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News Release

Address: E-mail:
6520 Mercantile Way
U.S. Department of the Interior Suite 5
U.S. Geological Survey Lansing, MI 48911
Release Contact: Phone: Fax:
May 19, 2000 Dave Holtschlag 517-887-8910 517-887-8937

MDEQ, USGS Scientists Hope New Project Will “Buoy” Drinking Water Protection

****NOTE TO EDITORS: News crews are invited to join scientists on the Detroit River on May 23, 2000, at 10 a.m., to get footage of the buoy project. For more information call: Dave Holtschlag at (517) 887-8910. ****

 MDEQ and USGS scientists, starting May 23, will begin a new phase in a project to model the flow of the St. Clair – Detroit River Waterway. The new, computer-based flow model will enable managers to better protect the drinking water supply for 4 million people in the Detroit area.

 Next week, scientists from USGS, with support from MDEQ, USACE, and Environment Canada will deploy 10 buoys within the Detroit River.  These drifting buoys are equipped with GPS (global positioning system) units that transmit their position every 90 seconds.  Dave Holtschlag, project chief for this study for USGS, explains that the buoy measurements will help scientists understand the general movement and dispersion of particles within the waterway.  In particular, the way the buoys move-- whether they stay together or disperse as they move downstream, and whether they travel in a straight path or meander --will help assess the susceptibility of public water supply intakes to contaminants from various sources.

 The model has many potential uses, according to Brad Brogren, of MDEQ’s Drinking Water and Radiological Protection Division:

 The waterway, which connects Lake Huron with Lake Erie, has three major components: St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and Detroit River.  The model computes water-surface elevations and flows through the waterway, which average about 200,000 cubic feet per second.

 Accurate streambed elevation data are needed for model development.  Existing data, originally obtained in the late 1950s and early 1960s, are being updated this year to document current conditions in the waterway.  In April 2000, NOAA started the new survey using a single-beam echo sounder. Over 1100 cross sections will be collected throughout the connecting channels. The new data will be available in September 2000 to describe the current flow geometry.  This data also will subsequently be used to update navigational charts.

 The model is being developed for the Michigan Source Water Assessment Program by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) through funding agreements with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ), and Detroit Water and Sewerage Department.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is assisting under contract with MDEQ, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is assisting under contract with USGS. The U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada are also involved with the model’s workgroup. 

 In spring 2001, a report will document the development process and the capabilities of the flow model.  The flow model will be utilized by MDEQ to complete source water assessments for the public water supplies on this waterway.  The model is expected to also provide a basis for further studies of particle movements, water chemistry, and sediment transport within the waterway.  An electronic version of the report will be accessible for public information.  Further information on the Source Water Assessment Program in Michigan can be found on the internet at,1607,7-135-3313_3675_3693---,00.html .  Further information about U.S. Geological Survey work on this and other projects can be found at

 As the nation’s largest water, earth and biological science and civilian mapping agency, the USGS works in cooperation with more than 2,000 organizations across the country to provide reliable, impartial, scientific information to resource managers, planners, and other customers. This information is gathered in every state by USGS scientists to minimize the loss of life and property from natural disasters, to contribute to the conservation and the sound economic and physical development of the nation’s natural resources, and to enhance the quality of life by monitoring water, biological, energy, and mineral resources.


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