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Geography, Geology and the Environment


Wondwosen Seyoum

Mentor Department

Geography, Geology and the Environment


Eric Peterson

Co-Mentor Department

Geography, Geology and the Environment


Water is one of the most useful resources available to mankind, as valuable as this resource is to lives, the demand for high quality potable water increases as populations grows. However, one of the major global challenges is related to water quality issues that come from excess presence of nutrients in water bodies. For example, excess nitrate and phosphorus in waterbodies has led to eutrophication and development of harmful algae bloom. This led to an increase in the hypoxia or dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico. The sources of these nutrients into waterbodies are transported mainly from point and non-point sources. The non-point sources are from agricultural activities through fertilizer application, animal waste, and natural atmospheric deposition of nutrients, while the point sources are from industrial and factory discharge, sewers, and wastewater treatment plants. This study seeks to understand the various factors driving nutrients trends in Illinois River basin with focus on nitrate and total phosphorus. The 2019 biannual report from the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategies stated that there was about 13% increase in nitrate and 35% increase in total phosphorus across the statewide basins compared to the previous baseline of 1980-1996. To understand these nutrient trends compared to the previous baseline, this study will present trend analysis of nitrate and total phosphorus in the Illinois River basin using historical data. Recent daily timeseries data and statistical technique will be used to detect trends of nutrients loading in the Illinois river basin. The load of nutrients in the basin will be determined using LOADEST (load estimator). A non-parametric Mann Kendall test and Sen’s slope will be used to analyze and detect the magnitude of the increasing nutrients with time. Cross correlation analysis will be adopted to understand the effects of watershed characteristics such as climate, hydrology, and landuse to these trends. The results for this study is expected to show a positive trend compared to the baseline, i.e., increase in nutrients trend in the Illinois River basin. The result for this study can help in water quality management and for the nutrient reduction plan by Environmental Protection Agency and Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy program.

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