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Georgia Journal of Science

Article Title

USING VOLUNTEER DATA TO EVALUATE OF LAND USE FACTORS AFFECTING WATER QUALITY IN THE HIWASSEE RIVER BASIN

Abstract

Historically, Appalachia has struggled with maintaining acceptable water quality due to land use activities such as mining, deforestation, and agriculture. This project determined the effects of land use on water quality parameters such as dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and pH. We used data collected by volunteers from 2011 to 2019 through the Georgia Adopt-A-Stream program, which included 41 sites in five watersheds within the Hiwassee River basin. For each site, we utilized data from USGS StreamStats that described basin characteristics (e.g. mean basin slope, watershed area, stream slope, etc.) and land use characteristics, such as the percentage of forested, agriculture, developed, and impervious area. By combining these data sources, we determined (1) if water quality parameters differed among watersheds, (2) if water quality was correlated to land use parameters, and (3) if modeling could predict impacts of land use on water quality. Significant differences in conductivity (P = 0.025) and dissolved oxygen (P = 0.023) existed between watersheds. Water quality parameters of conductivity (P < 0.001) and dissolved oxygen (P = 0.012) were significantly correlated to forested cover. Conductivity was also significantly correlated to the amount of developed area (P < 0.001) and impervious surface (P < 0.001) upstream of a site. No significant relationships existed for pH. When accounting for differences in site characteristics and basins, impervious area was a significant predictor (P < 0.001) of conductivity, and developed area was a significant predictor of dissolved oxygen (P = 0.009) and pH (P = 0.001). Based upon results, we recommend that developed and impervious land use be limited and carefully considered within the watershed. Results of this study are valuable in identifying problem sites and watersheds, identifying harmful land use activities, guiding recommendations to stakeholders and policymakers, and supporting acquisition of future grants to enact restoration.

Acknowledgements

YHC Dept of Biology; Appalachain Regional Commission

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