An online interactive tool for learning about pesticides, nutrients, and the overall health of Midwest streams is now available from the U.S. Geological Survey. This information can be used by the public and resource managers to better understand the relative effects of these stressors on aquatic organisms in streams.
Midwest US: What’s in Your Stream? Get Online to Find Out!
Stream Quality Viewer Shows Contaminants, Nutrients and Stream Health
Midwest stream health data compiled from the USGS Regional Stream Quality Assessment are available in the viewer. The study covered parts of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and South Dakota. The study found that every stream sampled in the Midwest region has been affected by agricultural or urban development. Chemical stressors, primarily nutrients and pesticides, and physical stressors, primarily sediment and a disturbed riparian zone (areas surrounding the stream), have altered small streams and affected the number and diversity of fish, algae and aquatic insects that call these water bodies home.
“This tool is a one-stop shop that brings a variety of water-quality information for a stream together in a simple online interactive viewer,” said Peter Van Metre, lead scientist for the assessment. “This is an easy way for communities, water managers and the public to better understand their water resources and potentially choose more effective stream-protection and restoration strategies.”
Users can click on a stream sampling site and access a “scorecard” that provides a snapshot of water-quality, habitat and stream-health measurements. The tool includes two web-mapping applications that allow users to compare results across a region and download project data. The Results Viewer application depicts the data collected at the 100 stream sites assessed. Sites are displayed on the map using an easy-to-understand color key that shows low, medium and high levels of each constituent. The Data Download Viewer application allows users to select data of interest using site selection or constituent criteria and download it in Microsoft Excel or .CSV format.
The USGS Midwest Regional Stream Quality Assessment is the first of five regional studies; other areas studied are the Southeast, Pacific Northwest, Northeast and Coastal California. For each region, samples were collected at about 100 small, wadeable streams. The Midwest samples were collected weekly during the spring and summer of 2013 and tested for a wide range of chemicals. Scientists also surveyed stream habitat, algae, fish, and bottom-dwelling invertebrate communities, such as mayfly and damselfly larvae. Streambed sediment was also collected at every site for chemical analysis and toxicity testing.
“The results are shedding light on the complex interactions among land use, contaminants and habitat alterations in the streams, and how they are affecting the biological health of the streams,” said Van Metre.