EPA launches new model to help clean up Illinois River Watershed

October 7, 2015

After several years of combined efforts between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), local stakeholders, states and tribes in both Arkansas and Oklahoma, the EPA has launched a program to clean the Illinois River Watershed. Built on two highly specialized computer models, the Illinois River Watershed Modeling Program will help identify strategies to reduce water pollution in the hopes of meeting water quality standards throughout the watershed.

The Illinois River Watershed (IRW) has long contained elevated levels of phosphorus, a naturally occurring nutrient that becomes a pollutant when saturated in water by human activity. Increased phosphorus levels boost algae growth beyond levels the ecosystem can support. Significant increases in algae harm water quality, food resources and habitats and decrease the oxygen that fish and other aquatic life need to survive.

The new Modeling Program will reproduce the conditions of the IRW, allowing researchers to forecast different pollution control methods and evaluate each option’s potential to improve water quality. These efforts will speed up research that allows conservationists to determine the most effective and efficient strategies.

Not only does rolling out a solution like this require researching and building the model itself, but the program must take a long road to approval before it can be put to use. Before launching the program, the EPA completed an internal calibration and validation of both model’s operating systems, as well as an independent peer review of the Modeling Program.

Next, the EPA will work with local state and tribal partners to review the Modeling Program and underlying computer models. The EPA will then hold a public meeting to review the Modeling Program and underlying computer models, discuss next steps and take comments from all stakeholders.

Then, finally, the model will be used to inform future public policy decisions regarding the watershed it represents.

To combat water pollution, such a complex model is not always necessary. Environmental consultants can often help determine which water remediation technologies will best serve your environmental needs.