Adaptive Management for Improved Water Quality in Multi-Use Watersheds

EPA Grant Number: CR830653
Title: Adaptive Management for Improved Water Quality in Multi-Use Watersheds
Investigators: Lehman, John
Institution: University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006 (Extended to January 31, 2007)
Project Amount: $745,883
RFA: Nutrient Science for Improved Watershed Management (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


This project will develop a management plan for eliminating nuisance algal blooms in a chain of reservoirs along the Huron River in southeastern Michigan. The river-reservoir system is used for municipal drinking water, wastewater disposal, irrigation, industrial processes, hydroelectric generation, sport fishing, and recreation. The impoundments episodically develop surface scums of bluegreen algae, and emit foul odors including hydrogen sulfide. The project is highly relevant to local, regional, and State efforts that have been trying for years to improve water quality in this watershed. Partnerships have been formed to ensure that the scientific information gained through this project become translated into education, outreach, policy, and decision-making. Past management strategy has focused on phosphorus loading alone, but it has failed to prevent massive nuisance conditions as recently as summer 2001. Efforts based on new thinking successfully predicted the 2001 blooms; now this study will sharpen the predictions and develop management approaches to eliminate nuisance conditions in the future.


Project objectives include compartmentalizing the river system to pinpoint watershed segments responsible for inputs and internal processes that reduce stoichiometric ratios of nitrogen to phosphorus. Evaluating the role of redox transformations and assessing magnitudes of anaerobic nitrate respiration are key elements of the research plan. The project will evaluate interactions of river discharge volumes, internal transformations, and weather events as components of adaptive management theory. It will identify the places and conditions that account for significant amounts of denitrification, as well as reservoir management responses that can counteract the conditions that promote nuisance blooms.


The project emphasizes both a firm scientific foundation and translation of scientific knowledge into outreach, education, and policy development. Partnerships have been formed with municipal governments and NGOs to seek community input, disseminate information, and evaluate outreach activities. Scientific investigations will focus on nitrogen, phosphorus, trace metals, redox chemistry and hydrodynamic interactions with weather events and hydroelectric dam operations.

Expected Results:

Successful management practices developed with cooperation from municipalities and community governments will be communicated through a well-developed outreach program. These best practices have application to similar problems in other watersheds.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 15 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

pollution prevention, restoration, modeling, limnology, Great Lakes., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, POLLUTANTS/TOXICS, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, Arsenic, Aquatic Ecosystem, Water Quality Monitoring, algal blooms, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecology and Ecosystems, Water Pollutants, Watersheds, anthropogenic processes, anthropogenic stress, bioassessment, biodiversity, bloom dynamics, watershed management, ecosystem monitoring, conservation, nutrient kinetics, biota diversity, diagnostic indicators, ecosystem indicators, redox chemistry, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, bioindicators, watershed sustainablility, dissolved organic nitrogen, biological indicators, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, conservation planning, aquatic biota, nitrogen, restoration planning, watershed restoration

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006
  • Final