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School of Public and Environmental Affairs

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University Communications

Last modified: Thursday, March 24, 2011

IU team to present results of Indian Creek water-quality study

March 24, 2011

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- An Indiana University team will present findings from a study of water quality in central Indiana's Indian Creek watershed at a public meeting Tuesday (March 29). The meeting will take place at 7 p.m. at the Morgantown Community Center, 269 W. Washington St. in Morgantown, Ind.

The IU team found high levels of E. coli bacteria, nutrients and suspended solids in streams throughout the watershed, said Bill Jones, clinical professor in the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, who led the investigation.

Indian Creek

SPEA master's students Melanie Arnold, left, and Carissa Moncavage collect samples as part of the Indian Creek watershed study.

The watershed lies between Martinsville and Trafalgar, encompassing more than 60,000 acres of land in Johnson and Morgan counties. It drains into the West Fork of the White River just south of Martinsville.

The IU team was contracted for the investigation to supplement the Indian Creek Watershed Management Plan, developed by the Indian Creek Steering Committee and the Johnson County Soil and Water Conservation District to preserve and improve water quality within the watershed.

The 2010 summer sampling examined water quality, riparian habitat and aquatic macroinvertebrate communities at 19 stream sites within the watershed and from one reference site located outside of the watershed. The supplemental sampling provides baseline water quality data to address many of the concerns raised by the Steering Committee. It also provides the information necessary to evaluate the success of future programs designed to improve water quality within the watershed.

The study resulted from a decision four years ago by the Steering Committee to compile a list of concerns regarding water quality within the Indian Creek watershed. High levels of E. coli had been recorded, leading to many of the streams being listed as "impaired" by the state. Other concerns included soil erosion, high nutrient levels, lake water quality and livestock waste in streams.

The IU investigation found that human land uses within the watershed, particularly agricultural uses, were negatively affecting the water quality in Indian Creek.

During periods of high water flows, 14 of the 19 sampling sites had E. coli bacteria concentrations that were greater than the state limit. At normal water flow, E. coli concentrations were above the limit at 12 of the 19 sites. Large loads of nitrate-nitrogen were being exported from the watershed during high flows, and approximately 794,100 lb/day of sediment was found to be leaving the Indian Creek watershed during high flows.