Effects of Urbanization on Sub-Basins in the Wheeler Lake Watershed

EPA Grant Number: F6C30145
Title: Effects of Urbanization on Sub-Basins in the Wheeler Lake Watershed
Investigators: Golson-Garner, Karnita
Institution: Alabama A & M University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: August 1, 2006 through August 1, 2009
Project Amount: $102,173
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2006) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystems , Fellowship - Ecology


The objective of this study is to examine the effects of urbanization on aquatic and riparian ecosystems in North Alabama. The impact of urbanization will be assessed using a multidisciplinary approach to examine in-stream water quality in the Indian Creek and the Huntsville Spring Branch Watersheds.


The study area consists of two adjacent sub-basins within the Wheeler Lake Watershed with drainage systems that serve as tributaries to the Tennessee River. The parent material for this area is mainly karst natured limestone. The 103,400 acres of land that make up this area, approximately 49,200 acres are inundated or flood prone. Due to the nature and history of these two watersheds the overall approach of the proposed research will involve (1) measurement of water quality indicator parameters including heavy metals, nutrients, and other parameters such as turbidity, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll and fecal coliform (2) measurement of past pollutants, such as the organo-chlorine compound, DDT (3) relating observed trends in pollution to changes in landuse/landcover (4) monitoring the trends in water quality by watershed, location and season and (6) use of the Better Assessment Science Integrating Point & Non-point Sources (BASINS) and the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model to better assess environmental conditions in both watersheds. Five in-stream water sampling sites per watershed were identified and these sampling sites will be used to observe variations in water quality indicator parameters. In-stream water quality data will be measured using the YSI 6600 Extended Deployment System (EDS). Water samples will be collected every week over a two year period. Standard methods and techniques found in the EPA Standard Methods for the Examination of Water and Wastewater will be used to determine the concentration level of pollutants. An integrated geo-spatial approach which will include compilation of statistical analysis techniques, modeling resources and GIS and Remote Sensing tools will be utilized to examine the water quality parameters of these two watersheds.

Expected Results:

Results from this study will assist in providing much needed support data for TMDL and BMP development. This project also supports a conscious effort to identify impairments found within North Alabama’s rivers and streams caused by urbanization due to change in land use and cover conditions. Ultimately, the findings from this study will fill an existing gap in knowledge; assist regulatory agencies in improving management decisions and developing meaningful guidelines for managing these two watersheds.

Supplemental Keywords:

urbanization, ecosystem, sediment, watershed, flooding, water erosion, regulatory agency, riparian, Huntsville Spring Branch, Indian Creek, indicators, heavy metals, DDT, nutrients, fecal coliform, aquatic, soil property, non-point source pollution, SWAT, TMDL, BMP, pollutant, model, BASINS, water quality, turbidity, tributaries, impervious, sub-basin, Alabama, rivers, Huntsville, Wheeler Lake,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, Geographic Area, Water & Watershed, State, Environmental Monitoring, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, anthropogenic processes, alternative urbanization scenarios, nutrient flux, Alabama (AL), aquatic ecosystems, GIS, urbanizing watersheds, water quality, watershed assessment

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2007
  • 2008
  • Final