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Blanchard Watershed Modeling. Laura Weintraub, Amanda Flynn, Joe DePinto Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program 516(e) Meeting May 18, 2011. Western Basin Lake Erie. Concerns Sedimentation Increasing SRP loads Algae blooms Maumee Basin Largest tributary sediment source to Lake Erie

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Blanchard watershed modeling

Blanchard Watershed Modeling

Laura Weintraub, Amanda Flynn, Joe DePinto

Great Lakes Tributary Modeling Program 516(e) Meeting

May 18, 2011

Western Basin Lake Erie

  • Concerns

    • Sedimentation

    • Increasing SRP loads

    • Algae blooms

  • Maumee Basin

    • Largest tributary sediment source to Lake Erie

    • Highly agricultural watershed (~80%)

    • Focus of WLEB Partnership

  • Maumee Bay / Toledo Harbor dredging

    • Annual volume: ~640,000 yd3 (2004-08)

    • Annual cost: ~$5 million

Blanchard river watershed project overview
Blanchard River Watershed: Project Overview

  • Fine-scale Watershed Models of the Maumee Basin


  • Continue effort to apply fine-scale models to Maumee watersheds (build upon Upper Auglaize)

  • Quantify sediment and nutrient loading

  • Evaluate land management alternatives to estimate potential benefit from reduced loading

  • Support broader sediment and nutrient modeling efforts of the lower Maumee River and Maumee Bay

    Funding Under 516(e)

    Timeline: Jul 2009 to Oct 2010

Integrated project team
Integrated Project Team


Billy Johnson

Contracting, Technical Review

USACE- Buffalo District

Byron Rupp

Funding, Technical Review, Project Oversight


Joe DePinto, Greg Peterson

Laura Weintraub

Amanda Flynn, Pranesh Selvendiran

Technical Lead, Project Management, Reporting


Jim Stafford, Steve Davis

Soils, Crop Management

Heidelberg Univ.

Pete Richards

Historical WQ Data

Project Team


Ron Bingner, Fred Theurer

AnnAGNPS Model Support


Greg Koltun

Hydraulic Geometry, Climate

Univ. of Toledo

Kevin Czajkowski, David Dean

GIS Data (Topography, Land Cover, Soils)

Additional Technical Support

Nutrients(OSU – Libby Dayton)

Point Sources (OEPA)

Blanchard river watershed
Blanchard River Watershed

  • Population : 91,266

  • Area : 771 miles2

  • 6 major subbasins within 6 counties

  • Low slope (typically < 2%)

  • Poorly drained soils (42% hydric)

  • Cropland > 80% (Beans, Corn, Wheat)

  • Drains into the Auglaize River

Annagnps background
AnnAGNPS Background

Developed by USDA-ARS

  • Continuous simulation of surface runoff and pollutant loading

  • Incorporates revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE)

  • Provides most utility at monthly or annual scales

    Models flow, suspended solids, and nutrients

  • Simulates direct surface runoff and tile drain flow based on SCS curve number

  • Distinguishes between sheet and rill, ephemeral gully erosion

Annagnps sediment erosion
AnnAGNPS Sediment Erosion

  • Sheet and Rill Erosion

    • Overland flow or small concentrated flow paths

    • Calculated based on RUSLE

    • AnnAGNPS algorithmsthoroughly tested

  • Ephemeral Gully Erosion

    • Erosion in deep, narrow channels

    • Calculated based on TI-EGEM

    • Limited testing of AnnAGNPS algorithms

Ephemeral Gully Erosion

Sheet and Rill Erosion

Spatial input data
Spatial Input Data

Model Cell Delineation with Dominant Soils

Potential Ephemeral Gully Locations

3,830 cells

Average cell size = 52 ha

  • Approximately 1500 PEG sites

  • Function of:

    • CTIndex (1000)

    • Watershed topography

2005 2008 crop and tillage rotation
2005-2008 Crop and Tillage Rotation

  • Data from remote sensing - compared with NRCS transect data

  • Developed a detailed four (4) year crop rotation and tillage operation sequence for each cropland cell

  • Removed unrealistic combinations (Example: WNCTCMSN)

Model calibration confirmation datasets and time periods
Model Calibration/Confirmation Datasets and Time Periods

  • Hydrology

    • USGS (04189000) at Findlay – 1923 to Current (daily)

    • USGS (01489950) at Cuba – 2005 to 2007 (daily)

  • Water Quality (solids, nitrogen, phosphorus)

    • Heidelberg at Findlay – 2007 to Current (daily)

    • OEPA seven “sentinel” stations – 2005 to 2006 (~ 2x per month)

    • OEPA ~100 stations – 1991 to 2008 (variable and infrequent)

  • Calibration  2002 – 2009

  • Confirmation  1995 – 2001

Hydrology calibration
Hydrology Calibration

  • Calibration resulted in a “good” to “very good” prediction of runoff

  • Runoff slightly over-predicted at Cuba and slightly under-predicted at Findlay

  • Annual performance better than monthly or daily

Hydrology calibration continued
Hydrology Calibration (continued)

  • Runoff under-predicted late winter/early spring and over-predicted summer/early fall time periods

Water quality calibration sediment
Water Quality Calibration (Sediment)

  • Annual performance “very good”

  • Monthly and daily performance less robust ranging from “fair to good”

  • Ephemeral gully erosion was 85% of the total landscape erosion

Water quality calibration total phosphorus and total nitrogen
Water Quality Calibration (Total Phosphorus and Total Nitrogen)

  • “Poor” to “fair” performance

  • Sensitive to initial soil concentrations

  • Limitations in model capabilities for nutrient cycling

  • Fertilizer application timing in model may not reflect “on the ground” practices

Total P

Total N

Annagnps model application
AnnAGNPS Model Application

  • Goal: Test the impact of land management alternatives on watershed loadings

  • Process:

    • Coordinate with stakeholders to develop a set of reasonable BMPs/land management alternativesNRCS, Blanchard River Watershed Partnership, Environmental Defense Fund, Putnam Soil and Water Conservation District, Ohio DNR,Northwest Ohio Flood Mitigation Partnership

    • Translate BMPs into model, direct or indirect representations

    • Run scenarios and interpret results

Selected management alternatives
Selected Management Alternatives

  • Tile Drain Management

  • Conservation Tillage

  • Cover Crops

  • Cropland Conversion to Grassland

    • random cropland (~10%) to grassland

    • targeted cropland (~10%) to grassland

  • Improved Nutrient Management

  • All Natural Watershed

  • Combined Management

    • conservation tillage + cropland to grassland + nutrient management

Example bmp scenario
Example BMP Scenario

Convert dominant highly erodible cells to improved rotation and tillage

Rotating Corn and Beans with Conservation Tillage


Continuous Corn with Traditional Till


Moldboard plow

Mulch till

  • Converted 7,683 acres

  • 2.5 % of total crop area

  • 56 watershed cells

continuous corn with traditional till

corn/bean rotation with conservation till

Sediment alternative scenario results
Sediment Alternative Scenario Results

Base versus Combined Management

  • Random cropland conversion = -2%

  • Targeted cropland conversion = -54%

  • Combined management = -60%

Sediment maps
Sediment Maps

Base Case

Combined Management Scenario

Example: Sediment load reduction in Lye Creek Watershed due to

improved land management practices

Phosphorus alternative scenario results
Phosphorus Alternative Scenario Results

Base versus Combined Management

  • Cover crops across all conventional tilled land = -25%

  • Reduce fertilizer by 60% = -21%

  • Combined management = -24%

Nitrogen alternative scenario results
Nitrogen Alternative Scenario Results

Base versus Combined Management

  • Conservation tillage = -24%

  • Cover crops across all conventional tilled land = -39%

  • Combined management = -75%

Project summary
Project Summary

  • Fine-scale model adequately simulates runoff and suspended sediment on annual basis

  • Less confidence in simulation of TN and TP loading

  • Potential land management alternatives explored to estimate possible benefits

  • Targeting placement of BMPs to highly erodible areas likely to result in higher reductions of loads

  • Final report available from GLC (October 19, 2010)

Recommendations for future work
Recommendations for Future Work

  • Examine additional management scenarios:

    • Seasonal variations of tile drains and nutrient application

    • Conversion to conservation tillage, cover crops, or grassland

  • Investigate and potentially refine nutrient algorithms

  • Investigate / ground-truth ephemeral gully erosion algorithms

  • Use model to support watershed action plan development

  • Apply fine-scale models to other Maumee Basin watersheds (e.g., Tiffin)

  • Coordinate with modeling to characterize sediment and nutrient transport in the lower Maumee River / Toledo Harbor