Non-Point Source Pollution Project

Arrays in Muskegon River

Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution currently is responsible for most of the water quality impairments in the United States. NPS pollution occurs when rainfall, snowmelt, or irrigation runs over land or through the ground and picks up pollutants such as nutrients, road salt, and sediments. These pollutants are then deposited into rivers, lakes, and coastal waters or introduced into ground water, resulting in ecological impairments to aquatic ecosystems. NPS pollution is widespread and associated with numerous activities, including agriculture, forestry, grazing, septic systems, recreational boating, urban runoff, and construction. It is critical that we understand how NPS pollution impacts aquatic ecosystems.

Array in Muskegon Lake

In this study, scientists at AWRI are conducting an experimental investigation that simulates NPS-contributing events in the lower Muskegon River watershed. This project is aimed at better understanding the impacts of NPS pollution on lower trophic levels, which form the base of the food web that ultimately supports the fisheries in this region. A unique aspect of this research is the comparison of how the different trophic levels (i.e., bacteria, algae, and macroinvertebrates) respond to NPS pollution among different habitats (river, wetland, and lake) and during different seasons. This multi-habitat approach will give us new insight on how NPS pollution impacts different biological communities living in different environments and how these impacts change seasonally.

This project is a collaborative effort by AWRI scientists Alan Steinman (algae), Don Uzarski (macroinvertebrates), and Bopi Biddanda (bacteria). Peter Hrodey has been hired as an adjunct research assistant and is the technical lead on the project. Additional technical support is provided by Mary Ogdahl, Scott Kendall, and Matt Cooper.


This project was funded by the U.S. Department of Education.


Steinman, A.D., M.E. Ogdahl, K. Wessell, B. Biddanda, S. Kendall, and S. Nold. 2011. Periphyton response to simulation nonpoint source pollution in the lower Muskegon River watershed. Aquatic Ecology 45: 439-454, doi: 10.1007/s10452-011-9366-8.