An Online Phosphorus Calculator for Water Quality Management

Start Page for Phosphorus Calculator
Users learn about phosphorus and how to use the "P" calculator.
Client:   Lakes Region Planning Commission

Runoff from lawns and farming can lead to a build up of phosphorus which can trigger algae blooms and other water quality problems. The Lakes Region Planning Commission wanted to move from an older, downloadable spreadsheet, used by property owners and others to calculate possible phosphorus loads and options, to an interactive web tool and asked GreenInfo Network to solve that problem.

Point-source water pollution, such as discharge from factories and waste water treatment plants, is generally well-regulated under the Clean Water Act. However, non-point source pollution, what gets picked up by water running across our residential lawns, parking lots, streets, and agricultural fields, is more difficult to quantify and control. This type of water pollution includes fertilizers from lawns, motor oil from roads and parking lots, pesticides from crops, and any household or commercial waste that get washed or dumped into local storm drains. Unlike point-source waste water, water transported through storm drains is often untreated and flows directly into our local rivers, lakes, and oceans. This becomes a difficult problem to tackle since the source of the pollution is distributed across the landscape and is often attributable to common, everyday activities such as watering a lawn or driving a car. Therefore, public education is currently one of the best ways to try to reduce this pollution source.

The goal of the project was to allow a homeowner to plug in information about his or her individual property and evaluate not only current pollution contribution but how this pollution "loading" might change under different construction and landscaping practices, such as use of permeable pavement, installation of rain barrels and rain gardens, and changes in fertilizer use.
GreenInfo adapted the NH Residential Loading Model spreadsheet available from NH Department of Environmental Services.  We used the Google Maps API for the watershed selection tool, HTML, Javascript, PHP and MySQL to build the site and wkhtmltopdf to generate the PDF report. 
While the Lakes Region tool focuses on phosphorus, one of the major causes of water quality issues in Lake Winnipesaukee, this online pollutant calculator could be altered to address other pollutants, such as other nutrients, bacteria, or metals, or other land uses, such as commercial development and retrofit. 

The Calculator is accessed through the Lake Winnipesaukee Gateway web site, which GreenInfo Network created earlier for the Lakes Region Planning Commission - read more about this project ยป

Focus:   Environment, Public Health  

Services:  Interactive Solutions, Applications Development 

Tags:   Lakes region, Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire, phosphorus, water quality  

Project Years: 2011-2012

GreenInfo Network creates, analyzes, visualizes and communicates information in the public interest. We specialize in mapping and related technology for nonprofits and public agencies, focusing on using it for conservation, social equity, public health, environment and foundation grant making.
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