Antioch Finds That Urban Runoff Affects Water Quality

Our second semester is well underway here at Earth Team Antioch. January consisted of several visits to the Upper Sand Creek Basin. It is great to see how familiar the team is with this site and how quickly everyone gets into a working rhythm when we’re there.

A couple of winter storms passed through Antioch this month and interns were right to notice that the rain brought an obvious change to the water quality in the basin. In our latest water quality assessment, we found surprisingly lower levels of dissolved oxygen and higher levels of nitrates than we have in the past several months. The team speculates that the rain might have washed urban pollutants into the storm drains that eventually lead to the basin. Emma and Julia, two interns on the Antioch team, shared that water transparency was lower than usual and might also have been affected by the runoff.

Why should we care? Most aquatic organisms need oxygen to survive and grow. Nitrogen is also a necessary nutrient for plants. However, If too much nitrogen is present this could lead to rapid algal growth rates which in turn use up oxygen during their decomposition. Factors that affect water transparency include algal growth and storm events. A decrease in water transparency negatively affects water quality as this can increase water temperature and reduce the light available for photosynthesis.

In the coming weeks, we will continue to monitor water quality from urban runoff and hopefully start to see a return to normal readings.

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