Stream & Watershed Assessment & Restoration (SWAR) Program
The Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) Surface Water Hydrology and Hydraulics section has basic and applied research experience in watershed and stream assessment and restoration. The mission of the Stream & Watershed Assessment & Restoration (SWAR) Program Program is to protect and improve the quality and quantity of water resources while protecting infrastructure, enhancing habitat, and sustaining biodiversity.
The ISWS' Peoria Manager serves as Principal Investigator and Manager of the SWAR Program. The SWAR Program coordinates closely with other ISWS and CWS staff as well as other ISWS Centers, Scientific Surveys, University, federal, state, local, and non-governmental organizations. The SWAR Program publicizes stream and watershed related research efforts through a variety of public outreach mechanisms. Stream and watershed assessment approaches, restoration designs, restoration demonstrations and research findings gained from research conducted by the SWAR Program have proven useful to public and private organizations and individuals in Illinois and across the nation. With each passing year the on-the-ground restoration project demonstration efforts of the SWAR Program are having positive impacts on the landscape and the research assessment and monitoring data continue to be useful for making adaptive management decisions and for evaluating project performance.
South Kickapoo Creek is located in La Salle County, Illinois near Marseilles and is a bluff ravine system of the upper Illinois River valley. The watershed is 4,769 acres at 7.5 square miles excluding Lake La Salle severe erosion is occurring in South Kickapoo Creek near Marseilles Fish and Wildlife Area. Inspection of the site revealed a massive headcut caused by a breach in a man-made dyke around a deep abandoned gravel pit. ...
This project applied geomorphic assessment protocols to improve upon the current Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) process by simplifying the approach to modeling, meaningfully engaging stakeholders, and adding detailed implementation planning and project identification to the process. The revised approach offered cost savings and allowed local stakeholders to benefit immediately. ...
This project is designed to perform assessments in the Illinois River Basin including the tributary watersheds to identify project locations for restoration related construction to meet overall goals and objectives of the Illinois River Basin and Tributaries Ecosystem Restoration Project. The intent is to bring focus and coordinated integration to the assessment efforts. ...
The Cache River Watershed in southern Illinois is unique and listed as a “Wetland of International Importance.” Channelization of the Cache River along with other alterations to the natural hydrology, habitat fragmentation and excessive erosion and water pollution have been issues that local, state, and federal interests have been trying to collectively combat for years. The State Water Survey in the Office of Scientific Research and Analysis was asked to design and install structures to counteract the negative effects of channel down-cutting in an effort to save the precious wetlands. ...
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) National Nonpoint Source Monitoring Program was interested in determining the effectiveness of land management strategies in reducing watershed erosion, sediment transport and sediment delivery to improve water quality and biological diversity in a rural landscape setting. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) selected the Lake Pittsfield watershed to determine how well erosion control practices can reduce the amounts of sediment entering a small rural community water supply lake. ...
The Waukegan River project was designed to demonstrate the effectiveness of stream restoration techniques. The watershed is heavily urbanized and has been for many years, therefore, there is little control over stormwater discharge (quantity or quality) resulting in flashy runoff rates and heavy stormwater pollutant loads. Sediment was initially deemed to be the main pollutant. Water quality concerns also included cross-connections between sanitary and storm sewers, hydraulic undermining of the sanitary and stormsewers, potential sanitary sewer overflows during wet weather, severe streambank erosion, channel incision and artificial lining. ...
The goal of the SWAR Program are to conduct field- and aerial-based assessments of watersheds and streams to target and prioritize stream channel segments for restoration and to develop innovative conservation practices, designs, and management approaches which mitigate negative impacts of erosion and sedimentation at the local stream segment and landscape scale both in the State of Illinois and the Nation.
- Conduct geomorphological and biological assessments at various landscape scales.
- Develop, adapt, and scientifically test restoration designs and approaches for implementing innovative Best Management Practices.
- Offer planning guidance and educational outreach to naturalize streams and watersheds and advance the adoption and use of innovative natural resource management approaches and in-stream channel stabilization and conservation practices.
- Assess watershed development patterns and water quality trends.
- Document geomorphological instability including changes in stream channel form (using Channel Evolution Models), channel stability indices, and flows (stream gauging).
- Document current and past changes in habitat conditions using approved biological indices.
- Document causative factors for landscape disturbance.
- Target and prioritize stream channel stabilization needs.
- Develop and demonstrate innovative restoration practices that comprehensively address causes of systemic problems and holistically restores or naturalizes watersheds, streams, and stream segments.
Rapid and accurate assessment and identification of landscape and stream channel instability at all scales combined with a determination of causative factors is critical when recommending restoration alternatives. The SWAR Program uses research results to develop or adapt restoration techniques and demonstrate innovative channel erosion control designs that stabilize the landscape, safeguard associated infrastructure, and sustain ecological biodiversity to improve the quality of life for Illinois residents.
The Center's SWAR Program has a proven track record for conducting research assessment and monitoring of both physical and biological conditions and for conducting demonstrations of innovative conservation practices in Illinois and in other states. The Program is credited for noteworthy analysis and restoration projects in the Embarras River, Cache River, Spoon River, Hall Creek, Waukegan River, Panther Creek, Cox Creek, Blue Creek, North Creek, Court Creek, Hickory Creek, and a host of other watersheds in Illinois. Learning experiences from these and other SWAR Program projects have been useful to other organizations across the United States and in other countries.
Brief Example of a Few Projects Undertaken by the SWAR Program
Descriptions of current and recently completed projects include the following selected Illinois projects as examples of activities performed by the SWAR Program: