Oklahoma Water Resources Center

2010 Funded Projects

Click on the title to view this year's project report.

State-Funded Projects

Fluvial Geomorphic and Sediment Transport Study of the Little River Upstream of Lake Thunderbird Using an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP)

Principal Investigators:
Randall L. Kolar, Baxter E. Vieux, Robert W. Nairn, Jason Julian

Sediment is one of the major issues facing Oklahoma water resources. Not only does the suspended sediment degrade water quality, but it also reduces the quantity of available water in reservoirs when it settles. In addition, the sediment often results from significant stream bank erosion that can damage property.

This project seeks to improve our understanding of sediment transport in Oklahoma streams by testing a new Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) developed for streams of less than 2 m depth. ADCP has the advantage of measuring sediment in the water without having to capture the particles and so does not interfere with water flow.

Researchers will measure the amount of sediment in the Little River over a range of flow rates. This will allow them to estimate the total volume of sediment transported by the river into the lake. A better measurement technique will lead to a better understanding of sediment transport, which can then guide efforts to combat this significant problem.

Water conservation in Oklahoma urban and suburban watersheds through modification of irrigation practices

Principal Investigators:
Justin Quetone Moss, Michael Smolen, Dennis Martin, Tracy Boyer, Damian Adams, Kemin Su

The goal of this project is to promote more conservation-oriented landscape water use in Oklahoma. This will involve understanding home owner’s perspectives of landscape irrigation, improving the information available to home owners and others about the water needs of lawns and associated landscaping in Oklahoma, and finally preparing educational materials to inform citizens about ways to conserve water while maintaining the health of these plants.

The researchers will survey homeowners and lawn care companies to better understand their knowledge and decision making about irrigation. Furthermore, in order to better understand the water needs of lawns, researchers will assess the evapotransporation data provided by Oklahoma Mesonet. Finally, the researchers will develop a program to educate Oklahomans about appropriate lawn irrigation tailored to their location and landscape needs. This program will consist of developing 1) a turfgrass and landscape water use and conservation guide, 2) field based demonstrations of proper turfgrass and landscape irrigation, and 3) a workshop and “train-the-trainer” materials for Oklahoma municipalities and the OSU Cooperative Extension Service.

Drought monitoring: a system for tracking plant available soil moisture based on the Oklahoma Mesonet

Principal Investigators:
Tyson Ochsner, Jeff Basara, Albert Sutherland, Chris Fiebrich

Drought is a frequent and often costly problem for Oklahomans. Although most people think of drought as a lack of rain, measurements of rainfall alone are poor predictors of drought impacts, because costly short term soil moisture deficits can occur in years of average or above average rainfall. Soil characteristics play an important role in determining the impact of dry conditions on plants. Thus, a better predictor of drought impacts is the amount of water in the soil that is available for plant roots to absorb (referred to as plant available water).

The Oklahoma Mesonet provides real-time weather and soil information from over 120 stations across the state. This includes soil moisture sensors but not plant available water. This project involves collecting soil samples from every Mesonet site, measuring the essential soil properties governing plant water availability, and using the resulting information to create the world's first statewide automated monitoring system for plant available water. This monitoring system will provide resource managers with reliable information on the remaining reserves of plant available water enabling them to better adapt their management strategies.

Federally Funded Project

Scale Dependent Phosphorus Leaching in Alluvial Floodplains

Principal Investigators:
Garey Fox, Brian Haggard, Todd Halihan, Phil Hays, Chad Penn, Andrew Sharpley, and Daniel Storm

In order to protect drinking water systems and aquatic ecosystems, we need to identify critical nutrient source areas and transport mechanisms. The primary transport mechanism for phosphorus and other reactive contaminants has been considered to be surface runoff with subsurface transport considered to be negligible. However, local or regional conditions can result in subsurface transport becoming important. Researchers currently do not understand the potential significance of connectivity between phosphorus in surface runoff and groundwater and phosphorus movement from the soil to groundwater in watersheds with cherty and gravelly soils. The proposed research hypothesizes that macropores and gravel outcrops in alluvial floodplains have a significant, scale-dependent impact on contaminant leaching through soils; therefore, both soil matrix and macropore infiltration must be accounted for in nutrient transport analyses in riparian floodplains associated with gravel bed streams. However, quantifying the occurrence and spatial variability of macropores and gravel outcrops in the subsurface of alluvial floodplains is difficult without innovative field studies. This research proposes an integrated field, laboratory and numerical modeling project that includes geophysical imaging, characterization of phosphorus mobility and transport, and tracer and phosphorus injection experiments.

Transformative Hypotheses/Research Advances: The potential for phosphorus leaching is commonly estimated based on point-measurements of soil test phosphorus (STP) or measurements of the sorption capability of disturbed soil samples representing the soil matrix. However, macropores and gravel outcrops, which frequently occur in Ozark alluvial floodplains of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas, are hypothesized to have a significant impact on water and contaminant movement to ground water and on the interaction between stream and floodplain ground water systems. The impact of experimental scale on phosphorus leaching in alluvial floodplains in the Ozark Ecoregion will be evaluated to answer the question of what minimum land area is necessary to adequately quantify phosphorus leaching. This research hypothesizes that phosphorus leaching will generally increase as the scale increases from point to plot scales due to heterogeneity within these floodplain systems. This will be evaluated by measuring phosphorus leaching at the point scale in the laboratory using flow cell experiments and at plot scales (1, 10, and 100 square meters) with replicated infiltration experiments at three riparian floodplain sites in Oklahoma and Arkansas. It is hypothesized that variability in small scale measurements will converge as larger plot scales approach a representative volume element. Through numerical modeling, the research will be extended beyond the three specific floodplain sites by estimating the phosphorus concentration and load entering gravel subsoils for various topsoil depths, storm sizes, and initial phosphorus concentrations for the Ozark Ecoregion.

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