St. Joseph River, Indiana
An ARS Benchmark Research Watershed
Collaborators and cooperating Agencies and Groups
St. Joseph River (DeKalb County, IN) - The total drainage area of this
basin is approximately 281,000 ha overlapping Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio,
emptying into the Maumee River in Ft. Wayne, Indiana (Figure B11, HUC04100003).
The area to be evaluated is the Cedar Creek watershed, encompassing 71,000
ha, defined from the point where Cedar Creek empties into the St. Joseph
River, just northeast of Ft. Wayne, IN. The majority of this watershed
is within DeKalb County, Indiana. Three small sub-watersheds within the
Cedar Creek watershed have been selected for detailed monitoring.
The watershed is primarily agricultural, with approximately 64% in cropland
and 15% in pasture or forage. Woodlands and wetlands are found on 10%,
while the remaining 11% consist of urban, industrial, farmsteads, airports,
golf courses, and other land uses. Of the cropland, approximately 54% is
in corn, 37% in soybeans, and 9% in wheat. Primary cropping consists of
corn-soybean rotations and varying tillage practices. Cultivation practices
in DeKalb County from 1990 to 2004 are summarized: (a) corn: 27% No-till,
65% Conventional Till; and 8% Reduced Till; soybean: 67% No-till, 26% Conventional
Till, and 7% Reduced Till.
The topography of the watershed varies from rolling hills in Hillsdale,
Williams, Noble, and Steuben counties to nearly level plains and closed
depressions in DeKalb and Allen counties. The St. Joseph River follows
the Fort Wayne moraine, and flows past numerous low bluffs and terraces.
This indicates that the river was once much wider and deeper. Much of the
St. Joseph River bed is composed of sand and gravel deposits. The average
slope of the river’s bottom is 1.6 feet per mile.
Soils in the watershed were formed from compacted glacial till. The predominate
soil textures are silt loam, silty clay loam, and clay loam. Soil associations
include Miami- Morley, Morley-Glynwood-Blount, and Blount-Pewamo. Erosion
and over-saturation are the major soil limitations.
Water balance data (1) for Cedar Creek Watershed include: Annual Rainfall
- 39.08 in; annual Runoff - 3.53 in. Hydrological characteristics for Cedar
Creek Watershed include discharge data from 1947-2002 (3): Maximum - 5580
cfs; Minimum – na; Mean - 255 cfs; Median – na.
1. Water Quality: Runoff contaminated with sediments, nutrients (P, NO3-,
NH4+), and pesticides. The St. Joseph River serves as the drinking water
supply for the 200,000 people of Fort Wayne. Fort Wayne’s Three Rivers
Filtration Plant processes 34 million gallons of water daily from the St.
2. Fish and Wildlife Habitat: streams and ditches impacted by suspended
sediments that suppressed primary and secondary productivity.
3. Soil Quality: Changes in carbon sequestration as practices are implemented
1. Conservation Crop Rotation 328
2. Cover Crop 340
3. Deep Tillage 324
4. Drainage Water Management 554
5. Fence 382
6. Field Border 386
7. Filter Strip 393
8. Grassed Waterway 412
9. Pasture and Hay Planting 512
10. Pest Management 595
11. Residue Management 329A and 329B
12. Riparian Forest Buffer 391
13. Subsurface Drainage 606
14. Surface Drainage, Field Ditch 607
15. Surface Drainage, main or Lateral 608
16. Water and Sediment Control Basin 638
1. Water Quality: Determine the impact of voluntary, practical, and scientifically
based BMPs on pesticide, nutrient, and sediment loads in source water on
a watershed basis. The ARS research objective is a part of the Source Water
Protection Initiative (SWPI) being implemented in Ohio, Indiana, and Missouri.
2. Modeling: Development of the spatial/historical database necessary
to run the SWAT model uncalibrated, calibrated and validated for the Cedar
Creek watershed and ultimately for the St. Joseph River watershed. SWAT
will be used to assist in the assessment of the benefits of conservation
practices. Determine to what extent the information obtained from the remotely
sensed data can be related to soil profile hydraulic properties.
3. Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) and Soil Quality Assessment: Determine
effects of different practices on DOC/carbon sequestration.
Water Quality: The research is using paired sub watersheds at different
scales within the St. Joseph River Watershed at DeKalb County, Indiana,
to compare surface runoff, subsurface drainage, and stream level water
quality parameters with and without CORE 4 BMPs and/or other BMPs considered
effective for this resource need (as agreed upon and implemented by NRCS
and growers); and using watershed water quality models and long term climatic
data to generate probability estimates of the water quality benefits achievable
through comprehensive implementation of these conservation practices throughout
these watersheds. Since 2002, ARS has identified 11 sub watersheds, ranging
in size from 6 to 10,600 ac, for water quality monitoring.
Modeling: A network of real-time weather stations is currently being constructed
that will provide input to SWAT and will provide insights into the spatial
variability and uncertainty of weather input data. Remotely sensed soil
moisture data will be used to characterize drainage patterns at the watershed
scale and thus determine surface soil hydraulic properties over large areas.
Data is being gathered from producers that will provide input information
from each tract within the monitored watersheds regarding management practices
Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) and Soil Quality Assessment: DOC has been
measured for 2003 and 2004 at each sampling point (Figure 3). Experimentation
is also ongoing regarding the loss of C and N with eroding sediments, and
the possible enrichment of eroding aggregates with labile C and N. In addition,
soil quality sampling is currently being conducted on the small AS1 and
AS2 watersheds and will begin in the Upper Big Walnut (Ohio) watershed
Small Watershed, Field and Plot Scale Experiments: Scientists at the National
Soil Erosion Research laboratory are also designing and implementing additional
experiments at the St Joseph River Watershed to address specific research
issues related to water quality. These research results will help improve
the basic science in watershed hydrology and be used to interpret the water
quality results from monitored sub-watersheds. A list of these research
projects is shown below:
1. Rainfall simulation studies at the field plot scale to quantify effects
tillage on nutrient, pesticide and sediment losses. Tillage treatments
include: conventional no-till, precision-till, and conventional tillage.
In conjunction with the tillage treatment, pesticides studied include atrazine,
metolachlor, glyphosate and aminomethyl-phosphonic acid (AMPA), the primary
metabolite of glyphosate. Runoff samples are also analyzed for: nitrate,
ammonium, total nitrogen, orthophosphate and total phosphorus.
2. Compare the hydrologic response and water quality results from the
controlled field plot rainfall simulation studies to data collected from
monitored subwatersheds (Figure 3) to address the scaling issue in watershed
3. Examine water quality impacts from different surface inlet designs.
In the pothole topography of the St Joe River Watershed, surface inlets
are commonly used to provide drainage of excessive water from depressions.
This rapid surface drainage may carry pollutant-laden runoff to drainage
tiles and ditches. Beginning in 2005, a pair of closed depressions each
draining approximately 3 ha (AD1 and AD2, Figure 3) will be installed with
tile riser (current practice, or control treatment) and blind inlet (proposed
BMP). Special flumes will be installed in the drain line to monitor flow
and water quality. Additional depressional areas will be identified and
instrumented as the research progresses.
4. Evaluate practices to control in-stream transport of nutrients in managed
drainage ditches and potential physical and chemical treatments of drainage
ditch sediments to reduce downstream delivery of nutrients.
1. Indiana T by 2000 Watershed Soil Loss Transects
2. Long-Term Hydrologic Impact Assessment model, Pandey, S., Harbor J.,
B., A Web-Based Tool to Assess Impacts of Land Use Change. Urban and Regional
Information Systems Association, Annual Conference Proceedings. 2001.
3. US Geological Survey, Water Resources Data
Collaborators and Cooperating Agencies and Groups
St Joseph River Watershed Initiative is a local non-profit organization
that cooperates with ARS in maintaining the water quality sampling sites,
preserving the collected samples, collecting land use and management practice
data in the study area and communicating with land owners and farm operators
for the SWPI/CEAP project.
NRCS (State and Field Offices) is providing technical assistance and program
support for identified conservation practices to be implemented in the
City of Ft Wayne is analyzing the weekly grab samples collected from the
watershed for pesticides.
America’s Clean Water Federation is coordinating the SWPI Project and
assisting the congressional support.
Purdue University: Agricultural Economics Department is conducting a social-economic
assessment of conservation effects in the watershed.
State and Local Agencies: Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Indiana
Dept of Natural Resources, Indiana Dept of Environmental Management, Purdue
University Cooperative Extension, and other organizations have been involved
in promoting BMPs for improved water quality.