse or recycle these materials can yield several benefits, such as reducing the volume of waste that ends up in landfills, improving public health, conserving energy and natural resources, reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering material costs. A framework provided by Johnson et al. (2017), Saftner et al. (2019), and Saftner et al. (2022) focused on the use of waste materials specifically from Northeast Minnesota for roadway projects.

This project seeks to broaden the scope of this prior framework to identify, select, and characterize waste materials, by-products, and commercial materials that are available across the entire state of Minnesota. The goal is to create and evaluate engineered soil mixes to determine their effectiveness in meeting the needs for roadway foundations.

The project aims to expand the scope to include materials such as RCA (recycled concrete aggregate), versaLime, dredge sediments, sawdust, etc., from various sources across the entire state of Minnesota. Laboratory methods will be used to characterize these materials to create and evaluate engineered soil mixes. These soil mixes will then be installed, instrumented, and analyzed to determine their effectiveness in meeting stormwater retention requirements and supporting native plant growth. Furthermore, an environmental life cycle assessment (LCA) will be conducted to evaluate the environmental impact of the best-performing soil mixes. Our findings will be summarized in a design guide created specifically for Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) engineers to utilize in their projects.

Innocent Anosike, Chinyere Anosike, Dr. Yeo Howe Lim, University of North Dakota

Globally, rivers act like filters and sinks for pollutants when elements (trace and heavy metals) are deposited either through agricultural runoff or industrial discharge of wastewater (most notably produced wastewater). In the 1995 US Geological Survey (USGS) - Water Resources Investigations Report 97-4043, in the Red River of the North Basin (Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota), the analyzed stream-bottom sediment and fish-tissue samples from the Red River of the North Basin, showed large suite of chemical elements and organic chemicals (with cadmium, lead, and mercury being widespread in sediments, at concentrations not indicative of acute contamination). The presence of the heavy metals and trace elements in the fertilizer (NPK – nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) is readily soluble in water and the high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus could cause eutrophication in the Upper Red River. The eutrophication processes lead to hypoxia (dead zones) causing fish kills and a decrease in aquatic life.

Anu Wille, Diana Karwan, Stuart Lichtenberg, Madeline Grunklee, Gage Rowden, Victoria Ferguson-Kramer, Marc Schwabenlander, Tiffany Wolf, Peter Larsen, University of Minnesota

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is a fatal neurodegenerative prion disease found in deer, moose, and elk. CWD cases in Minnesota have risen considerably over the last few years, raising wildlife, environmental, and public health concerns. Infectious prions, such as those causing CWD, enter the environment through decomposing carcasses or bodily fluids of infected individuals and can persist for at least fifteen years in soil and water. Facilitated transport of CWD is under-characterized. Previous studies show strong prion sorption to various mineral particles in soils. However, there has been limited investigation of prion dynamics with regards to soil and sediment movement through aquatic environments and watersheds. Minnesota contains a variety and wealth of ecosystems, aquifers, and surface waters, so it is imperative to determine how prions move across diverse landscapes in order to contain CWD in the state. Our purpose is to understand the hydrological transport of prions in Minnesota through laboratory studies, field observation, and spatial analysis. Such evaluation necessitates developing and refining methods for detecting prions associated with environmental surfaces. We hypothesize that prions readily bind to fine sediments in aquatic environments, facilitating stabilization and transport through watersheds. Water samples were collected from a site in north central Minnesota known to have been contaminated by CWD-positive carcass material. The samples span a range of mineral and organic compositions, representing those typical of waters in the region. We inundated these samples with CWD-positive deer tissue in the laboratory to observe prion association with sediments over time and refine detection protocols for water and environmental solids. Concurrent with laboratory studies, we developed elevation and flow accumulation maps of the field site to understand the landscape factors that may contribute to prion transport. The project end date is Spring 2026.

Sarah Winikoff, Craig Paukert, University of Missouri; Missouri Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; US Geological Survey

Optimizing connectivity within and between high quality habitat patches can increase gene flow and augment available habitat for individual populations. Yet identifying and prioritizing sites for restoration and management activities is a time-consuming task that is often specific to a particular species (e.g., sport fish, non-game species) and may be limited to a relatively small geographical area. Our objective was to develop a flexible framework to help prioritize sites for restoration and management activities to enhance connectivity within and between aquatic communities. Using the Missouri Department of Conservation’s priority watersheds as focal areas, we updated habitat suitability models and employed network analyses to calculate metrics of connectivity weighted by habitat quality. This model can be applied to nearly any species or community across fairly complex stream networks, making this approach customizable to managers focused on enhancing regional habitat connectivity. We hope to expand this methodology to Minnesota and neighboring states, which may benefit from streamlined decision-making tools to help improve watershed connectivity. This project will be completed on June 30, 2024.

Kara Dennis, Minnesota Department of Health

Minnesotans are already feeling the impacts of climate change, from higher temperatures to increased precipitation. However, private well users face unique public health risks from climate change since they are responsible for making sure their water is safe. Unlike regulated public drinking water systems, private well households are solely responsible for monitoring and testing their own water quality. Improved support for private well users at local, county, and state levels can help address these health risk disparities. However, more work is needed to guide these public health and community efforts. The Minnesota Department of Health is working collaboratively to anticipate future impacts of flooding and drought on private wells and reduce public health risks.

Ebere Nwosu, Innocent Anosike, Chinyere Anosike, Dr. Yeo Howe Lim, University of North Dakota

The state of drinking water in tribal communities in North Dakota (the Mandan, Hidatsa, & Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes), the Spirit Lake Nation, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation, are grave concern to environmental engineers, public health experts, social scientists, government, stakeholders, and North Dakotans as well because, the drinking water quality is a major risk factor for high occurrence of water-borne, water-washed, and water-related diseases, and causative cancer agents as well due to emerging contaminants in open drinking water sources. Concern on contaminants in drinking water and the resultant adverse impacts on human health prompted the joint drinking water assessment in North Dakota by the Department of Environmental Quality, and the Department of Health, because changes are needed from the engineering planning and design of drinking water facilities to change of aging water pipes in community residences.

In a study conducted in 2015 at some tribal communities in Mississippi, the Mississippi Department of Health found that more than 20,000 Mississippians received their drinking water from utilities testing above legal limits for cancer linked contaminants. While Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington, D.C., - based clean water advocacy group stated that about one million Mississippians could be drinking water with toxins below the legal limit but at rates that still impact consumer health. This related study will serve as a guide for tribal communities in North Dakota because according to the nation’s Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 518 (e) it expressly provides for Indian tribes to play essentially the same role in Indian country that states do within state lands, authorizing EPA to treat eligible federally recognized Indian tribes in a similar manner as a state (TAS) for implementing and managing certain environmental programs.

Thanzeel NazerVengalath, University of Minnesota

Based on the information and stories collected through the ethnographical fieldwork in the highlands of Kerala, India, this paper demonstrates the relationship between the event of monsoon precipitation and the everyday life of people in the highlands of Kerala. The ethnographical research compels me to look at how different communities perceive monsoon. This includes monsoon as a friend, foe, and indifferent matter. This paper argues that communities’ perception and affection for monsoon is formed through their historical relationship with land, landscape, and ancestrality. For example, communities that reside next to the slope of hills consider monsoon precipitation a “threat to their life” and monsoon season a “season of misery and sorrow.” In contrast, people living on the downhill consider monsoon precipitation a source of pride, wealth, and hydrological capital. These communities, therefore, have their reasons, claims, and memories regarding monsoon. Such reasonings are expressed through songs, poems, riddles, talks, art, and words. Drawing from the scholarship of environmental humanities, anthropology of place, and agrarian studies, my research attempts to pay meticulous attention to the aesthetical expression of different communities on a ‘cyclical phenomenon.’ Therefore, this paper critically analyzes various claims of these human stakeholders about monsoon.