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Water Quality

Over the last 10 years, Ohio's surface waters has seen an influx of quality impairments such as hypoxic “dead zones” and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs). These issues are caused by pollutants from agricultural nutrient runoff, wastewater effluents and other sources that find its way into smaller tributaries which end up in larger bodies of water. Our funded researchers work diligently to understand the causes and paterns of HABs while seeking solutions to improve water quality and reduce nutrient input into our water bodies. Additionally, our researchers investigate other emerging water quality issues, such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).


“Maumee River Sediments as Nitrogen Source or Sink to Lake Erie: the Competing Role of Ammonium Recycling and Denitrification.”

    Dr. Mark McCarthy, Wright State University

“Effects of Harmful Algal Blooms on Stress and Immune Functions in Freshwater Reptiles and Amphibians”

    Dr. Jeanie Refsnider, University of Toledo

“Characterizing the Link Between Algal Bloom Biomass and Methane Production in Ohio Reservoirs”

    Dr. Ishi Buffam, University of Cincinnati


For list of completed projects and their reports visit publication tab.

“Effectiveness of Data Buoys as Early Warning Systems for cHABs (cyanobacterial Harmful Algal Blooms) in Lake Erie”

     Dr. Justin Chaffin, Ohio State University

Overall, Dr. Chaffin and his team concluded that the buoy tended to underestimate cyanobacteria chlorophyl a (chla) concentrations at 0 m while overestimating the deeper cyanobacteria chla concentrations. These inconsistencies between the buoy data and every-meter data could potentially lead to inaccurate warnings and water treatment procedures. These findings allow for future water researchers to better evaluate their findings and seek more accurate testing methods.

“Quantifying direct groundwater discharge to Lake Erie and vulnerability to hidden nutrient loads”

   Dr. Sawyer's student learning the measurement of groundwater intrusionDr.  Audrey Sawyer, Ohio StateUniversity

The principle findings of this study show that 43% of the U.S. Great Lakes’ coast is vulnerable to groundwater-borne nutrients and Lake Erie has the greatest fraction of vulnerable shoreline. Furthermore, lakebed sediments are a source of dissolved phosphorus at discharge zones and some nitrate removal occurs along groundwater flow paths prior to discharge. The map developed during this research project is freely available and may help tailor strategies aimed toward reducing nutrient loading in Lake Erie and other lake systems.


“Determining Components for a Phosphorus Interceptor to Reduce Harmful Algal Blooms in the Western Lake Erie Basin”

   Dr. Daryl Dwyer, University of Toledo

Dr. Dwyer and his students investigated local and cheaply sourced materials that may be used in a simple nutrient interceptor for tile drainage, including zebra mussel shells, quarry-derived limestone and water treatment plant residuals.  In 300-minute trials, water treatment plant residuals allowed for continuous removal of phosphorus and a 10 – 15% reduction in phosphorous levels.