Water Quality Assessment and Education Projects


Implementation of Best Management Practices in Wellhead Delineation Areas of Turkey Creek Watershed

    Turkey Creek watershed is identified in the 1988 NPS Assessment Report as threatened by agricultural sources, with suspended solids and phosphorus elevated under high flow conditions. Also noted are nutrients, suspended solids, and siltation problems caused largely by excessive erosion. In addition, a survey pf private domestic wells conducted in 1990 by the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service (OCES) found approximately one-third had nitrate concentration above the drinking water standard.

The project will seek to educate the Conservation District Boards and other influential entities in preparation for the Phase II implementation program. Phase I of the project will be a pre-assessment of knowledge, attitudes, practices, and problems in the Turkey Creek project area. (OCC, OCES, ODEQ, OWRB, OSU)


Regulatory Path Analysis for the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)

    All federal agencies are required to integrate the NEPA process into their planning as early as possible. This will avoid delays and head off potential conflicts with other agencies and private groups. The intent of the law is to ensure that government planning and decisions reflect environmental policy and procedures within the Act (40CFR x1501.2). Agency procedures must specify when a proposed action requires an environmental assessment, impact study, or categorical exclusion.

The regulatory flowchart will assist the user through the NEPA process for any proposed action. The flowchart in its simplest form starts with the proposed action, then directs the user through the NEPA process. (Dr. McCowan’s Ph.D. Program Research)


Wellhead Protection Education in the South Canadian Watershed

    The town of Calvin consumes water from two wells in the unconfined Quartenary Terrace Deposits of the Canadian River. Well #1 contains bromoform, chloroform, and dichlorobromomethane, although the concentrations of each constituent are below the MCL. Well #2 has recently been shut down due to contamination of tetrachlorothylene that was reported to exceed the MCL. A delineation of potential contamination sources was performed.

Since potential sources of contaminants are site specific, a field visitation was necessary. Based on the boundaries defined, potential sources of contaminants were identified. To recognize the potential sources of contaminants, an inventory list was developed based on the US EPA’s Guide for Conducting Contamination Source Inventories for Public Drinking Water Supply Protection Programs.

The data were used as inputs to evaluate the methods and procedures for risk assessment using the ‘Priority Setting Approach.’ The results were compared to those obtained by applying the "Oklahoma Risk-Based Corrective Action." (OCC, USEPA)


Wellhead Protection Education for Communities and Homeowners

    This program addressed the protection of the following aquifers; South Canadian, Arbuckle-Simpson, Vamoosa and Garber Wellington. Groundwater is an extremely important resource in Oklahoma, both for drinking water and recharge, to most of the state’s water bodies. More than 30 percent of all drinking water sources are in alluvial and terrace aquifer formations that exchange directly with the major rivers and with deeper formations. These aquifers are addressed through the nonpoint source program because nonpoint sources have the greatest impact on their quality. Protection measures are dependent on education, assessment, and BMP implementation.

This project is an education and BMP implementation for communities in four Southeastern Oklahoma counties. Overall objectives are to implement a complete inventory of pollutant sources in each wellhead delineation zone, establish community action programs to implement ground water protective measures, and educate residents of each community about the source of their drinking water and what they can do to protect it. (OCC, USEPA)


Establishing Nitrate Trends in Oklahoma

    A collection of nitrate data from public and private wells was compiled in a single database. Data from government agencies such as DEQ and OWRB were analyzed using Access DB and displayed using GIS. Landuse and rainfall was interfaced with the data to determine trends in nitrate levels for multiple, single source, and private wells in various locations in Oklahoma. (OSU, ODEQ)  

Water Quality and TMDL Assessment

    A water quality and nonpoint source assessment was conducted in the Lake Texoma drainage area. There are 76 lakes in this area that are listed in the Oklahoma Waterbody Identification List. The necessary limitations on the introduction of pollutants to the waterbody are identified through the development of a TMDL and addressed by the CWA in section 303(d). The water quality based approach includes load allocations (LA) as well as wasteload allocations (WLA).

The water quality-based approach contains the following steps: identification of water quality-limited waters still requiring TMDLs, priority ranking and targeting, TMDL development, implementation of control actions, and assessment of water quality-based control actions.

The Southwest area supports many acres of irrigation. The Elm Fork of the North Fork of the Red River is contaminated by chlorides originating in natural salt seeps and springs near the Texas - Oklahoma border, which makes water unusable for most beneficial purposes. The flows of the North Fork below the mouth of Elm Fork and the Salt Fork of the Red are also unusable due to high chloride concentrations. The Washita River and most of it tributaries contain large concentrations of gypsum and at times carry dissolved mineral concentrations. Because area soils will accept the Washita rivers high sulfate load, its waters are suitable for irrigation, but do not meet public health drinking water standards on a dependable basis. (Dr. McCowan’s Ph.D. Program Research)


Home*A*Syst and Farm*A*Syst Programs

    Home*A*Syst and Farm*A*Syst programs are implemented nationwide. Assessments are preformed for homeowners in Oklahoma to help them identify risks to their water resources. Home*A*Syst has been tailored to meet the needs for Oklahoma and is referred to as Oklahom*A*Syst. This program addresses five major areas of protecting drinking water, and assessments are distributed to homeowners and farmers at public meetings. They include: site assessment, drinking water well management, household wastewater, liquid fuels, and managing household products.

Each educational workshop includes water sample testing for pH, TDS, and Nitrate. Residents are informed of causes of contaminants, alternatives and given BMPs for protecting their drinking water. (OCES)


Wellhead Protection and Water Testing in Rural Minority Communities

    Oklahoma, like other states in the Southern and Central regions, has numerous small communities composed largely of minority populations. These communities are difficult to reach using the traditional extension methods and materials. They typically have limited resource bases, low educational levels, and aging populations and are frequently under-served with respect to education on drinking water protection, community wellhead protection, and waste disposal facilities. There is a persistent need for education on water testing, disinfection, waste disposal practices, and other personal actions to reduce risks and protect human health and the environment.

The water quality related educational needs of these communities present numerous obstacles. Materials like Farm*A*Syst/Home*A*Syst, for example, are less than optimal because they are not easily read, and the print is too small. In addition there is widespread distrust of governmental programs and government workers. Overcoming these obstacles will require specialized materials and involvement of people from the communities.

This project draws on the capabilities of two land grant institutions, Oklahoma State University (OSU) and Langston University (LU), to address the needs of these communities more effectively than either could alone. The need is great, considering that 30 to 60 percent of wells in rural minority communities did not meet the drinking water standard. (USDA, CREES)


GIS Education for Municipal Operators

    Solutions addressing the dilemma of nonpoint source (NPS) pollution are dependent on education, assessment, and best management practices (BMP). Educational programs must provide and simplify complex relationships between NPS and water quality. This study evaluates the impact of using geographical information system (GIS) methodology as part of instruction to water managers by assessing changes in their attitude, knowledge, and planned management practices. (USEPA)  

Groundwater Course

    This course provides a broad coverage of groundwater topics. The format is one that will enable instructors to better understand the basic physical principles of groundwater contamination. Course objectives are development of an understanding of: the hydrological cycle; groundwater movement, aquifer characteristics and principles of groundwater flow; groundwater contamination and potential sources; and to impart a working knowledge of groundwater protection programs.

The on-line component:, "Developing an Understanding of the Hydrologic Cycle," can be accessed on the Internet at http://geomag.gly.fsu.edu/~parker/1000/grndwtr/1000wtr.htm. The hydrologic cycle topic gives the student a general outline of the course. To become familiar with aquifer characteristics and groundwater contamination, the student is referred to http://www.gwconsortium.org/GW.

Course Format: The class lectures were alternated between presentations by Dr. Smolen, Dr. McCowan, and Michael Houts. This forum introduced students to a variety of faculty and staff and to government agency involvement in groundwater concepts. Students were expected to complete reading assignments and participate in exercises performed in the class. Reading materials not only provided essential background information, but also served to encourage independent and critical thinking on topics. Students were evaluated on their understanding of the material through group projects and one exam. (OSU, CREES)


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