The Use of Decision Analysis and Watershed Modeling to Investigate E.coli Potential Sources and Solutions in the Lake Tuscaloosa Watershed, Alabama

Laith Alfaqih, Robert Pitt


Lake Tuscaloosa is located in Tuscaloosa and Fayette counties in the State of Alabama, in the Southeastern United States. Recent studies and monitoring of the lake have shown high levels of E. coli bacteria in the upper parts of the lake (near the main stream entrances) during periods of high stream flow. These high levels of E. coli have been identified as a concern for many different interested parties in the area. The city is under pressure to strengthen its management, monitoring, and control of existing and future pollutant sources (mostly land development) around the lake that is in its jurisdiction. Additionally, the city has to consider other sources in the watershed outside its jurisdiction as potential pollutant sources that are turning the lake into an urban reservoir with increasing pollution problems that are starting to adversely affect its water quality.

The decision analysis framework and modeling schemes developed as part of this research examines flow and E.coli sources and transport issues, and potential solutions. The decision analysis framework assisted at different stages of the project in collecting and managing the information that helped in the analysis of the problems and solutions. The flow and E.coli watershed models assisted in the analysis of the available data for the watershed to identify locations, seasons, and flows associated with the E. coli discharges. Maintaining the E.coli levels below the permissible limits in the watershed was challenging because many factors and data needed to be considered in the analysis and decision making.

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