Date of Thesis

5-2008

Thesis Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Type

Bachelor of Arts

Department

Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Matthew E. McTammany

Abstract

Human development causes degradation of stream ecosystems due to impacts on channel morphology, hydrology, and water quality. Urbanization, the second leading cause of stream impairment, increases the amount of impervious surface cover, thus reducing infiltration and increasing surface runoff of precipitation, which ultimately affects stream hydrologic process and aquatic biodiversity. The main objective of this study was to assess the overall health of Miller Run, a small tributary of the Bull Run and Susquehanna River watersheds, through an integrative hydrologic and water quality approach in order to determine the degree of Bucknell University’s impact on the stream. Hydrologic conditions, including stage and discharge, and water quality conditions, including total suspended solids, ion, nutrient, and dissolved metal concentrations, specific conductivity, pH, and temperature, were measured and evaluated at two sampling sites (upstream and downstream of Bucknell’s main campus) during various rain events from September 2007 to March 2008. The primary focus of the stream analysis was based on one main rain event on 26 February 2008. The results provided evidence that Miller Run is impacted by Bucknell’s campus. From a hydrologic perspective, the stream’s hydrograph showed the exact opposite pattern of what would be expected from a ‘normal’ stream. Miller run had a flashier downstream hydrograph and a broader upstream hydrograph, which was more than likely due to the increased amount of impervious surface cover throughout the downstream half of the watershed. From a water quality perspective, sediment loads increased at a faster rate and were significantly higher downstream compared to upstream. These elevated sediment concentrations were probably the combined result of sediment runoff from upstream and downstream construction sites that were being developed over the course of the study. Sodium, chloride, and potassium concentrations, in addition to specific conductivity, also significantly increased downstream of Bucknell’s campus due to the runoff of road salts. Calcium and magnesium concentrations did not appear to be impacted by urbanization, although they did demonstrate a significant dilution effect downstream. The downstream site was not directly affected by elevated nitrate concentrations; however, soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations tended to increase downstream and ammonium concentrations significantly peaked partway through the rain event downstream. These patterns suggest that Miller Run may be impacted by nutrient runoff from the golf course, athletic fields, and/or fertilizers applications on the main campus. Dissolved manganese and iron concentrations also appeared to slightly increase downstream, demonstrating the affect of urban runoff from roads and parking lots. pH and temperature both decreased farther downstream, but neither showed a significant impact of urbanization. More studies are necessary to determine how Miller Run responds to changes in season, climate, precipitation intensity, and land-use. This study represents the base-line analysis of Miller Run’s current hydrologic and water quality conditions; based on these initial findings, Bucknell should strongly consider modifications to improve storm water management practices and to reduce the campus’s overall impact on the stream in order to enhance and preserve the integrity of its natural water resources.

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