The Water Quality Field Station (WQFS) was constructed in 1992 with Crossroads 1990 funds, an Indiana program providing capital support to agricultural research. It is located at the Purdue Agronomy Center for Research and Education (ACRE).
The WQFS facility allows researchers from the Purdue College of Agriculture and USDA to identify agricultural practices that minimize movement of agricultural chemicals into water supplies. Alternative management practices are evaluated for their environmental, agronomic and economic effectiveness.
With knowledge gained from this research, new and more ecologically balanced technologies can be developed for crop production.
What are tile drains?
Tile drains are pipes made of perforated plastic, burned clay, concrete, or similar material, buried about three feet below the surface of a field and at a slope designed to collect and carry excess water from the soil. In soils that tend hold a lot of water or have a water table that is close to the surface, drainage allows crops to be planted earlier in the spring and keeps water from pooling on the surface or saturating the root zone so much that the crops 'drown'.
The use of tile drains (and other drainage measures) have have allowed the North Central U.S. region, which has fertile soils that are often stay too wet and cold in the spring for most crops, to become one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.
However, while enhanced drainage of cropland has produced higher yields economically, there are environmental costs. Large areas of wetlands have been lost and there is great concern over about the rapid, direct transport of excess nitrates and pesticides to surface waters. Most of the work at the Experimental Drainage Plots at SEPAC, as well as some of the projects at the Water Quality Field Station have focused on these concerns.
What is total maximum daily load?
A TMDL or Total Maximum Daily Load is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards. A TMDL is the sum of the allowable discharge of a single pollutant from ALL contributing point and nonpoint sources. The calculation must include a margin of safety to ensure that the waterbody can be used for the purposes the State has designated (ex. fishing, swimming, or drinking water), and must also account for seasonal variation in water quality.Water quality standards are to be set by individual States, Territories, and Tribes. These entities identify the uses for each waterbody and the scientific criteria to support that use.
Purdue's water quality research facilities are used to study how various management practices can affect discharge from agricultural operations.