USDA Forest Service

Pacific Southwest Research Station

Pacific Southwest
Research Station

800 Buchanan Street
Albany, CA 94710-0011
(510) 883-8830
United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service. USDA logo which links to the department's national site. Forest Service logo which links to the agency's national site.

Determining sources of highway runoff fine sediment in stormwater, streams, and Lake Tahoe using fingerprinting techniques

Principal Investigators:
James Thomas, Desert Research Institute
Alan Heyvaert, Desert Research Institute
Ross Edwards, Desert Research Institute
Markus Berli, Desert Research Institute
Tim Minor, Desert Research Institute
John Reuter, University of California-Davis

Proposal [pdf]

Final Report [pdf]

Please contact Dr. Alan Heyvaert with questions regarding the final report.

Project Summary

The purpose of this project was to investigate the use of particle fingerprinting techniques for determining source contributions of fine suspended sediment particles in stormwater runoff from highway areas around the Lake Tahoe Basin. The major and trace element composition of fine particle fractions were measured on samples to evaluate whether chemical fingerprints would provide a useful method for evaluating the relative contribution of total particle loads to the lake from highway sources, including road surface abrasion, winter traction material, road shoulder and ditch erosion, and soil erosion.

One hundred sites were randomly selected on highways in the Tahoe Basin. Storm runoff samples were collected from about one-third of these sites over the course of the project. Snow bank samples were also collected at each sampling site, as well as parent soil material, road aggregate samples, road shoulder and road surface dirt. Winter traction abrasives were obtained from available sources around the Tahoe Basin.

A baseline geographic information system (GIS) evaluation of highway and roadside characteristics was conducted to evaluate risk levels for fine particle loading along different highways sections.