A Water Quality Assessment of the Occoquan Reservoir and its Tributary Watershed: 1973-2002
Van Den Bos, Amelie Cara
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The Occoquan Reservoir is a public water supply in northern Virginia. The Occoquan Watershed has developed over the years from rural land uses to metropolitan suburbs within easy commuting distance from Washington, DC. Due to this urbanization, the Occoquan Reservoir is especially vulnerable to hypereutrophication, which results in problems such as algal blooms (including cyanobacteria), periodic fish kills, and taste and odor problems. In the 1970's, a new management plan for the Occoquan Reservoir called for the construction of the Upper Occoquan Sewage Authority (UOSA), an advanced wastewater treatment plant that would take extraordinary measures for highly reliable and highly efficient removal of particulates, organics, nutrients, and pathogens. Eliminating most of the water quality problems associated with point source discharges in the watershed, this state-of-the-art treatment is the foundation for the successful indirect surface water reuse system in the Occoquan Reservoir today. A limnological analysis of thirty years of water quality monitoring data from the reservoir and its two primary tributaries shows that the majority of the nutrient and sediment load to the reservoir comes from nonpoint sources, which are closely tied to hydrometeorologic conditions. Reservoir water quality trends are very similar to trends in stream water quality, and the tributary in the most urbanized part of the watershed, Bull Run, has been identified as the main contributor of sediment and nutrients to the reservoir. Despite significant achievements in maintaining the reservoir as a source of high quality drinking water, the reservoir remains a phosphorus-limited eutrophic waterbody.
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