Spring Creek Watershed Action Plan (SCWAP) Update from David Roberts – Aug. 30, 2018

For prior coverage, see NVEC posts

SCWAP Water Quantity Technical Group Meeting August 30

By David Roberts

A meeting was held on August 30, 2018 by the Spring Creek Watershed Commission’s, Spring Creek Watershed Action Plan Phase 2 Water Quantity Workgroup to discuss the current state of the health of the watershed, to review current data, and to set parameters for analysis.

Janie French of Headwaters Charitable Trust facilitated the meeting by sharing data from the “Hydrological Setting of Spring Creek” and Centre Region Planning Agency estimates of impervious surfaces, and by guiding the discussion.

Participants from US Geological Survey, Susquehanna River Basin Commission and PA Department of Environmental Protection have relevant but somewhat inaccessible data and will be working to provide some collation of data on Spring Creek from their massive data banks.

The two work groups, water quantity and water quality, may try meeting as a single group following the Water Quality Workgroup meeting on September 6.

There were participants in the Water Quality group that probably had information on water quantity, and vice versa, so I think that is a good idea.

The water quantity group felt that biological indicators are a very important measure of water quality, so discussion of macro-invertebrate surveys should be one of the main topics of discussion for the Water Quality Workgroup.

Water quantity is also a very important factor for water quality.

There was some discussion that Spring Creek may be compared to the Valley Creek watershed at Valley Forge PA. The Valley Creek is sort of Spring Creek in miniature and has been critically degraded due to overdevelopment.

Spring Creek watershed may be approaching a tipping point with no return due to development. Control of development and direction of development into areas that have minimized impact to the watershed are essential to protect the health of the watershed.

There is a big question as to the actual area of impervious surfaces in our watershed.

One estimate places impervious surfaces at 15% of the total watershed area and another places it at about 8%. This is quite a discrepancy that must be resolved.

Impervious cover of 20% presents an unacceptable threat to the health of the surface water quality and is adverse to the survival of trout.

A DEP representative indicated that Spring Creek is approaching a critical point for water capacity during a 10-year drought condition given the size of the watershed and the growing population. A policy/risk assessment is needed to address the impact of severe drought. Drought is determined by the reduction of stream base flow below a certain level and by fluctuation of monitoring wells, all driven by the amount of precipitation within the watershed.

SRBC has some withdrawal limitations during drought conditions. Local use restrictions may also be needed during drought.

The SRBC has some data on surface and ground water withdrawal from the watershed, however the data is limited to large volume withdraw.

SRBC and DEP share data about water withdrawals, but again, some water usage is not measured such as from private wells.

Overall the withdrawal from private wells was not considered to be significant by most of the group, however hard data is not readily available. Private water usage may be estimated by determining population and applying an 80 gallon per day per capita usage figure for those not on a public water system.

Concern was raised that the location of water withdrawal must be considered along with the volume of withdrawal when evaluating impact of withdrawal on the surface waters of the watershed.

Beneficial reuse of water was discussed. PSU uses spray application of treated wastewater to return the water used by the University to the watershed. However evaporation and evapotranspiration release a portion of that water into the atmosphere.

It was estimated that PSU uses about 3 million gallons of water per day during the main school semesters. PSU is also moving toward beneficial reuse of wastewater for toilets and similar uses, however they apparently do not have approvals necessary to proceed at this time.

The USGS will be posting two reports on our watershed, a 2005 report and a 2015 report, to the Spring Creek Watershed Commission website.

The USGS reports are quite extensive and contain a large amount of data.

The Water Resources Monitoring Project will be posting their 2015 report which emphasizes thermal data and the role of geology in the watershed. Annual reports by the Water Resources Monitoring Project are available online.

There is still some question if there is adequate data and metrics to determine the available water quantity in the watershed. The actual amount of water stored and available in the groundwater basin will be especially important if extreme drought conditions are experienced due to climate change.

Concerning springs, although there is plenty of water quality data available there is not much flow data available. The flow data from the watershed is mainly from stream gauges and not spring gauges. The springs are linked inseparably to the health of Spring Creek and its tributaries.

The water quality of Spring Creek is very much impacted by stormwater which is tied closely to impervious surface problems. A confirmed figure on how much impervious surface is in the watershed is needed since there are estimates of from approximately 8% to 15+%.
The impact to water quality from both channeled runoff flow and thermal degradation is significant.

The temperature of Spring Creek runs about 60 to 65 degrees F and stormwater runoff can elevate the stream temperatures to over 70 F.

The second big problem from runoff is sedimentation which degrades the stream bottom’s habitats.
Also stream bank scouring is a big problem. The last big rain that flooded Spring Creek caused excessive bank erosion along Rock Road above the Spring Creek Canyon. There has been large deposits of rock placed along the banks since that storm to help stabilize the banks and more remediation is needed.

There was some discussion of Act 220, Water Resources Planning Act, and the lack of activation of some of the Act’s requirements.

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