Archive for December, 2011

Why do some watershed groups succeed?

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

February 2012 article (Early View): “Collaborative Watershed Groups in Three Pacific Northwest States: A Regional Evaluation of Group Metrics and Perceived Success,” by B.C. Chaffin, R.L. Mahler, J.D. Wulfhorst, and B. Shafii.

A lot of water policy research concerns regional and national policies and decisions of high-level muckety mucks. This paper is an example of a different policy theme I saw developing at the AWRA Annual Conference in November 2011. It looks at how group members interact at the local level, and how this interaction can be improved.

Why do some watershed groups succeed and other not? This paper uses data collected from a survey instrument to determine the status, structure, and success of watershed groups in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, respectively.

The authors analyzed the extent to which leadership roles and participant satisfaction within PNW watershed groups act as key factors in the groups’ perceived levels of success. They also compared satisfaction levels of six internal core factors (funding, membership, motivation, leadership, mission, and data availability) and related effects upon watershed groups’ perceived levels of success.

They observed a significant positive association between perceived watershed group success and the following watershed group metrics: watershed group funding activities, number of members in a watershed group, motivation of watershed group members, leadership within the watershed group, group mission, and availability of necessary watershed data. It is therefore reasonable to believe that ensuring or increasing group member satisfaction with these internal elements of group structure and function will increase perceived watershed group success.

Overall, watershed groups with clear missions and goals are likely to be more successful than those groups with a lost or unclear focus.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Crop discharge permits

Monday, December 26th, 2011

February 2012 Article (Early View):Crop Discharge Permits for Reduction of Nitrogen Loads to the Baltic Sea,” by Dennis Collentine and Holger Johnsson

A major share of the anthropogenic nitrogen loads coming from the countries around the Baltic Sea originate from farmland. This article describes how a permit system based on the composite market model can be used to evaluate measures that create a demand for permits from nonpoint agricultural sources.

Markets in the Composite Market Model.

The composite market model disaggregates permit transactions into two primary markets and one secondary market with a central role played by a regulatory authority. A system based on three markets allows permit transactions to be separated into individual functional components. This separation into functions allows each of these markets to be developed independently while at the same time contributing information from the transactions to the other markets.

The demand for discharge permits is dependent on regulation. Policies targeting pollution reduction based on economic incentives need to include an element of source control to create markets. Only when discharge sources are forced by regulation to either choose to purchase a permit or cease the load generating activity will there be demand for permits. Requiring a discharge permit for cultivation of particular crops is one form of regulation.

The effect of implementing crop discharge permits are studied on two scales. In the first of these two, retention estimates are available at a high degree of resolution so that estimates can be made of the change in the net load of N from requiring crop discharge permits. On a broader regional scale, while changes in leaching from requiring permits can only be estimated for gross N loads, this scale gives a better indication of the potential for crop permits to meet the reduction targets.

This study demonstrates how the proposed permit system can generate measures that lead to cost efficient reduction of N loads to the Baltic Sea. It is possible to estimate the reduction in N leaching from implementing a system that required discharge permits for cultivation of specific crops. While this reduction is a result of regulation, the proposed permit system allows agricultural producers flexibility in complying with the regulation by allowing a permit to be held that corresponds to the marginal cost of abatement. The advantage is although the regulation achieves the expected reduction the permit system allows for a cost efficient response. The cost to producers creates an economic incentive to allocate crop production in a cost efficient way. The requirement for discharge permits imposes a ceiling on leaching which can successively be lowered by including more crops.

Sure doesn’t look like Kansas! :-)

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Ray Herrmann retiring as AE

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

Ray Herrmann

Under the deliberately vague title, Associate Editor for Watershed Processes and Management, Ray Herrmann has served for many years as my go-to person when I’d open a submitted manuscript and think, “Who the heck do I assign this one to?” He’s that renaissance man who can deal with a multitude of subjects. Though I don’t use him often, more than once I’ve been glad he’s been there. Now, Ray has decided it’s time to retire.

I don’t think I’m going to backfill this AE slot because (1) there’s nobody quite like Ray, and (2) he’s generously offered to help out if I get stuck. Please join me in wishing Ray the best as he rides off into the Rocky Mountain sunset.

December 2011 cover photo

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Fairmount Water Works

The December 2011 issue is in your (real) mailbox — you are a member, aren’t you? Our cover photo was taken during the 2010 AWRA Annual Conference in Philadelphia. Fittingly, the Fairmount Water Works was the venue for the conference’s social evening.

Begun in 1812, the Fairmount Water Works is on the National Register of Historic Places. It no longer supplies water to Philadelphia, but it’s architectural beauty makes it a popular site for tourists. I took the photo from the gazebo extending out into the river. Behind the water works, up on the hill, is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Forecasting TDS

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

February 2012 Article (Early View):Comparison of the Performance of Statistical Models in Forecasting Monthly Total Dissolved Solids in the Rio Grande,” by Shalamu Abudu1, J. Phillip King, and Zhuping Sheng.

Water quality modeling is a useful tool to evaluate the future state of river water in view of actual pollution loading or different management options. Prediction of the river water quality allows the adequate measurements to be taken to keep the pollutants within the permissible limits. This paper presents the application of autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA), transfer function-noise (TFN), and artificial neural networks (ANNs) modeling approaches in forecasting monthly total dissolved solids (TDS) of water in the Rio Grande at El Paso, Texas.

The performances of time series and ANN models in forecasting monthly total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration of the Rio Grande water were compared using one- to three-month-ahead forecasts of the developed models. The results suggested that simple deseasonalized ARIMA models could be used in one- to three-month-ahead TDS forecasting at the study site with a simple, explicit model structure and similar model performance as the TFN and ANN models for better water management in the Basin.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Teton Glaciers Shrinking

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

February 2012 article (Early View): “Glacier Variability (1967-2006) in the Teton Range, Wyoming, United States,” by Jake Edmunds, Glenn Tootle, Greg Kerr, Ramesh Sivanpillai, and Larry Pochop.

First of all, these folks have one of the most beautiful study areas in the world!  I saw a poster on their work and was very tempted to volunteer for field verification. :-)

Wireframe depictions of glaciers

It’s also good science. The team quantified glacier area and volume changes through the use of historical aerial photographs in Wyoming’s Teton Range. Glacier area changes in the Teton Range were estimated for three glaciers using unrectified aerial photography from 1967 to 2006. Accurately comparing old and new materials can be challenging, and their work involves an extensive error analysis. They also examined temperature and snowpack data over the study period.

The total surface area of the three glaciers was 0.53 km2 in 1967 and 0.40 km2 in 2006, a decrease of 25% during the 39-year period. The smallest glacier, Teepe, experienced the greatest area loss (60 ± 3%), whereas the largest glacier, Teton Glacier, lost 17 ± 3% of the 1967 area. Volume loss for the three glaciers was estimated to be 3.20 ± 0.46 million cubic meters over the period of 1967 to 2002. Bottom line: The glaciers are shrinking.

One study alone does not prove world climate is changing, much less that people are causing a change. Nevertheless, glaciers are a long-term integrator of climate effects, a canary in the coal mine, so to speak. Book your reservations to hike the Tetons now.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Wanted: AE for Water Quality Monitoring

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

JAWRA Associate Editors (AE’s) serve as primary advisors to the JAWRA Editor. Responsibilities fall into two areas: reviews and subject development. The Water Quality Monitoring position handles between 15 and 20 papers per year. All manuscripts are handled through our ScholarOne Manuscripts™system, with the AE selecting reviewers and, when reviews return, making a recommendation to the Editor. AE’s are encouraged to seek out qualified authors in their subject areas and encourage them to submit papers to JAWRA. These could be individual submittals or as featured collections of related papers organized around an introduction.

The AE for Water Quality Monitoring sees a lot of interesting and sometimes controversial manuscripts. As mentioned in an earlier posting, Joe Delfino would like to help his replacement (such as Joe can be replaced!) ease into the position. So, the new AE will get a real running start on his or her responsibilities!

Associate editorship is a volunteer position earning our heartfelt thanks and an invitation to our annual AE luncheon. It also offers the opportunity to make a difference on the cutting edge of multidisciplinary water resources. The term of an AE is three years, but may be extended by mutual agreement.

Interested individuals should email the Editor at We are happy to answer any questions. We will hold this position open at a minimum until January 31, (update) February 29, 2012, but early application is encouraged.

Citizen Scientists

Monday, December 5th, 2011

The Wall Street Journal this weekend carried an excellent article, “Citizen Scientists.” Covering the medical field, it described how ordinary citizens are beginning to conduct their own research into medical issues. Their techniques are becoming increasingly sophisticated, though they still often fall short of the “gold standard” of medical research.

The water field has its own version of citizen scientists in the many school and community sampling efforts to study local waters. Though techniques are not always state-of-the-art — flow-adjusted, cross-sectional water-quality sampling, for example, still is a rarity — they contribute valuable information at places not usually visited by government sampling programs.

The Wall Street Journal article mentioned the problem citizen scientists have in extracting data from professional medical research: Competition among researchers causes them to tightly hold onto their data. This is one aspect in which water resources differs from medicine, at least in the United States. Led by EPA and the USGS, virtually all major water-resources databases are freely available to the public. As I’ve said before, we’re lucky not to have the big bucks afflicting our field! ;-)

Joe Delfino moving on … eventually.

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

Joe Delfino

Associate Editor for Water Quality Monitoring Joe Delfino has served JAWRA for what seems like ages. AWRA recognized his accomplishments last year by conferring the honor of AWRA Fellow. What more can I say? Joe has been one of my most valued confidants in editing JAWRA. A large proportion of our articles are much the better for his input.

Joe and I talked in Albuquerque at last month’s Annual Conference. Joe indicated he is thinking about retirement and would like to wind down his involvement with JAWRA. Typical of Joe’s commitment, he’d like to help a replacement ease into the job. So,  please watch for an announcement which will appear shortly.

Thank you, Joe, for all you have done. And, you’re not off the hook yet!

Wiley Online Library Weekend Outage

Friday, December 2nd, 2011

This weekend, December 3-4, 2011, the Wiley Online Library will be pushing through a new release, and it will cause temporary interruptions in access to JAWRA.  There will be a message posted on the website. We apologize for any inconvenience.