Internship opportunities available for a rising junior or senior with experience with basic water quality research and lab equipment, strong organizational and communication skills, and the ability to work independently. We would love to talk with you!
Stream Ecology and Management
Stream Ecology is the study of the function and health of stream ecosystems. Management involves the restoration, improvement, monitoring and maintenance of these systems. All stream systems flow through the landscape within a watershed providing water flow either through groundwater or over land as surface water. The amount and quality of water, habitat in the stream including stream bed substrate, woody debris and stream bank condition all relate to the health of the stream and are in equilibrium with the surroundings to create health streams for drinking water supply and recreation.
Management of these resources first involves quantification of overall water flow and quality. This analysis also includes surrounding land use and potential sources of contaminants, and often take many years to quantify. Once the assessments are complete, prescriptions for management are developed from minimization of pollutant loads to changes in land use and stream channel restoration. Overall goals are to allow reasonable and healthy levels of development while protecting these vital resources.
Environmental Health, Policy, and Sustainability
Staff at the Center for Water Quality also investigates links between environmental exposures in water and health impacts. We are concerned with differing forms of wastewater effluent and how they impact individuals — this includes individual wastewater treatment systems, such as septic tanks, and larger municipal wastewater discharge and storm water. These discharges contain levels of pollutants that are potentially harmful to human health; we are currently investigating these links.
We’re engaged in the process of strengthening protective laws and commenting at public hearings on local policy matters; and we’re concerned with any pending legislation or existing policy that is not protective enough of our streams, wetlands and lakes. Our intent is to continue to research alternatives and comment on proposals. We remain involved in the continued work to find viable solutions to College Lake and Blackwater/Ivy Creek.
Our sustainability work involves planting gardens next to the center at Beaver Point to produce sustainable food and teach students sustainable practices. We will continue to work on projects that improve the sustainable use of water including rainwater harvesting for gardens and sustainable systems in use at the center.
Stormwater quality is now a priority in water quality management.
Controlling and minimizing both sediment and nutrients must be achieved to improve the nation’s waters and meet water quality goals set forth in regulatory schemes mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency and adopted on the state and local levels.
The Center for Water Quality is engaged in active research and management plans to improve water quality in streams, lakes and wetlands.
Rain Gardens and Strategic Planning
Rain gardens and infiltration basins are another tool to improve water quality. The gardens allow creation of basins using rock, waterways and plants to improve infiltration of rainwater into groundwater and beautification of ditches or swales in public areas.
Rain gardens are designed to mitigate the impervious surface on projects and can be used to receive stormwater credits. All projects are designed to fit into the existing landscape and provide maximum benefit.
Wetland Creation and Enhancement
To meet water quality goals and objectives in certain watersheds wetlands can be created.
Working with students and environmental groups, the Center is actively engaged in the creation, design and implementation of freshwater wetlands. These projects are monitored and used as educational tools.
What is Watershed Management?
- Assessment of current conditions
- Projection of future land use changes
- Analysis of potential effects these changes will have on the environmental health of the watershed
- Data gathering and analysis
In accordance with the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Agreement, objectives are defined with recommended measurable activities. The intent is to develop plans and objectives to preserve and conserve areas not yet impacted, to slow degradation of watershed natural resources in urbanizing areas and to lessen the projected impact of continued development.
A Watershed Plan represents a long term commitment to preserve and protect the natural resources of a watershed. Having a plan is a critical step in protecting the environment by increasing awareness among citizens and building strong partnerships to improve and maintain a healthy environment across political jurisdictions.
Watershed plans promote and support community-based efforts in preserving natural resources while preserving property rights within the watershed, and promoting watershed awareness, appreciation and active stewardship among residents, community associations and businesses for maintaining a healthy environment.
The Blackwater Creek Watershed Management Plan is based upon findings of recent comprehensive scientific studies of the environmental health of the Blackwater Creek watershed. This plan will be used as a model for other watershed plans in Central Virginia.
Reservoir Water Quality
Reservoirs include any impounded river system, regardless of size. These systems provide opportunities for recreation, swimming, fishing, power generation, flood control, drinking water, and general enjoyment. As water flows into the impoundment, it characteristically changes, stratifying into multiple layers and reflecting the water quality of the surrounding watershed, shoreline and hydrology. Reservoirs are hybrids of both stream and lake systems. Management of these systems first involves studies of vertical and horizontal profiles of water quality.
Reservoirs metabolize nutrients and contaminants; each portion of the reservoir reflects these processes. Once the processes are understood, various scenarios of management are proposed to reflect the stated goals. Reservoir management encompasses land use throughout the watershed and manipulation of the water body itself.