2021 - Revealing the drivers of water quality change in the critical zone amidst urban ecological transitional systems using isotope tracers and ecohydrological comparison

Grant Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Christian Guzman
Research Description: 
This study brings together traditional earth science research with new emerging methodologies to enhance research, graduate training, and outreach surrounding the soil, water, and societal changes exacerbated by environmental changes, climatic variations, and intensification of resource utilization. In these study areas, we propose an investigation on the variability of the ecohydrological conditions that delay or quicken the passage of water through a catchment as subsurface flow (deep and laterally) over dry conditions, storm periods, and post-storm period seasonal precipitation. Each site has attempted biological (re-forestation), structural, or regulatory (reduced discharge) conservation measures to improve or retain water supply and water quality indicators known to impair ecological or human health. The study sites chosen have particular infiltration patterns based on physical properties (saturated hydraulic conductivities, bulk density) that have been evolving as a result of land use change and increased soil chemical changes (leaching, erosion, plant uptake) that alter effective storage capacity of soils at varying depths. By incorporating stable water isotope analysis of the storm and discharge waters into the analysis of the ongoing hydrometric database, this project will provide a comparison of the main climatic (storm intensity), anthropogenic (vegetative changes), and ecohydrological (soils, land use) controls on changes in water supply and water quality in these watersheds at varying distances from urban centers in Western Massachusetts (USA). Over the span of at least one main precipitation season across three tributaries (four sampling sites at each tributary,;12 sites total), isotopic composition (d2H, d18O) and water quality (phosphates, suspended sediment) of streamflow of up to twenty storms per season will help demonstrate the basins’ response to evolution of landscape patterns upstream as compared to assessments made in recent years by Friends of Lake Warner. Understanding whether these controls have uneven or evenly distributed impacts on the recharge and mean transit time of seasonal flows, will help managers identify the most effective areas and strategies of investment in watershed protection programs. With this research our team aims to initiate an integration of research with practical patterns of conservation from communities with deep connection to natural resources dictating the capture and filtration of water.