Audrey McCrary, John P. Brooks, Renotta K. Smith, Leslie M. Burger, Andrew Lucore, John J. Ramirez-Avila, Tim Schauwecker, Joby M. Prince Czarnecki, Loren Wes Burger, Beth H. Baker

Short-Term Contribution of Conservation Practice Implementation to Water Quality Impairments in Small Streams

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Aquatic Science
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry

Voluntary conservation practice adoption is a key strategy to reduce the transport of non-point source pollutants from agricultural lands to downstream ecosystems. This study assessed the short-term (1 year) efficacy of conservation practices to reduce non-point source sediment, nutrient, and fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) transport from working agricultural lands on the Mississippi State University campus, Mississippi State, MS, USA. Water quality was monitored at three treatment sites downstream of the critical resource areas, two of which had paired reference locations. All five sites were monitored for one year pre- and post-conservation practice implementation. Downstream treatment sites generally had higher nutrient and sediment concentrations than upstream reference sites. The results confirmed that the total nitrogen (TN) concentration was reduced post implementation at only the treatment site with the smallest catchment area (p < 0.01). Water quality impairments from FIB were observed across all sites, while treatment locations with livestock presence were found to have significantly elevated staphylococci and E. coli levels following the conservation practice implementation during the winter period. The results of this study showed minimal improvements to TN transport, and in some cases declines in water quality evidenced by increases in FIB, one year after conservation practice implementation. The implementation of conservation practices did not improve the overall water quality to reference levels in the short-term, despite anticipated long-term benefits.

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