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Embarras River Watershed Project - Wetlands & Bioreactors

Snapshot: This project, which began in the fall of 2011 and ended in the summer of 2016, was focused on the Embarras River watershed, north of Camargo in Champaign and Douglas counties. We were supported by a competitive funding program within USDA. Our project is focused on on the effectiveness of constructed wetlands and woodchip bioreactors, both of which are placed at the end of tile lines before they enter a ditch or stream. We also wanted to get the word out about these conservation techniques, and have demonstration sites in the watershed. The idea is that wetlands and bioreactors could greatly reduce the amount of nitrate from a tile line before it enters a stream or river. We monitored three wetlands in the center of the watershed, and and three bioreactors in other areas of the watershed. Another important aspect was learning what you think about these practices and water quality in the watershed, and what might lead you to consider one of them on your farm. See the more information section below if you want to learn about wetlands and bioreactors, and if they may be right for your farm.

Team: The lead investigator was Mark David, a professor in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences (NRES), with co-investigators Courtney Flint (NRES), George Czapar (University of Illinois Extension), Richard Cooke (Agricultural and Biological Engineering, ABE), Lowell Gentry (NRES), and Bob Hudson (NRES).

The Embarras River

Embarras River at the outlet of the watershed. This is the USGS flow gaging site near Camargo, Illinois. We sample here every week, and every day at high flows to determine how much nitrate leaves the watershed. On the water quality data page we show the long-term pattern of nitrate in the watershed.

Wetland (factsheet)

This is one of our wetlands, along with a buffer strip along the river. A tile was diverted into it, and nitrate is removed before it flows into the Embarras River, which is in the background. The longer the water can stay in the wetland, the more nitrate is removed. These wetlands also provide habitat for ducks and other wildlife. Two videos are available: video 1, video 2.

Bioreactor (factsheet)

This is a tile bioreactor installed in the watershed (March 2012). Tile flow is diverted in and out of a trench, lined with plastic, and filled with wood chips. This helps to remove the nitrate. A video about bioreactors can be viewed here.

More information: This project has now ended. Fact sheets are available on wetlands and bioreactors, summarizing what we learned from this project. Videos that we helped to make that included what we learned are available on wetlands (video 1 and video 2) and bioreactors. Our technical research results (journal publications) can be found here.

A non-technical summary of the project is available, as is the summary from the proposal. If you have any questions about any aspect of the project, what we found, or any concerns or comments, please contact Mark David at 217-333-4308.

Local Cooperators: We had many local cooperators who helped us to find farmers and get the word out about these end-of-tile techniques. We thank all of them.

Last modified August 31, 2016