Ag Progress Days: Exhibits to show water issues in Pa.


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — A wide range of research and outreach related to water quality will be highlighted by special exhibits at Penn State’s Ag Progress Days Aug. 18-20 at Rock Springs.

With the theme, “Water: Our Resource, Our Future,” the College of Agricultural Sciences Exhibits Building, on Main Street between West 9th and West 10th streets (near the farmhouse), will show how the college’s teaching, research and extension programs are raising awareness about water quality and quantity issues in Pennsylvania.

Displays will include:

Green Roof Technology

Penn State is at the forefront of green roof research and implementation, with green roofs on a number of campus buildings.

Researchers in the college have been studying green roofs for more than a decade, and Penn State’s Center for Green Roof Research was the first of its type in North America.

Also, Penn State was the first institution to offer a class in which students design and construct green roofs and living walls on real structures.

“The green roof concept is ancient — a roof covered with vegetation — but the current application to urban stormwater management is new,” said Bryan Swistock, water resources specialist with Penn State Cooperative Extension.

The exhibit will show the environmental benefits of green roofs.

Rainfall demonstrator

This exhibit will showcase the effects of 30-year, continuous no-till cropping on runoff and erosion compared with reduced tillage and conventional tillage.

Drinking water quality and testing

There are more than 1 million private wells in Pennsylvania, and about half of private wells tested have at least one water-quality problem.

Testing well water allows families to eliminate contaminants in their drinking water.

Presented by Penn State’s Master Well Owners Network — Pennsylvania’s volunteer network for private water-system protection — this exhibit offers information for those who depend on private water systems.

Volunteers will educate rural homeowners on ways to protect and maintain private water supplies.

Visitors can learn about the top five health-threatening drinking-water contaminants — coliform bacteria, E. coli, lead/copper (corrosivity), nitrate-nitrogen and arsenic — and the top five nuisance or aesthetic drinking water contaminants: hardness, hydrogen sulfide, iron, manganese and turbidity.

Penn State’s Agricultural Analytical Laboratory, a state-certified water-testing lab, also will have an exhibit to provide information on water-testing packages available from the lab and through county Cooperative Extension offices for both human and livestock drinking water.

The Conewago Creek Discovery Watershed Project

A targeted watershed initiative of the college is aimed at restoring the stream in Adams and York counties that is polluted with sediments and nutrients from agricultural and other nonpoint sources of runoff, and as a result is unable to sustain fish and other aquatic life found in healthy streams.

Aquatic invasive plants

Non-native plants are appearing at an alarming rate in streams, ponds and lakes across Pennsylvania.

These invasive plants threaten the diversity and abundance of native aquatic plants. They can interfere with water uses, including drinking water, industrial water intake and recreation.

They can affect the ability of ponds, lakes and streams to support native fisheries and wildlife, lower water quality and cause significant financial losses to Pennsylvania’s economy.

Nutrient Management. Nutrient management is critical to restoring water quality and keeping a balance in local water sources.

“An excess of nutrients can boost aquatic plant growth and disrupt the gentle balance of aquatic ecosystems,” Swistock said. “When this occurs, organisms die off, and water sources are unable to support aquatic life.”

This has happened in “dead zones” developed in the Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, he said.

Water conservation

Each person in Pennsylvania uses over 60 gallons of water every day just in their home. Visitors to this exhibit will learn how and why they should conserve water. Simple water-conserving appliances can reduce annual household energy costs by hundreds of dollars.

Conserving water also can promote better functioning of on-lot septic or sewer systems.

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