Advances in Real-Time Stormwater Data Acquisition, Management, and Analysis in the Tahoe Basin
Lake Tahoe has been losing its famed clarity since the late 1960s due to excessive loading of nutrients and fine sediment particles (FSP). Urban areas have been identified as being responsible for about 70% of fine sediment particle loading, 40% of phosphorus loading, and 15% of nitrogen loading to the lake. In 2011, the USEPA approved a Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for these constituents. The TMDL, which was jointly developed by the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board and Nevada Division of Environmental Protection, specifies significant reductions in loadings from urban stormwater.
In response to the TMDL, the Tahoe Regional Stormwater Monitoring Program (RSWMP) has been implemented by the Tahoe Resource Conservation District (Tahoe RCD) to track pollutant loading over time and document progress toward achieving water quality improvements. This program is intended to monitor and evaluate changes in the status and trends of runoff and dry weather flow pollutant concentrations, loading rates and other indicators of stormwater quality from the urban environment around Lake Tahoe. The data collected through RSWMP help to assess whether policy and management actions taken to control urban runoff loads are resulting in the attainment of load reduction targets.
With a focus on FSP and nutrients in stormwater, the monitoring program produces several data streams at several locations in the Tahoe Basin including continuous precipitation, flow, and turbidity, as well as flow-weighted composite water quality samples. While the data collected are immensely useful, the sheer quantity produced has become difficult for the Tahoe RCD to efficiently manage and analyze. To assist with this, the Tahoe RSWMP Data Management System (DMS) was developed in collaboration with the Tahoe RCD.
The RSWMP DMS is a web-based application for data management, visualization, and TMDL reporting. It couples the Tahoe Stormwater and BMP Database, which was developed to help standardize and centralize stormwater data collected by different groups in Tahoe, with the Monitoring Site Management Tool (MSMT), which was developed to provide remote access to equipment and sensors at monitoring sites. The DMS allows users to produce stormwater quality data reports, conduct trend analyses, access BMP performance summaries, and download published data. The DMS also provides data review and quality control functions for real-time data streams, interactive methods for calculating event mean concentrations (EMCs) from discrete samples, and interactive data visualization.
The purpose of this presentation is discuss the unique attributes of stormwater monitoring in Tahoe, demonstrate the RSWMP DMS and discuss the efficiencies gained with real-time data acquisition, management, visualization, and reporting. The primary features, technologies, and methods employed will be described along with lessons learned through the development process. Finally, the presentation will discuss how the Tahoe RCD, jurisdictions, regulators, and other stakeholders in the Tahoe Basin are collaborating to improve the quality of this outstanding national resource.
Dr. Heyvaert is a limnologist at the Desert Research Institute with professional experience in a variety of aquatic ecosystems. His fields of interest include biogeochemistry, paleolimnology and watershed management. He has worked for many years on water quality issues in the Lake Tahoe Basin, with an applied research focus on the effective design of stormwater monitoring systems and performance evaluation of Best Management Practices (BMPs).
Mr. Leisenring has 15 years of water resources and watershed management experience working on projects for a variety of private and public sector clients. He specializes in environmental data analysis, regulatory compliance, pollutant source control, stormwater treatment and management, and watershed based approaches. His professional experience has included conducting water quality assessments, developing decision support tools, preparing and implementing monitoring plans, and working with academics, regulators, and program managers to identify mutually agreeable solutions to complex water resources problems.
Dr. Susfalk is a research scientist with expertise in surface water quality, watershed hydrology, water conservation, soil chemistry, and forest soils. He has worked extensively on soils and water quality issues of the semi-arid forests of the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains for the past fourteen years. Many of Dr. Susfalk’s projects relate to understanding and estimating the transport of nutrients and suspended sediments in streams, rivers, and lakes. In the Lake Tahoe Basin, he is interested in the impact of on-shore pollutants on near shore water quality.
Ms. Buxton has been monitoring stormwater in the Lake Tahoe Basin for 16 years, beginning with stormwater research that ultimately informed the Lake Tahoe TMDL. She was instrumental in building the partnerships and getting the grant funding necessary to develop RSWMP’s guiding document and implement the program in the Basin. She and her staff are the primary users of the RSWMP DMS and utilize the advanced system to provide stormwater regulators and managers with the information they need to continue making progress toward Lake Tahoe TMDL pollutant load reduction targets.