Nine Springs Creek was channelized nearly one hundred years ago to drain adjacent wetlands for agricultural expansion. This agricultural legacy, along with urban development in the watershed, has negatively impacted riparian and wetland habitat and water quality throughout the reach. As part of the 2014 Water Resources Management program in the Nelson Institute, I work in a cohort of biologists, chemists, planners, and engineers designing a stream and marsh restoration in Fitchburg, Wisconsin.
Our cohort is investigating the biological, chemical, and physical state of the ecosystems and modeling the benefits of numerous restoration alternatives. We are particularly interested in reconnecting Nine Springs Creek to adjacent floodplains, determining phosphorous loading and cycling on the floodplain, and reestablishing habitat for spawning game fish and migratory birds. We are also working with local citizens to investigate their concerns of pollutant levels and water quality degradation. As a hydroecologist, my contribution is primarily in hydrological modeling, fluvial geomorphology, GIS, and habitat creation. We aim to publish our findings in the Spring of 2015.
Farming in the intermountain west is often limited by climate or water availability. Tomten Farm intentionally developed climate controlled growing spaces from early on in the development of the farm. When I first joined the farm though, it was the water infrastructure that was teetering. A proliferation of high capacity wells higher in the watershed had depleted a once productive on site well and production was being highly impacted.
Over the course of 3 years I helped the farm develop a water budget accounting for seasonal variation in water needs and contributions from annual precipitation averages. We went further by assessing the water harvesting potential of the many large roofs on the property. We designed and installed thousands of gallons of storage tanks into the infrastructure. On the landscape we re-engineered the garden terraces to passively capture and hold spring runoff and monsoon surpluses. Finally, we adopted new conservation practices in the field including more compact spacing, succession plantings synched with the monsoon season, and additional layers of row cover to slow evapotranspiration.