Newswise —  Four West Virginia University researchers will take strategic approaches to studying the Mountain State’s vast water resources from aquatic life to the economic effects of environmental restoration and measuring the sources of erosion to dealing with acid mine drainage in short- and long-term situations.

Paul Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute, housed at WVU, said that this year’s appropriation totaled $125,000, an increase of the previous year’s $92,000. The funds are critical for engaging young faculty in water research and for nurturing new and larger research opportunities.

“We explore new research areas and we’re always looking for new talent to solve new problems—or even old problems,” he said.

Caroline Arantes, assistant professor of wildlife and fisheries at the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design said this study will aid in the discovery of which organisms and freshwater systems in West Virginia are likely to suffer because of climate change. 

“Changes such as rainfall, temperature and water flow will be taken into consideration for the project,” Arantes said. “The project will also provide useful tools to agencies that are tasked with managing the biodiversity of freshwater systems.”

Eric Bowen, research assistant professor of the John Chambers School of Business and Economics will study the economic impacts of environmental restoration.

“Our research will produce a readily generalizable way to measure the potential economic impact of acid mine drainage remediation in West Virginia’s watersheds,” Bowen said. “We think this research will provide a useful tool to assess the benefits of the state’s watershed remediation policy efforts.”

Christopher J. Russoniello, assistant professor of geology in the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences has been analyzing the effects of acid mine drainage and its lingering presence within Appalachian streams. Significant progress has been made in the clean-up effort with the installing of “passive” AMD remediation systems that have been proven to be both cost- and environmentally effective tools.

“This project will explore how the results of these systems varies as they age over seasons and storms in order to provide a scientifically-based understanding of the relation between flow and chemistry and to improve the design of future systems,” Russoniello said.

Charles Shobe, assistant professor of geology at the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences has observed that the over delivery of sediment to streams within the Appalachian plateau is a widespread problem and affects large portions of the Deckers Creek watershed, especially in places where the channel has been straightened for flood control. By measuring the erosion of streambank, Shobe hopes to find ways to mitigate the sediment’s harmful effects.

“Erosion like this can lead to a drastic decrease in water quality and the aquatic habitats it encompasses,” Shobe said.

Ziemkiewicz said the grants allow researchers to take a strategic approach toward resolving water issues.

“We have to keep monitoring to make sure the system is working. It’s like establishing a speed limit and then not having a police officer to monitor traffic,” Ziemkiewicz said. “If we do our jobs, the issues are resolved quickly.”

The West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia Bureau of Public Health, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 3, U.S. Department of Energy and regulated industries identify statewide water research priorities and select the awardees.

The research is funded by grant awards from the U.S. Geological Survey and will begin as soon as September; the grants are administered through each state’s water research institute.