Phosphorous Levels Declining in Illinois RiverWed, 05 Mar 2014 14:34:41 CST
A recent study from researchers at the University of Arkansas highlights water quality improvements within the Illinois River watershed. Water quality concerns related to elevated phosphorus (P) concentrations in northeastern Oklahoma watersheds (Eucha Spavinaw and Illinois River watersheds) have been the focus of regional and national attention and have resulted in increased regulation and litigation.
Researchers recently examined in-stream P concentration data spanning from 1997 to 2009 within the Illinois River water-shed. Results showed that flow-adjusted P concentrations have been decreasing since 2003 in the Illinois River at Arkansas Highway 59, at Watts, Oklahoma and further downstream at Tahlequah, Oklahoma.
These decreases are tied to the reductions in waste water treatment effluent P, which occurred in 2002. However, changes in agricultural management practices are also likely responsible for P reductions and include: exporting the majority of poultry litter outside nutrient sensitive watersheds, implementation of best management practices, strict regulations related to land application of manure and mandatory manure management education for poultry producers and manure applicators.
The study also found that flow-adjusted P concentrations in Flint Creek, an Illinois River tributary, have been increasing over time until 2007, at which point a slight decrease in P concentrations was observed. This decrease was most likely due to reductions in waste water treatment effluent P concentrations discharged into Flint Creek beginning in 2007. It should be noted that long-term P trends in Flint Creek will impact long-term trends of downstream sites such as Tahlequah.
Overall, it does look promising that P concentrations were decreasing in the Illinois River watershed and may continue to decline due to reductions in effluent P concentrations and continued improvements in agricultural land management.
By Josh Payne, Ph.D., Area Animal Waste Management Specialist, OSU Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering This article appears in the latest Poultry Practices newsletter.
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