Drainage Contractor

News Drainage Management Systems Environment
Resources: MSU offering free, anonymous tile monitoring in WLEB

April 17, 2024  By Michigan State University

Since 2016, the Michigan State University Institute of Water Research (MSU IWR) has been documenting water quality in tile drainage in partnership with Adrian College, the Erb Family Foundation, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), local conservation districts and participating farmers within the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). The main objective of this research has been to empower farmers with the ability to have better control over nutrients leaving their field using the water quality data provided to them, and ultimately, increase farmer interest in implementing best management practices (BMPs) on vulnerable land throughout the watershed.

This work has evolved over the course of three phases since 2016, and is now in Phase III: 

Phase III (2023-2025) 

In collaboration with the Erb Family Foundation, MDARD and local conservation districts, the IWR is continuing to offer tile monitoring services within the WLEB. This phase will focus on employing a more targeted approach using local conservationist specialists, the soil and water assessment tool (SWAT) and the agricultural conservation planning framework (ACPF) as ways to identify and engage with farmers on fields most vulnerable to nutrient loss. 



MSU IWR-generated SWAT map of TP hot spots throughout the WLEB.


Example of an ACPF result. Photo credit: https://acpf4watersheds.org>toolbox

Grab samples are being collected based on storm or thaw driven events, as opposed to on a weekly basis as they were in the past. These samples are collected within 6-12 hours of a rain event (0.5 inches or more). While this will likely be an under-representation of the peak loading during each event, we believe this is the best grab-sampling method for capturing part of the run-off event, as opposed to responding within 24 hours when the entire event would likely be missed. This, of course, will vary from field to field; however, without continuous flow monitoring equipment this method provides the best opportunity to obtain the most valuable information we can provide to farmers at a reasonable cost. 


Hydrograph depicting the importance of sample collection timing after a rainfall event of 0.7 inches.


For more information, please contact:  

Alaina Nunn (Johnson) 



Print this page


Stories continue below