Rapid Response Survey of Cyanobacteria Toxin Levels Downstream of North Fork Shenandoah River Algal Bloom After Tropical Storm Ida, 2021 Archives

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Rapid Response Survey of Cyanobacteria Toxin Levels Downstream of North Fork Shenandoah River Algal Bloom After Tropical Storm Ida, 2021

The Virginia Department of Health issued a Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) Advisory for a 53-mile stretch of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River on August 10, 2021 (Figure 1, left). Samples from multi-species algal mats on the river bottom contained harmful levels of toxins produced by cyanobacteria. Three weeks later, Tropical Storm Ida passed over the North Fork, dumping torrential rain on the watershed. Sharply rising streamflows were expected to scour the benthic algal mats, potentially lysing their cells and releasing toxins as they washed downstream. The ICPRB’s Emergency River Spill Model (ERSM) indicated the scoured material’s leading edge would reach the Potomac River mainstem by September 2nd – 4th and Great Falls near Washington, D. C. by September 3rd – 6th.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality staff confirmed the algal mats were scoured off the river bottom. Water samples collected by ICPRB at the Shenandoah River mouth indicate the storm’s high flows diluted the algal cells and their associated toxins to below-detection levels before they reached the Potomac River. If flows had been less intense, we hypothesize the scoured material and toxins could potentially have reached the Potomac River mainstem. More advanced flow modeling and additional sampling during algal blooms could better characterize the potential transport of scoured or senescing algal blooms in the Shenandoah River under different river conditions.

Scientist sends testing equipment attached to a rope over the side of a bridge. Shenandoah river is below the bridge.

Rt. 340 bridge over Shenandoah River near Harpers Ferry, WV

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2020 Washington Metropolitan Area Drought Exercise

This report describes activities conducted during the 2020 drought exercise. The exercise was virtual, and took place on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, November 16-18, from 7:30 AM to 4:00 PM.
Communications during the exercise were via telephone, email, and Microsoft Teams Meeting, and all
operations were “simulated.” Twice daily email reports were sent out to stakeholders reporting on current flow and demand conditions and on simulated operations. The exercise included two special events:

  • An actual test release from Little Seneca Reservoir, which was conducted over an approximately
    12-hour period, beginning at 10:00 AM on Tuesday, November 17.
  • A webinar by Hazen & Sawyer on the use of the Potomac OASIS model to provide probabilistic
    information on future streamflows and reservoir storage levels. A PDF of the webinar on forecast informed reservoir operations is available.

Learn more about previous drought exercises and the ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac on the Drought Monitoring and Operations page.

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2020 Washington Metropolitan Area Water Supply Reliability Study: Demand and Resource Availability Forecast for the Year 2050

Every five years since 1990, ICPRB’s Section for Cooperative Water Supply Operations on the Potomac (CO-OP) has conducted a water demand and resource availability forecast for the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. These studies assess whether or not the current water supply system will be able to meet the needs of the region 20 or more years in the future.

Learn more about these reports on the CO-OP Long-Term Planning page.

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Integrating Sustainable Water Resource Management and Land Use Decision-Making

Human uses of land and water are directly linked and must, therefore, be managed with each other in mind. This paper puts forward an approach for integrating sustainable water resource management into local land use decision-making in the Potomac basin. The approach includes developing a clear understanding of the current regulatory, programmatic, and financial approaches to land use management; identifying opportunities from innovation; and developing a flexible, stakeholder-based framework for moving forward. Four opportunities for innovation were identified in the Potomac basin utilizing this approach, including enhancing coordination and access to information, promoting incentives to achieve desired outcomes, encouraging and promoting innovation, and integrating programs to achieve multiple objectives. The successful integration of land and water decision-making requires a sustained, long-term commitment to improvement rather than a one-time fix mentality. Initial steps for implementation include identifying and engaging diverse partners, as well as establishing channels for information dissemination. The lessons learned from this work may prove valuable to decision-makers in other regions to holistically manage diverse land and water resources.

The article was published in Water 202012(8), 2282; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12082282.

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Streamflow Alteration from Impervious Cover: Are All Watersheds Created Equal?

Abstract

Very small amounts of impervious cover can impact streamflows. In the Potomac basin, for example, significant streamflow alteration associated with watershed impervious cover >0.5%–2.0% have been found. Since these impacts were found with considerably lower amounts of impervious cover than previously documented in the literature, typically 10%–20%, this study evaluated whether certain watershed characteristics (e.g., watershed area, karst geology, precipitation, soil characteristics, physiographic province, and slope) make a stream reach more susceptible to the impacts of impervious cover than others. The results of this study indicate there are differences in streamflow sensitivity to impervious cover given certain landscape characteristics. The relationships of watershed characteristics with streamflow alteration in flashiness, high flow duration, and low pulse duration were evaluated. Flashiness alteration was positively correlated with impervious cover and influenced by watershed slope and area. High flow duration alteration was negatively correlated with impervious cover and influenced by mean annual precipitation and slope. Low pulse duration was poorly correlated with the watershed characteristics under consideration. These differences may assist in land management efforts and heighten awareness of the environmental impacts of impervious cover.


The full article was published in the Journal of the American Water Resources Association54(6), 1169-1374, and is available at https://doi.org/10.1111/1752-1688.12681.