Water Quality Assessment of the Piney Creek Reservoir

This project, funded by the Maryland Department of the Environment and the city of Frostburg, MD, was designed to assess the health of the local drinking water supply reservoir. We measured watershed inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as trophic state, phytoplankton communities, and pesticides and herbicides in the reservoir.

The Piney Creek reservoir is an important drinking water supply and recreational fishing area in western Maryland (Garrett County). Water enters this reservoir from groundwater seepage and runoff from a mixed land-use watershed. This watershed contains many nutrient sources (e.g. dairy farms, agricultural fields and septic systems) that could accelerate the eutrophication process.

To view a map of land use in the watershed, click here.

Project Conclusions:

  • The trophic state index of the Piney Creek reservoir suggests that this system is experiencing early signs of eutrophication; this system appears to be mesotrophic.
  • High summer temperatures coinciding with low dissolved oxygen concentrations in cooler deeper waters (below 4m) produces stressful conditions for trout and limits the range of the other game fish to warm surface waters.
  • Reducing conditions (low oxidation - reduction potentials) in the summer consume hydrogen (increase pH) and nitrate ions, leads to the accumulation of ammonium, produces acid neutralizing capacity and increases the iron and manganese concentrations in bottom waters.
  • The Piney Creek Reservoir is highly enriched in nitrogen. Primary production is limited by P. (N:P ratios >150:1).

Related Publications:

  • Castro, M.S., E.N. McLaughlin, S.L. Davis and R.P. Morgan II. 2002. "Total mercury concentrations in lakes and fish of western Maryland, USA." Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 42:452-462. 
  • Castro, M.S., S.L. Davis, R. P. Morgan II. 2002. Water Quality Assessment of the Piney Creek Reservoir and Watershed in Western Maryland. Report for Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
  • Source Water Assessment: Piney Creek Reservoir and Savage Rive Pumping Station. 2004. Maryland Department of the Environment.

Future Work:

Dr. Castro continues his long-term monitoring work at Piney Creek reservoir and is focusing on the following:

  • Detailed Assessment of Air Quality at the Piney Creek Reservoir.
  • Study of Mercury Dynamics in the Piney Creek Reservoir and other lakes in Western Maryland.
  • Two New Publications: 1) Mercury dynamics in watersheds that drain into the Piney Creek Reservoir and 2) Nutrient Dynamics in the Piney Creek Reservoir Watershed System.