Tufts environmental engineers tackle destructive nutrients in nations waterways

MEDFORD/SOMERVILE, Mass. Researchers from Tufts University have received two three-year grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) totaling more than $1.2 million to study how to control the destructive effects of excessive nutrients in waterways an environmental problem that threatens aquatic plant and animal life across the country.

"Tufts is a national leader in computer modeling for urban water quality issues," said Steven Chapra, who holds the Louis Berger Chair of Computing and Engineering at Tufts. "These grants will leverage our expertise in developing computer models that will reflect the ways in which nutrients--such as lawn fertilizer, animal waste and other substances--enter America's waterways."

The computer models developed by Chapra and his team of Tufts civil and environmental engineers, including Paul Kirshen, Richard Vogel, John Durant and Lin Brown, will help scientists and communities across the country more effectively manage nutrients.

"Eutrophication" occurs when these nutrients foster excessive growth of plant life in the water, using up oxygen in the water and killing aquatic life. The lack of oxygen also leads to the release of more nutrients as well as other pollutants from sediments into the water.

In recent years, the U.S. government has mandated that local governments adopt a new approach to managing water quality by focusing on all of the factors affecting a watershed*, rather than simply regulating the area's most significant polluters. This new approach means that significant but often-overlooked factors such as street and agricultural runoff are now taken into account.

The digital modeling tools that the Tufts engineers are developing with colleagues from MIT and North Carolina State will help local communities map out their watersheds, identify trouble spots and take cost-effective steps to manage the nutrients entering the water. The Tufts team also will develop simi

Contact: Craig LeMoult
Tufts University

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