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Introduction

The Water Survey has flourished for more than a century by anticipating and responding to new challenges and opportunities to serve the citizens of Illinois. Today, the Water Survey continues to demonstrate flexibility and adapt-ability by developing new programs, while continuing to provide long-standing services upon which Illinoisans have come to rely.

Chief Derek
Winstanley

A sense of dynamism is also apparent in staff changes, facilities renovation and acquisition, and reorganization. Overall, we are positioning ourselves to improve efficiency and productivity, and to make the Water Survey a safer and more pleasant place to work.

Upon comparing the challenges and opportunities facing the Water Survey with the existing organizational structure, I noticed a problem: the Water Survey was organized by scientific discipline—atmospheric science, hydrology, and chemistry—whereas the policy, resource management, and research issues are complex and largely interdisciplinary in nature. Consequently, I proposed to the Board of Natural Resources and Conservation and obtained its approval in May to reorganize the Water Survey in a manner that reflects these realities and complexities.

The new organizational structure of the Water Survey (see chart) includes three technical sections (watershed science, ground water, and atmospheric environment), one national program, and an analytical chemistry and service unit, together with central administration and management functions conducted in the Office of the Chief. The Water Survey is positioning itself to provide monitoring, analytical, and mathematical modeling capabilities to address issues under the umbrella of the new programs. I take this opportunity to describe some of the changes that are underway at the Water Survey.

Each of the three technical sections share some common features: information services; a focus on environmental impacts and responses; data collection for the Water and Atmospheric Resources Monitoring program; and a renewed emphasis on modeling studies, research, and analysis. A significant portion of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP) involves chemical analysis and data dissemination. The primary focus of the Analytical Chemistry & Technology Unit is public service.

Watershed Science Section

Within Illinois and the nation, watersheds are increasingly recognized as natural units for resource management. The Department of Natural Resources is playing a lead role in implementing the recommendations of former Lieutenant Governor Kustra’s Integrated Management Plan for the Illinois River, has selected pilot watersheds for focus of resource management activities, and is implementing the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program in the Illinois River basin. Nationally, non-point source pollution in watersheds continues to be a major concern, and unified watershed assessment is a focus of the federal government’s new Clean Water Action Plan.

In recognition of the need to provide a sound technical basis for watershed management, the Water Survey is refocusing many of its activities with a Watershed Science Section of monitoring, modeling, and analysis. A priority is to provide a decision analysis support system for the Illinois River basin. The program is designed to acquire and organize for public consumption the multitude of data sets and analyses that exist on the natural processes at work in the river basin and the effects of human actions on these processes.

The Water Survey’s
Organization Chart.

In addition to areas shared with the other technical sections, specific program areas address environmental chemistry; river water quality; restoration and rehabilitation; land-use change; floodplains, wetlands, and surface water; and hydrology, hydraulics, and river mechanics.

Ground-Water Section

Ground-water resources continue to be an important topic for the Water Survey. Economic growth and expansion are placing increasing demands on ground-water resources, and many communities are seeking assistance with locating new sources of supply. In addition to the areas shared with the other technical sections, specific programs in the Ground-Water Section address aquifer properties, flow characterization, and recharge; and ground-water quality, quantity, and mapping.

Analytical Chemistry & Technology Unit

Increasingly, many small rural communities and Indian tribes in the Midwest have become frustrated at the lack of attention given to maintaining existing water-supply systems and developing new ones. Starting in October 1998, the Water Survey, in combination with the Water Resources Center at the University of Illinois, will lead the Midwest Technology Assistance Center, a new program to provide technical assistance to these communities. The Center, one of five centers across the country funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is part of the Water Survey’s Analytical Chemistry and Technology Unit, which also includes the Illinois Water Treatment program, an Illinois Environmental Protection Agency- certified Public Service Laboratory, and internal analytical laboratory services.

National Atmospheric Deposition Program

The NADP is the premier network in the world for monitoring the deposition of atmospheric pollutants, including acids and mercury. This year the program is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Throughout this period the Water Survey has served as the NADP’s Central Analytical Laboratory for the analysis of samples from some 200 sites nationwide. Twenty new sites will be added to the program this year. Last fall, the Water Survey also assumed responsibility for program coordination and data dissemination functions, resulting in all the NADP central functions now being located in Champaign.

Atmospheric Environment Section

In the atmospheric arena, many rapidly evolving issues relating to surface-level ozone, fine particulate matter, energy deregulation, aging nuclear power plants, and concerns over global and regional climate change call for new and accelerated research to help policy makers and resource managers make wise decisions. Research areas include atmospheric chemistry, clouds, land/atmosphere interactions, and climate systems.

Office of the Chief

Within the Office of the Chief, we are implementing a new Survey-wide staff training and development program, strengthening Survey-wide data and information services, and expanding coordination of outreach services available throughout the Water Survey.

With the other Scientific Surveys, we are engaged in strengthening relationships with the University of Illinois: Water Survey scientists will contribute to the education and training of graduate students, who will also participate in the organizations’ research and service activities. Bringing together these institutions in a closer partnership will help improve the quality of scientific research, services, and education in the State of Illinois. By engaging in service activities, field operations, and applied research, students will be better positioned to enter the job market with the benefit of practical experience.

All buildings at the Water Survey Research Center in Champaign are being renovated and redecorated, and new exterior lighting has been installed. A new security system and Internet-access system have been installed at the Peoria Laboratory. New vehicles have been purchased. I have also committed the Water Survey to searching for new offices in the Chicago metropolitan area in order to renew the Water Survey’s presence and services in one of the world’s greatest cities. All these additions are providing a safer and more pleasant work environment for all staff.

Disposal of Low-Level Radioactive Waste

In September 1997, the State Water and Geological Surveys fulfilled their obligations in assisting the State in finding a suitable location for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. Revisions to the Illinois Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Act, passed into law on June 26, 1997, required the two Surveys to complete a statewide evaluation report using the technical siting criteria developed by the Illinois Low-Level Radioactive Waste Task Group. The report showed the application of selected criteria on a statewide scale and also provided a composite map indicating which areas of the State would not appear likely to meet all of the Task Group’s criteria.

The Surveys’ final report and accompanying maps were delivered to the Task Group offices on September 30, 1997. Representatives from the Surveys presented their findings to the Task Group at a public meeting held in Bloomington, Illinois, on October 8, 1997. The Surveys’ report and maps are to be used in the future by the disposal facility contractor and potential volunteer landowners in assessing the likelihood that a given area will meet the siting criteria.

I am pleased to report that the Water Survey is in a healthy financial situation and is well positioned to manage the new programs, and to continue the traditional services. Additional information on programs and services are provided in this report.

 

Derek Winstanley, Chief

The Senior Management team (not pictured Nani Bhowmik) and Executive Administrative Assistant Deb Mitchell.


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Understanding and Predicting Weather and Climate

Weather and climate are integral aspects of the environment of Illinois. High precipitation amounts provide abundant water resources that provide great benefit to Illinois citizens. Moderately warm summers provide ideal growing conditions for the productive agricultural sector.

While there are many benign aspects of weather and climate, extreme events such as droughts, floods, heat waves, and severe snow-storms or rainstorms can produce devastating impacts, and there have been many examples during the past decade. Events such as the 1988 drought, the 1993 floods, the 1995 heat wave, and the 1996 floods have motivated a wide-ranging program of research, monitoring, and services. A key goal is to foster better pre-diction of the future, both on short-term and long-term time scales.

Predictions on monthly to seasonal time scales are becoming increasingly skillful, in part due to a better understanding of such phenomena as El Niņo. However, a major challenge arises in predicting possible future climate change in the next century as a result of increased human activities, including the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. There is scientific debate about whether green-house warming has begun and about the magnitude of future changes. Significant scientific uncertainties must be overcome to provide confidence in such predictions.

Three issues in which the Water Survey took an active role during the past year were climate change, the El Niņo event, and lake-effect snowfall.

Climate Change

Climate change is a concern worldwide and in the Midwest, and the potential impacts of these changes on the State of Illinois remain uncertain. The Water Survey continues to be involved in this issue and continues to provide scientific advice and information to the State Global Climate Change Task Force. The mission of the Task Force, which was established by the General Assembly in 1991, is to assess all ramifications of the global climate change issue and to provide information to state and government bodies on research needs, educational issues, and state policy issues relating to potential global climate changes.

 

Spatial distribution of the difference (°F) of the average temperature for the period 1947-1996 minus the average temperature for the period 1895-1946.


Values in Degrees Fahrenheit

Global temperature trends appear to be upward, but there is little evidence at this time of warming in Illinois. The 1930s continue to be the warmest period on record in Illinois. But to assess the warming trends in Illinois, an analysis of warming trends for the entire United States was conducted. The results of this study showed distinct regional patterns of change. In particular, there has been a pattern of warming in the western United States and a cooling, or little change, in the eastern part of the country. These results indicate that knowledge of global trends does not necessarily translate into what takes place on a regional or local basis.

The State Global Climate Change Task Force had five one-day meetings during the past year. Presentations were made at each meeting about various current scientific issues. Task Force members met with Senator Durbin in Chicago in December 1997 to brief him on the key climate change issues.

On behalf of the Task Force, the Water Survey also assisted in the planning and organizing of two regional conferences organized by federal agencies on climate change at which Water Survey scientists were among the presenters. One conference focused on the Midwest and was held in Chicago in September 1997. The second conference focused on the Great Lakes and was held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in May 1998.

The 1997-1998 El Niņo Event

From the early part of 1997 through the spring of 1998, an intense El Niņo event had considerable impact on Illinois and the surrounding states. To help Illinois prepare for the possible impacts of El Niņo, the Water Survey undertook a program of applied research, information development, and information dissemination.

During the spring and summer of 1997, an assessment of likely outcomes was undertaken. One focus was on snowfall. A comparison of snowfall during previous strong El Niņo winters with typical winters indicates that strong El Niņo events result in significantly below average snowfall across Illinois and some neighboring states, particularly over the Ohio River valley. The average snowfall during previous strong El Niņo events in eastern Illinois was less than half of normal.

Spatial distribution of
the ratio of snowfall
(values are in per-cent)
during seven
winters with strong El
Niņos compared to
normal snowfall.




Based on the results of this research, we concluded that there was a high likelihood of:

The actual outcomes were similar to what we expected. In particular, the 1997-1998 winter was extremely mild with little snow. The assessment of the impacts of El Niņo is in progress, but some effects are known.

Lake-Effect Snowstorms

Lake Michigan, which is relatively long and narrow, has a tremendous effect on the climate and precipitation of the land masses surrounding it, especially in winter. As the cold air pushes down the length of the lake, it picks up moisture, which may develop into major snowfalls at the southern end of the lake. These so-called lake-effect snows are common in Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.

These heavy, lake-effect snowfalls may occur no more than one or two miles inland, while further inland there may be no snowfall and the sun may be shining. Not only do these lake-effect storms impede traffic in Chicago and the upper Midwest, but they also have an economic impact on the area from the cost of snow removal, lost work time, damage to property, and similar expenses.

Forecasting these lake-effect snowstorms is difficult. Current weather forecasting models generally do not have the capability to predict these small-scale, local storm events. However, the Water Survey led a major field project this past winter to collect data on lake-effect storms to gain information on how these storms develop and evolve.

The Lake-Induced Convection Experiment (Lake-ICE) was conducted in December 1997 and January 1998. The project, funded by the National Science Foundation, involved nearly 100 scientists and students from the University of Illinois and 21 other universities and agencies from throughout the United States.

Data on the development of winter-time snow bands over Lake Michigan were gathered by two research aircraft containing meteorological instrumentation; airborne radar capable of deriving wind and precipitation fields; weather balloons launched in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, and southeastern Canada; and surface lidars and radars.

Water Survey scientists took a leadership role in the development of the Lake-ICE project and in obtaining funding for it. Data collected will be used during efforts to study important aspects of lake-effect storms.

An important part of the Lake-ICE project includes flights of the National Center for Atmospheric
Research
Electra, which contains meteorological instrumentation used to gather data that will
improve our understanding of lake-effect snowstorms.


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Evaluating the Quality of Our Air and Precipitation

The strength of man-made and natural sources of air pollutants must be quantified before effective control strategies can be developed and implemented. Fifty years ago one could usually identify the major sources that needed to be controlled because a dark, dirty smokestack plume often linked the sources with the adversely affected receptors. In contrast, many of the air quality issues today involve adverse effects of air pollution resulting from sources that are not nearby but rather hundreds of miles upwind. Thus, a state experiencing adverse effects from air pollution needs to consider control actions for sources within the state as well as in states upwind. Pollution issues have become regional issues rather than simply local issues that can be addressed by a single state. The following discussion about acidic deposition, fine particulate matter, and ozone illustrates the Water Survey’s important role in conducting air quality and precipitation studies.

Nation’s Precipitation Chemistry
Network Moves to Water Survey

In October 1997, the Atmospheric Sciences Division took on a major new activity, managing the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP), which runs the nation’s precipitation chemistry network. The NADP is not a new program, nor is the Water Survey’s involvement new. Precipitation monitoring began at 22 NADP sites in fall 1978.

From the beginning, the Water Survey has been NADP’s Central Analytical Laboratory (CAL). The Water Survey’s role has been to support site operations, chemically analyze samples, and validate the data. Until October 1997, the data were sent from CAL to the NADP Coordination Office at Colorado State University (CSU) in Ft. Collins after the analyses and data checks were completed. The data now are sent from the CAL computer system in one Water Survey building to a new computer system in another Water Survey building. Colorado State University’s role ended in September 1997. Requests for NADP data, which CSU handled in the past, are now handled at the Water Survey.

From modest beginnings, operating a net-work of 22 sites mostly in the eastern United States in 1978, the NADP has grown to 198 sites today (see site map). The NADP precipitation chemistry network measures the free acidity, acidic anions, inorganic nutrients, base cations, and salt content of weekly precipitation samples from sites in every state but Hawaii, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. There is a site in Puerto Rico, one in the Virgin Islands, and one in southern Quebec Province in Canada, which is co-located with a Canadian network site for comparison purposes.

Managing the NADP no longer involves just this ~200-site network. Two subnetworks have joined the original NADP network, the Atmospheric Integrated Research Monitoring Network (AIRMoN) in 1992 and the Mercury Deposition Network (MDN) in 1996.

Nine AIRMoN sites, one in each of nine eastern states, collect daily wet deposition samples. This research-oriented subnetwork serves as a test-bed for methods evaluation and development. To date, AIRMoN measures the same chemical constituents as the NADP network. AIRMoN goals are to assess the effectiveness of emission controls mandated by the Clean Air Act, to evaluate potential impacts of new sources of emissions on protected areas such as Class I Wilderness Areas, and to identify source/ receptor relationships in atmospheric models.

The other subnetwork, MDN, operates 33 monitoring sites, 5 of which are in Canada. These sites measure the total mercury in precipitation. Mercury is a toxic trace element that can be mobilized in the environment and transformed into methyl mercury, a particularly toxic form of mercury that can bioaccumulate. Methyl mercury poisoning in humans causes neurological effects, including lack of coordination, tremors, and speech and hearing impairments. Pregnant women and fetuses are especially at risk.

The NADP sites in the continental United States.

Many bodies of water that do not receive direct urban or industrial inputs of mercury may receive mercury from atmospheric deposition, primarily in the form of wet deposition (rain and snow). Mercury in the atmosphere can be either natural (geologic sources, oceans, forest fires, and volcanos) or human caused (incinerators, coal combustion, and industrial emissions). In its Mercury Study: Report to Congress, released in December 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) found that a plausible link exists between past and present, human-caused, atmospheric emissions of mercury in the United States and increased concentrations of mercury found in the environment and in freshwater fish. If fish-eating animals or humans ingest mercury-contaminated fish, environmental or human health problems can occur.

Advisories have been issued by 39 states and 5 Canadian provinces to residents about the dangers of eating fish taken from waters within their boundaries and contaminated with mercury. This problem is most severe in the upper Great Lakes and northeastern states where many lakes and streams contain fish with mercury levels above the U.S. Food and Drug Administration action level for human consumption (1 part per million).

In 1995, the NADP recognized the need to know more about the distribution, fate, and time trends of mercury and other toxic chemicals in the atmosphere and initiated the MDN to monitor mercury in wet deposition. By the end of 1998, approximately 40 MDN sites will be in operation collecting wet deposition samples. These sites are concentrated in regions with high mercury levels in fish: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Florida, New England, and eastern Canada. Weekly mercury concentrations and deposition (concentration times rainfall amount) are calculated for each site.

Individual MDN sites are funded and operated by many different local, state, or federal agencies. Day-to-day network operations and laboratory analyses are conducted by a contract laboratory, Frontier Geosciences in Seattle. Data and program management are handled by the Water Survey. After quality assurance review, the data are distributed in quarterly and annual reports and on the Internet.

Plans are to operate the MDN network for at least 5 to 10 years to be able to evaluate trends in mercury deposition. Data will be used to develop an information database on spatial and seasonal trends in mercury deposited to surface waters, forested watersheds, and other sensitive receptors. The data also will be particularly useful in helping to evaluate the effectiveness of any future controls on mercury emissions to the atmosphere. Atmospheric deposition has been implicated as the primary source of mercury in many of these lakes.

Over the 20-year lifetime of the NADP, the uses and applications of NADP data have evolved to address more focused, more contemporary issues. Today, scientists are using NADP data to assess the role of the wet deposition of nutrients to the Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi River watersheds. High concentrations of nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico may have contributed to rapid algal growth and decay and degraded water quality. Although not the largest source of nutrients to these bodies of water, precipitation contains nitrogen and phosphorus compounds in amounts that are significant. Another "hot topic" is using NADP data to examine whether reductions in sulfur and nitrogen emissions, mandated by federal clean air legislation, are resulting in proportionate reductions in acid rain and adverse effects. An emerging issue is the effect of land use on air quality, one measure of which is the chemistry of precipitation.

Effectively managing NADP data means ensuring their quality and making the data readily available in a timely fashion to users. This is the most important new responsibility of the new NADP Program Office at the Water Survey. The web site gives users on-line access to virtually all NADP data and information. This includes weekly and daily precipitation chemistry data; monthly, seasonal, and annual precipitation-weighted mean concentrations; annual and seasonal deposition totals; mercury deposition data; daily precipitation totals; color isopleth maps of precipitation concentrations and wet deposition; photos, maps, and information about individual NADP sites; and quality assurance data.

Support for the NADP comes from nine federal agencies, state agencies, universities, public utilities, industry, and the State Agricultural Experiment Stations. Managing the more than 50 agreements with these sponsoring organizations is another major responsibility of the new NADP Program Office.

Establishing a multimillion dollar program at the Water Survey has been challenging and exciting. The NADP is recognized the world over as a leader in wet deposition monitoring. Measuring the geographic patterns of the chemicals in precipitation, the rates at which precipitation deposits these chemicals region-ally and nationally, and the extent of changes in the chemical makeup of precipitation over time are not cutting edge research topics. However, this kind of work is needed to sup-port research, assessments, and policy analyses that help address important environmental issues of our day. This is the kind of work the Water Survey is well positioned to perform for the state and nation.

Air Quality Related to Particulate Matter

Particulate matter is emitted directly to the atmosphere from a variety of sources, including obvious ones such as rock quarry operations and traffic on unpaved roads where visible dust plumes are observable. Gaseous pollutants emitted from a large variety of sources such as dry cleaning stores, automobiles, and power plants are transformed in the atmosphere into particles that tend to be smaller than the dust-generated particles.

Federal and state air quality standards for airborne particulate matter have existed for over 25 years. The first standard applied to airborne particles up to about 30 microns in diameter (as a reference, a human hair has a diameter of about 50 microns). In 1987, the standard was changed to apply only to particles up to 10 microns in diameter (PM 10 ) as the larger particles could not get into the lung to cause adverse health effects.

In 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) promulgated an additional standard for particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM 2.5 ), which had been shown in epidemiological studies to be associated with adverse health effects. Whereas sites with PM 10 air quality standard violations could often be addressed by actions at localized dust-type sources, it is possible that PM 2.5 violations will require actions at gaseous emitting sources distributed over a larger area. Much research is needed to better characterize the chemical nature of the PM 2.5 and to quantify the processes linking emissions of gaseous precursors to sites with PM 2.5 violations.

The Water Survey has been active in atmospheric particulate matter studies and will continue these efforts with an emphasis on the smaller particles based on the new air quality standard. Recently the Water Survey analyzed the rather limited historical data set on PM 2.5 concentrations in Illinois. The results suggest that the annual PM 2.5 standard value of 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air is likely to be exceeded in the Chicago and East St. Louis metropolitan areas.

Ozone Levels in Illinois

Air quality in Illinois has been gradually improving overall, and meets federal and state standards for most of the six pollutants for which standards have been set. However, the state still experiences occasional pollutant concentrations in excess of the standards for ozone, primarily in the Chicago area and in Madison and St. Clair Counties near St. Louis. The graph below shows the frequency distribution of the highest 1-hour mean ozone concentrations in Lake, Cook, and DuPage Counties during the ozone seasons (April through October) for 1990-1997. Concentrations are lower than the 1- hour standard of 125 parts per billion on the vast majority of days; the 1-hour standard was exceeded on only 18 days in eight years—an average of just over two days per year. In July 1997, the USEPA promulgated a new ozone standard, based on an 8-hour mean concentration of 85 parts per billion. For the same time period (1990-1997), observed concentrations in Illinois exceeded the new standard on 76 days, or almost 10 days per year.

Even for the new standard, the number of exceedence days per summer is relatively small. This fact, and the knowledge that ozone concentrations are highly dependent on weather conditions such as temperature and sunlight, suggests a possible control strategy. The control strategy would focus on reducing emissions of ozone precursors, nitrogen oxides, and hydrocarbons, just on days when forecast weather conditions indicate that high ozone concentrations should be expected. For such a strategy to work, it must be feasible to forecast ozone concentrations accurately with enough lead time to reduce the emissions that lead to the high concentrations. The Water Survey is currently investigating the feasibility of 1- to 2-day ozone forecasts, based on expected weather conditions.

Frequency distribution of the highest daily ozone concentration in Lake, Cook, and DuPage
Counties, April-October 1990-1997.

 

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