longleafpineburn_small_cropI’ve been spending a lot of time working with Blueprint users this year. Whether they’re looking at land protection, prescribed fire, stream restoration, or even fishery management one key theme keeps emerging: water. How would proposed conservation actions impact water quantity and quality? That’s often an entire scored section of a proposal for national funding opportunities dedicated to water. It’s also the part folks seem to be having the most trouble with.

There are some great efforts/models out there that could help with these questions. The two I’ve been working with have been WaSSI (water quantity) and OpenNSPECT (water quality). The catch is that it takes a decent amount of time and background knowledge to make them work at the parcel level. There are lots of cool things I could work on, but since there’s such a strong user demand and it could help bring more on-the-ground conservation funding to Blueprint areas, it’s been rising in importance.

Here’s a quick update on progress so far:

Impact of prescribed fire on water quantity

I now have basic models running that can predict increased water availability in millions of gallons/day for regularly burned longleaf. The weakest link right now is the geographic range where I have leaf area index data. I wrote about it in my blog last month. You can learn more about these models at the upcoming Third Thursday Web Forum.

Impact of land protection on water quality

As of a couple of days ago, I have this working for some test parcels in South Carolina. Using OpenNSPECT, I can generate spatial maps that predict things like change in accumulated sediment, nitrogen, and phosphorus. This is great because it provides not just overall change in values but predictions of how far and where downstream those impact will be. More on this soon.

Other applications

These two tools open up a bunch of different possibilities. In the next few weeks, I’ll be exploring how to apply these tools to other conservation actions, like stream restoration.