Upper Pecatonica River Wisconsin Buffer Initiative pilot project

Science Center Objects

The Upper Pecatonica River pilot project is testing targeted water-quality improvement strategies in small agricultural watersheds. The USGS is contributing by monitoring phosphorus and sediment at the watershed outlets, quantifying in-stream sources and sinks of phosphorus and sediment, and developing innovative approaches for quantifying sediment-related stream impairments and TMDLs.

Aerial photograph of Pleasant Valley

Photo of the Pleasant Valley watershed, courtesy of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Connecting Targeted Phosphorus Reduction with Healthy Watersheds


The Upper Pecatonica River pilot project is testing Wisconsin Buffer Initiative recommendations for using targeted strategies in small agricultural watersheds (5,000–25,000 acres) to achieve water-quality improvement goals (http://www.nelson.wisc.edu/people/nowak/wbi/). The small watershed scale is optimal for identifying nonpoint pollution sources, implementing strategies, and measuring success. This is a paired watershed project with an experimental and control watershed. Within one monitored watershed, Pleasant Valley, changes in management are being applied to a small percentage of area that is identified as contributing comparatively high levels of sediment or phosphorus to the stream. A second similar watershed is being monitored as a reference. The monitoring is complemented with multi-disciplinary measurements and modeling to better quantify overland flow and in-stream delivery processes of sediment and nutrients between fields and watershed outlets. Field protocols for measurements of channel sources and sinks of sediment and nutrients are being done in Silver Spring Creek.


USGS Study Objectives

* Monitor phosphorus and sediment at the watershed outlets

* Quantify instream delivery mechanisms for channel sources and sinks of phosphorus and sediment

* Develop innovative approaches for quantifying sediment-related stream impairments and TMDLs


Photograph of Rebecca Carvin showing the streamgage at Pleasant Valley to attendees of a conference-related field trip.

Rebecca Carvin, USGS scientist, demonstrating the streamgage installed at Pleasant Valley.


Monitoring: Monitoring at the watershed outlets began in 2006 in the test and control watersheds and will continue as targeted management practices are implemented in the test watershed.

Research on sediment sources and sinks: Conducted rapid and intensive channel assessments at 30 sites in the control and test watersheds in 2009-10. Inventoried eroding banks and amount of fine-sediment deposition in channels. Collected sediment samples for cesium and lead radio-isotope analysis, phosphorus, and particle size/bulk density.


Non-USGS Publications

Lamba, J., Thompson, A.M., Karthikeyan, K.G., Fitzpatrick, F.A., 2015, Sources of fine sediment stored in agricultural lowland streams, Midwest, USA: Geomorphology 236:44-53.

Gellis, A.C., Fitzpatrick, F.A., Schubauer-Berigan, J.P., Landy, R.B., and Gorman, S.L., 2015, Identifying sediment sources in the sediment TMDL process: Proceedings, SEDHYD2015 Conference, Reno, NV.