December 15, 2019

A water and soil quality. Water can become polluted

A watershed is all the
land that drains runoff from precipitation into a body of water, such as a
creek, river, lake, bay or ocean.
Watersheds
can be composed of creeks, streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, wetlands, groundwater
and oceans. Most water will begin its long journey far from where it ends up.
The boundary of a watershed is the ridgeline of high land surrounding it, like
the edge of a bowl. Another term for watershed is “drainage basin.” As
rainwater and snowmelt run downhill, they carry whatever is on the land, such
as oil dripping from cars, trash and debris on streets, or exposed soil from
construction or farming to the nearest water body. Every living organism needs
water to survive. Many factors influence water and its quality, whether they be
a factory polluting a river upstream, agricultural farms using poor practices
that affect the nearby stream, or urban families investing in rain barrels to
conserve water.

Oftentimes, city and
county planners overlook upstream and downstream land use activities when they
write land use plans and zoning resolutions. For instance, large parcels of
land that abut a stream may be zoned for agriculture. Downstream from this
location, one may notice that stream water is warmer and stream health is
degraded. Recognition of upstream/downstream issues has generated a greater
movement towards regional environmental planning, especially since the 1980s.
Environmental pollutants do not obey political boundaries.

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This study examines
several parameters and investigates water and soil quality. Water can become
polluted from misuse of land. Such activities as over farming, paving,
deforestation, and urbanization can increase runoff, decrease stream cover, and
pollute stream, rivers, and lakes. Among the leading pollutants are sediments,
bacteria, nutrients, and metals. These are derived both from point and nonpoint
sources. People use water for agriculture, industry, manufacturing, power,
transportation, and recreation. Point sources include facilities such as sewage
treatment plants and factory discharges. Nonpoint source pollution includes
excess fertilizers from lawns and farms, oil from roads, overflows from city
sewers, and animal waste. Point sources of pollution include examples such as factories
and wastewater treatment plants, old landfills, abandoned mines, and
underground storage tanks. More difficult to control, however, are nonpoint
source pollutants. This is because they derive from diffuse sources and flow
overland into surface waters.

The
hypothesis asks if water and soil test results are inappropriate for a specific
land use, then what recommendations must be made regarding proposed land use?
Often there may be regulations regarding the water and soil conditions that
must be met before the specific land use is implemented.

 

The values in Table A for
the soil macronutrient analysis are those provided by the Environmental
Literacy Council-Teacher copy under possible variations. The normal values are
those that were in the lab report in the sections that detail the specific
parameters.

Soil
pH is the degree of acidity or
alkalinity of the soil. It is also referred to as soil reaction, this
measurement is based on the pH scale. Aluminum is a prime contributor to soil
acidity. Lime is used to counteract the aluminum in the soil. At low pH levels,
aluminum and manganese become soluble and may become toxic to plants. To
maintain good crop health, pH in soil must be kept between 6.0 and 6.5. Above
6.5 manganese usually becomes problematic to plant health. In this analysis,
the tested value is pH 7.0, which is slightly higher than ideal soil pH. To
balance the soil pH, additional lime may be added to amend the soil in order to
optimize plant growth in the area.

Nitrogen is essential to nearly all biochemical
processes, which sustain plant and animal life, and is thereby a critical
macronutrient to plants. Nitrogen helps the above-ground growth of plants and
is a component of the chlorophyll in plants. Excess nitrogen can have
deleterious environmental impacts. For plants it can also delay crop maturity
and weaken stems. Nitrogen requirements for soil differ greatly depending on
the type of crop that is being grown and the climate of the area. In this
analysis, the tested value is 20 to 115 pounds per acre, which is within normal
limits for Nitrogen levels in soil. In this range, the ideal crops that could
grow and their respective ideal Nitrogen levels would be: cabbage 100, apples
30, oranges 90, and tomatoes 100. For other crops such as corn (240) or alfalfa
(415), the Nitrogen requirement would not be met, and additional fertilizer may
be required to amend the soil.

Phosphorous is the macronutrient that
strengthens plant roots and increases overall yield. It also improves the
palatability of plants and increases their resistance to disease. In terms of
the amount of phosphorous needed per acre of land, nutrient requirements again
vary by type of crop. Most crops need no more than 100 pounds per acre. For
garden crops, at least 150 pounds per acre phosphorous is needed and as much as
200 to 300 pounds is desirable. Since Southern states in the U.S. have a longer
growing season, they can get by with about one-half of the phosphorous as
Northern states. In this analysis, the tested value is 100 to 200 pounds per
acre, which is within normal limits. The foliage is expected to have strong and
sturdy root systems.

Potassium imparts increased vigor and disease
resistance to plants. It is responsible for producing strong, stiff stalks,
increased plumpness in grain and seeds, and is essential in the development of
chlorophyll. In mixed fertilizers its concentration is denoted by the third
figure given. For example, a formula of 6-10-8 contains 8% potassium. Soils
high in clay usually have high potassium levels, as potassium is either found
“fixed” in the interlayers of clay minerals or found in primary minerals. The
pounds per acre can vary widely for potassium depending on the crop being
grown. While apples require only 35 pounds of potassium per acre, corn and
celery may need up to 240 pounds. In this analysis, the
tested value is 100 to 180 pounds per acre, which is within normal limits.

Values for the water quality
parameter analysis in Table B, are based on information for Fulton County
drinking water analysis. The values for each parameter are presented versus
normal values for each parameter. The normal values are those that were in the
lab report in the sections that detail the specific parameters. These values
may not accurately represent the normal values for the watershed in the state
of Georgia. They are merely guidelines. Additionally, these values are for
treated drinking water. They are not for “natural” untreated water that may
support any marine life.

pH is a measure that
describes the level of acidity of a solution. Values ranges from 0, very acidic
with a great deal of hydrogen ions, to 14, extremely basic with a high
concentration of negatively charged hydroxyl ions. Rainwater is typically
around 5.6 pH. In this analysis, the tested pH value is 7.2 to 7.4, which is
slightly basic and within normal limits for drinking water. If this was a value
for water found in a lake or a stream, most fish can tolerate pH values of
about 5.0 to 9.0. Waters with a pH of at least 6.5 are needed to find healthy
fish populations. This would still be a value amenable to support fish
populations.

Water hardness is the
amount of dissolved calcium, magnesium, and iron present in water. When water
is hard, one may have a difficult time getting water to make soapsuds. Hard
water creates a build-up of scale on hot water heaters, showers, and porcelain
surfaces; that is, where water can be found pooling or in residue. The scale is
caused by calcium and magnesium, which form a precipitate. Hardness is
described in milligrams per liter of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). In this
analysis, the tested water hardness value is 25 mg/L, which is “soft” water and
within normal limits for drinking water.

Carbon dioxide is an odorless,
colorless gas produced during the respiration cycle of animals, plants and
bacteria. It is produced by all animals and many bacteria and absorbed by green
plants in the photosynthetic process. Since green plants photosynthesize more
in the presence of sunlight, a larger quantity of oxygen is used, and carbon
dioxide enters water during overnight hours. During these times, fish have a
harder time respiring; conditions are more difficult when water is warmer. Most
fish can tolerate carbon dioxide levels of 20 mg/L (milligrams per liter),
because most fish are able to tolerate this carbon dioxide level without
harmful effects.

Heavy cloud cover can
affect plants’ ability to photosynthesize. Carbon dioxide quickly combines in
water to form carbonic acid, a weak acid. The presence of carbonic acid in
waterways may be beneficial or detrimental depending on the water’s pH and
alkalinity. If the water is alkaline, or a high pH, the carbonic acid will
neutralize the liquid. However, if the water is already quite acid, or a low
pH, the carbonic acid will worsen the conditions by making it even more acidic.
In this analysis, the Carbon Dioxide value is 1.00 to 1.06 mg/L, which is
within normal limits as per EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) standards for
drinking water. Fish would avoid these waters.

Conclusions:

Human activities commonly
affect the distribution, quantity, and chemical quality of water resources. The
range in human activities that affect the interaction of ground water and
surface water is broad. The effects of human activities on the quantity and
quality of water resources are felt over a wide range of space and time. The
extent of the effects can involve distances from a few feet to thousands of
square miles.

The plants of natural and
agricultural ecosystems depend on the soil in which they grow. Soil is the
dynamic medium of organic and inorganic particles through which plants obtain
oxygen for their roots and water and minerals for the entire plant. Regarding
chemical properties of soil, or pH levels refers to how acidic is the soil, or
how basic, or alkaline, is that soil. This can be affected by climate, the
parent material, and the vegetation that lives in the area. Depending on what
type of soil we have there, sometimes also determines what types of plants can
grow in that area, what type of organisms can live there. Minerals in rock
particles are also important for healthy soil. They supply plants with the
basic nutrients for life.

Climate, Vegetation, and
Weathering are all factors in soil consistency. Topography may also effect
soil, water moving across the top of the soil can affect how strong the soil
may grab onto the roots of plants. Consistence is a description of a soil’s
physical condition at various moisture contents as evidenced by the behavior of
the soil to mechanical stress or manipulation. Descriptive adjectives such as
hard, loose, friable, firm, plastic, and sticky are used for consistence. Soil
consistence is of fundamental importance to the engineer who must move the material
or compact it efficiently. The consistence of a soil is determined to a large
extent by the texture of the soil, but is related also to other properties such
as content of organic matter and type of clay minerals. Healthy, fertile soil
is a mixture of water, air, minerals, and organic matter. In soil, organic
matter consists of plant and animal material that is in the process of
decomposing. When it has fully decomposed it is called humus. This humus is
important for soil structure because it holds individual mineral particles
together in clusters. Ideal soil has a granular, crumbly structure that allows
water to drain through it, and allows oxygen and carbon dioxide to move freely
between spaces within the soil and the air above. Successful gardening depends
on good soil. One of the best ways to improve soil fertility is to add organic
matter. It helps soil hold important plant nutrients. By adding organic matter
to sandy soil, you improve the ability of the soil to retain water. In a clay
soil, humus will loosen the soil to make it crumblier. You can increase the
organic matter in your garden by adding compost or applying mulch. Application
of organic matter to the soil adds carbon, which promotes the growth of
beneficial bacteria, which increases the likelihood of hearty plants. Another
benefit is when crops grow and demand more nutrients, added organic matter can
be used as plant food. Remember that every time you disturb soil by turning or
tilling, oxygen also is added to the soil. This increases microbial activity,
which feeds on organic matter. Therefore, soil disturbance can decrease the
soil’s organic matter reserves and should be kept to a minimum.

For example, the
Chattahoochee River drains an area of 8,770 square miles and is one of the most
heavily used surface water resources in Georgia. The Chattahoochee River
originates in the southeast corner of Union County, Georgia, in the southern
Appalachian Mountains and flows southwesterly through the Atlanta metropolitan
area before terminating in Lake Seminole, at the Georgia-Florida border. The
river runs for a total distance of about 434 miles.

The Chattahoochee River
Basin is inhabited by a variety of freshwater aquatic species including the
American alligator. It is also home to several state-threatened or endangered
plant species. Besides the flora and fauna that depend on the river, the
Chattahoochee supplies 70 percent of metro Atlanta’s drinking water.

There are several
industries that are authorized to discharge wastewater into the Chattahoochee
River Basin pursuant to NPDES permits. Point sources. The 1972 act introduced
the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which is a permit
system for regulating point sources of pollution. Polluted storm-water is the
primary cause of water quality problems in the Chattahoochee River Basin, which
contains roughly 500 industrial sites that are not complying with clean water
laws.

The Chattahoochee also
contributes to agricultural use, especially timber, which is the leading cash
crop in the basin. Total farmland in the basin has decreased since the 1970s,
but poultry production has increased. Crops with the largest harvested acreage
include peanuts, corn, soybeans and cotton. The river also supports certain
species for the fishing industry.

In terms of energy use,
the Chattahoochee contributes towards power generation. The river is the single
largest water use in the basin. Sixteen of the Chattahoochee River Basin’s 22
power-generating plants are located along the main stem of the Chattahoochee
River. The river also supports several dams, hydroelectric dams, and
reservoirs.

Other land uses of the
Chattahoochee include the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area which
includes 48 miles of river and 16 parks to preserve the beauty and recreational
value of the river. Lake Lanier encompasses 38,000 surface acres of water with
540 miles of shoreline. There are many recreational areas with boat ramps and
camping facilities. Marinas dot the shoreline and sailing, kayaking and boating
clubs provide training and social activities. The Elachee Nature Science Center
and the Lanier Museum of Natural History offer educational opportunities.

In terms of environmental
concerns, in the Chattahoochee River Basin, there are approximately 183 rivers
and streams listed as waters not supporting their designated uses. These
impaired waters include roughly 1,000 miles of the Chattahoochee River Basin’s
waterways. In 2000, the city of Atlanta was forced by a federal consent order
to remove 568 tons of trash, including seven automobiles, from streams that
feed into the Chattahoochee.  As
metropolitan Atlanta has experienced unprecedented growth during the last 30-plus
years, severe sewage discharge problems and sediment inflow have affected water
quality.  In 1998, Mayor Campbell signed
a Federal Consent Decree committing the City of Atlanta to an accelerated
program of activities designed to further improve water quality in metro
Atlanta streams in addition to the Chattahoochee and South Rivers. In 1999, the
Consent Decree was amended to added projects that would eliminate water quality
violations from sanitary sewer overflows.

The Chattahoochee is a
vital part of Georgia and public awareness has helped to spur many educational
and volunteer organizations to help to clean and maintain the river.

 

Possible
Sources of Error:

Since
this experiment was not actually performed and therefore no actual observations
occurred. This report is written as a hypothetical presentation as if the
actual experiment was performed. No errors were observed however potential
errors would include accuracy with failure in water and/or soil testing
process, mistakes in vegetation identification, mistakes in soil identification
(Munsell guide and soil survey), mistakes in identifying hydrologic features of
a landscape. Transportation to a suitable site may be difficult for some. If
this is the case, the laboratory may be run without water quality sampling
although this will limit its usefulness. Nonetheless, soil tests as well as
land use studies can be conducted.

 

Improvements
and Further Investigation:

One improvement would be to
perform a macroinvertebrate analysis (seines available from suppliers listed).
Another variation would be a long-term report about writing and implementing a
riparian zone restoration plan. This will be an ongoing process so that each
year students will build analyze a data base, perform further research, and
execute a hands-on restoration project.

Other variations could
include a wetland survey. To do this, the instructor must be familiar with how
to perform a delineation. As an alternative, a professional delineator from an
environmental consulting firm or the state office of the EPA can be asked to
instruct the class on wetland delineation. You should allow at least three
class periods to instruct the class on wetland delineation; a minimum for each
of the three parameters of hydric soil, hydrologic conditions, and hydrophytic
vegetation. Familiarization with a Munsell guide and wetland vegetation study
will be crucial to a successful study. The area you survey in your study area
should be as follows:

Beginning at least one
meter from the bank of the creek or river (to avoid the effect of river
deposited soils on your survey), select three equidistant plots that measure
two meters by two meters and perform a vegetation inventory of each canopy
layer. Decide whether the area is a wetland. Remember, to be a wetland, it must
have hydric soils, proper hydrology, and hydrologic vegetation.

 

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