Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Civil and Environmental Engineering

First Advisor

Schnoor, Jerald L

Second Advisor

Just, Craig L

First Committee Member

Papanicolaou, Athanasios N

Second Committee Member

Weber, Larry J

Third Committee Member

Bennett, David A


The runoff of suspended solids and nutrients from land into the nation's lakes and rivers can have severe impacts on the health of these systems and their uses. High-frequency environmental data from sensors can provide insight into fundamental biogeochemical processes that dictate water quality and provide regulators with valuable knowledge on how to manage critical resources. The goal of this research was to utilize sensor technology, telemetry hardware, cyberinfrastructure, and water quality models to create a sensing system that will allow the investigation of the fate and transport of dissolved oxygen, suspended solids, nutrients, and other water quality parameters throughout a watershed dominated by agricultural activity. Deploying these sensors at multiple locations along the stream enabled the investigation of these processes from the fine scale to the larger watershed scale.

Results from this research addressed both fundamental science and resource management issues regarding water quality. Using high-frequency data, a dramatic diel cycle in dissolved oxygen was observed with nonlinear dynamics which was successfully modeled mathematically, and excursions in water quality criteria were observed. In addition, a diel pattern in turbidity was discovered with higher levels at night likely caused by bioturbation (i.e. nocturnal activity of bottom feeding fishes) which resulted in higher suspended solids loadings during nighttime. Furthermore, the QUAL2K model was successfully calibrated for water quality using sensor measurements and grab samples from volunteer, IOWATER data. Nutrient loading rates (nitrate-N, orthophosphate, and total dissolved solids) were estimated along the entire creek and were similar to other Iowa streams. Volunteer environmental data were found to be helpful in model calibration for some parameters (e.g. TSS and nitrate).

The construction and operation of a sensing system in Clear Creek contributed to water quality science and engineering. Findings from the configuration and field testing of sensing station components such as water quality sensors, power systems and communication hardware will aid the design of future sensing systems and environmental observatories. Integrating the methodology of this research with future observing systems will further our understanding of water quality processes and help maintain the health and value of our nation's water environment.


Dissolved Oxygen, Environmental Modeling, High-frequency Data, Nutrient Transport, Turbidity, Water Quality


xix, 196 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 186-196).


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Copyright © 2009 John Vincent Loperfido