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Computers, GIS Help Prevent Ground Water Contamination

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.--Surrounded by computer screens and hard drives, Bernie Engel creates and analyzes digital images that help keep Indiana ground water clean.

Engel, a Purdue University agricultural engineer, combined a computer model with geographic information systems (GIS) data from satellites to develop a plan to keep agricultural chemicals out of the ground water, which supplies the drinking water for 60 percent of the state's population. For his work, Engel received the 1998 Research Award from the Purdue School of Agriculture on May 6.

His data base and program are the first to pinpoint potential water problems field-by-field, and the first of their kind on the Internet at http://danpatch.ecn.purdue.edu/~napra/nutrient.html. That Web site still is under construction, but pesticide users eventually will be able to use it as they decide how much of a chemical is safe to use on each field.

The Office of the Indiana State Chemist used Engel's system to write the Indiana State Pesticide Management Plan. The plan identifies and protects parts of the state most likely to suffer water pollution from chemical spills or from excess pesticide or fertilizer applications. Other states are modeling their plans after Indiana's, Engel said.

"[Engel's research] is certain to be one of the central agricultural engineering achievements of the 21st century. It offers the prospect for highly cost-effective use of resources and the virtual elimination of nonpoint source pollution of surface and ground water," wrote Alfred Krause and Michael Bland in a letter supporting Engel's nomination for the Purdue award. Krause is the national expert for water conservation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Bland is chief of the software development section for EPA Region Five.

Engel's methods already are used by NASA's Kennedy Space Center, the U.S. Army, the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
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Contact: Rebecca Goetz
rjg@pop.aes.purdue.edu
765-494-0461
Purdue University
28-May-1998


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