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A Watershed StoryMap: Investigating the Upper Scioto River Watershed Landscape
Upper Scioto River Watershed project area map

The Upper Scioto River Watershed (USRW) drains water from 680,000 acres into the City of Columbus’ surface water intake area where it is used extensively as a source of drinking water. Periodic spikes in levels of nitrate-nitrogen have demanded additional treatment to meet drinking water standards. How can these periodic spikes be reduced? AFT’s  Farming for Cleaner Water Project in the USRW aims to reduce nitrate-nitrogen and phosphorus loss from farmland, thereby helping to ensure safe drinking water for the City of Columbus and surrounding communities.

Map of waterways that flow into the city of Columbus

About 80 percent of the USRW is corn and soybean farmland. Intense, heavy rainfall can result in significant nitrate-nitrogen losses on many of these fields. Because agriculture is the predominant land use and an economic driver for the USRW, working with farmers is the most effective way to reduce elevated levels of nitrate-nitrogen that impair the region’s drinking water.

How can we create awareness and reduce nutrient loss from farmland?

The USRW StoryMap is a great tool to help explore ways and options that will help improve water quality within the watershed. This short video overview explores this StoryMap creation.

Click here to watch the video!

Stories and maps have informed and inspired people for centuries. And when you think about it, where a story takes place is a big part of the story. So, why not combine the two? Specialized computer software, referred to as Geographic Information Systems (GIS), allows us to do just that. This combination is called a StoryMap.

StoryMap cover photo example

StoryMaps integrate text, photos, and videos with GIS maps to enhance your story with a sense of place, illustrate spatial relationships, and create visual appeal. They can make large volumes of information easier to understand, especially for viewers familiar with the story and the place.  Through the creative use of narrative and data visualization, viewers are drawn into open-ended exploration.  In short, StoryMaps encourage viewers to follow along.

The Farming for Cleaner Water StoryMap was created to effect change, influence opinion, and create awareness regarding nutrient loss from farmland in the USRW and the impact it has on water quality.  Ultimately, it was created to serve as a conversation starter and enable relationships to form around the common cause of protecting clean water and profitable farms.Ultimately, this story will be used to help individuals participate in this ecosystem services. 

StoryMap example of one of the two modeling systems used

This StoryMap will clarify, rather than simplify, how soils, topography, weather, land use, farming practices, and conservation interact to affect the fate and transport of nutrients leaving farmland. Such clarification will allow for communities, businesses, and government entities to invest in verifiable water quality outcomes rather than random implementation of farming and conservation practices. 

About the Author
Mark Wilson

Farming for Cleaner Water Project Manager

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