riparian rap

Our Lily is published

Lily takes a grab sample, March 2008

Lily
Hwang was knee-deep in Broad Hollow Creek in Freeburg, Ill. when she answered a
call warning her of an inland hurricane heading her way.  She was collecting a water sample for
her master’s thesis, and the rain had already started.  She leaned over an automated storm
sampler, screwdriver in hand, trying to repair it as the rainwater soaked her
back. 
If
the storm sampler’s sensor didn’t trip as waters began to rise, her data would
be no good.  So she finished the
repairs before heading to safety.
We
hired Lily as Ecohydrologist after she finished her master’s because we admired
her commitment to her research and her work in river conservation.
Last
week, Lily’s data was published in the journal Water, Air, & Soil Pollution, in an article entitled Whole Catchment Land Cover Effects on Water Quality in the Lower Kaskaskia Watershed (J. Miller, J. Schnoonover, K. Williard & C.
Hwang). 
In the article, the
authors look at the effects of land cover on water quality in southern Illinois.
Lily and her colleagues
found elevated levels of several nutrients (including orthophosphate, ammonium
and nitrate) and E. coli in
agricultural and urban areas, and orthophosphate and E. coli levels exceeded the USEPA criteria in both
areas.  Likely sources of these
elevated nutrient and fecal levels include fertilizer and runoff. Sewage
systems, particularly in urban areas, may also be another contributing source.
In short, fertilizers used
for agricultural purposes are ending up in streams, and they’re changing the
balance of plant and animal life. 
Meanwhile, bacteria that grow in fecal matter are showing up in the
streams, too, likely from livestock and urban sewage systems.
“Knowing
the sources of water toxins is important,” Lily says, because it helps land
managers understand and improve management practices.
For
example, she says, problems arise in sewage systems that were built decades ago
that didn’t account for the possibility that sewage can overflow and mix with
sources of drinking water.
Lily’s
role in the study helped researchers “get to the beginning of the story of
urban [development]” and how it affects watersheds, she says. 
“People will develop
the land, whether we want them to or not,” Lily says.  But understanding problems with
development that have occurred in the past will help land managers improve
practices in the future.
Aside from land managers and
city planners, Lily stresses the importance of educating young people about the
interconnectivity of a watershed. 
She hopes that to younger generations, water conservation, and every
small thing that helps or hinders it, will be as recognizable as recycling
programs are to people her age.
Which is why we’re so proud
to have Lily on our team.  She had
a strong commitment to our mission long before we found her, and she continues
to work out of her passion at LRRD as our community educator, curriculum
developer, consultant and researcher.