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RII Track-1 Consortium for Research on Environmental Water Systems


<p>Non-technical Description<br />
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The quality of surface and ground waters is of great concern across the United States. The factors that control water quality are complex and include land use practices and soil and geological features of the landforms within the watershed. Montana is home to a variety of land uses that have the potential to significantly impact the quality of waters in different ways, including agriculture (rangeland grazing and grain production) and mining. This project is based on the comprehensive analysis of the nature, sources, and extent of environmental pollutants in ground and surface waters associated with rangeland and crop production agriculture and surface coal mining in Montana. The project will result in significant advances in the ability to evaluate and predict the concentrations of pollutants in natural water. This understanding of the sources and concentrations of pollutants will lead to efforts to prevent pollution and to remediate polluted water. The project will also make significant investments in STEM education including outreach programs for Native Americans, and will investigate how a community's trust in water quality management decisions is related to the community's ability to respond to water pollution.<br />
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Technical Description<br />
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This project will investigate the sources, and fate and transport, of pollutants originating from rangeland and crop production agriculture, and from surface coal mining in Montana. The primary focus of the project is to study the fate of agrichemicals such as nitrate and pesticides across landscapes and into ground and surface waters. The research will include analysis of the interactions between these chemicals and their uptake across microbial membranes associated with agrichemical transformation, and their impacts on biofouling of reverse osmosis systems used for removal of pollutants. The sources and fates of arsenic and heavy metals released during coal mining operations will also be investigated, and the potential impacts of nitrate on algal blooms and associated transport of those metals in surface waters will be studied. The broad environmental focus of the project will facilitate programs in STEM education encompassing levels of education ranging from K-12 through mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students as well as junior faculty. Significant outreach and diversity components involve inclusion of faculty and students from two tribal colleges, and a structural equation model will be developed that will test the relationships between trust, community resilience, and demographic variables.<br />
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This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.</p>

Ragan Callaway; Robert Walker; Jerome Downey; Stephanie Ewing; Herbert Valett
University of Montana
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