Getting to the Bottom of Buffers

What exactly is going on in the water flowing beneath the surface from fields into waterways? Smith Partners Sustainability Fellow Katherine McLellan is digging up the answer.  Ms. McLellan and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota Water Resources Center are getting to the bottom of how buffers and alternative practices can help Minnesota attain water quality goals. 

One hot topic in the buffer conversation is whether we can identify sound alternatives to buffers.  Mc. McLellan is investigating the sources of nitrate to shallow groundwater in riparian zones of the Cottonwood River in southwestern MN.  “I hope to be able to determine the relative amounts of nitrate from various water sources such as tile drainage, deep groundwater, and precipitation,” she reports.  “If we can calculate the amount of nitrate that is taken up in the riparian zone before it reaches the stream, this information will help to determine which sources of nitrate are most in need of BMPs or alternative management practices.”