In recent years, West Virginia's Potomac drainage rivers and their watersheds
have become threatened by development, and industrial and agricultural growth.
To determine the effects of these changes in the watershed, our research
program focuses on identifying and testing innovative solutions to environmental
problems, as well as continuing water quality data collections in the Cacapon
Deer exclusion fencing experiment
is designed to test an innovative and
relatively low cost method to protect riparian forest plantings from
destructive or even catastrophic damage from deer browsing
The purpose of this
experiment is to examine farmersí willingness and ability to
respond to performance-based conservation payments.
watershed, Cullers Run, is located in a rural area of the
Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia, USA.
We began this project in September 2003 with a grant from the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants
Program. The project will extend over two years and will assess a novel
approach to increasing stream flow during low flow periods. Click
here to learn more.
2007 VA/WV Water Research
Symposium Report is
Cacapon River Monitoring Program
Monitoring of the Cacapon for its full length at twelve sites is
for major parameters, including temperature, turbidity
(muddiness), nutrients (nitrate and phosphorus) and fecal coliform
bacteria. The aim, of course, is to detect change, especially deterioration in
water quality, and determine the cause and possible solutions. The project is funded by our
membership and general support funding from The MARPAT
Special Studies:The Effects of Pollution Reduction on a
Wild Trout Stream.
This is a unique project that assessed the biological and water quality impacts of
installing an treatment system on a trout rearing facility's
effluent stream. We worked with Friends of Spring
Runís Wild Trout, Cacapon Institute (CI), the WV Conservation Agency
(WVCA), WV Department of Agriculture (WVDA), WV Division of Natural
Resources (WVDNR), WV Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP),
and the Freshwater Institute. This
project is funded primarily by West Virginia Conservation Agencyís
participation through the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Between 1999 and 2002, Cacapon Institute partnered with WV
University Extension Service,
the Hampshire County Feeder Calf Producers, Romney-based Gourmet Central, the
USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and WVU Animal Sciences
Department on a
project to produce premium grade "eco-friendly" beef. The
product, Petite Beef by Headwater FarmsTM,
was locally produced on West Virginia family farms and sold
directly to the customer, raised without antibiotics or
hormones, and raised mostly on grass.
Cacapon Institute served on the WV Nutrient Criteria
Committee to help develop nutrient criteria for the
waters of the State of West Virginia. As a courtesy tot he
group, we housed
documents (minutes, backgrounders, proposed criteria,
plans) developed by the committee.
A Bit of History: Major Water
The Institute's work builds on the groundbreaking baseline study of the
Cacapon River begun in 1988. This baseline was acknowledged at the time as the most
detailed scientific picture of an entire river ever completed.
relate water quality to land use, with an emphasis on
of Save Our Streams and Professional Stream Assessment Methods, 2000
conduct quantitative comparison of volunteer and professional
biological stream assessment methods.
Monitoring Phase II, 2002 - present
continue collecting trend data with additional 7 sites from LR
and NR study.
Cacapon Baseline, Summer 2005
Revisit Cacapon baseline sites to assess habitat change
increase specificity of relationship between periphyton and
nutrients in support of nutrient criteria development process
Cacapon River Baseline study
The Institute's current scientific work builds on the groundbreaking baseline
study of the Cacapon River, begun in 1988 by the organization's founder, George
Constantz, and completed and published in Portrait of A River: The
Ecological Baseline of the Cacapon River (now available on the web, 2.5
mb, PDF) in 1993. This
study was acknowledged as the most detailed scientific picture of an entire river
ever completed. It is now in its second edition and has been sent, by
request, to all 50 states and four countries. The baseline study
found that the Cacapon River was relatively healthy, but burdened by pollution
created by certain land uses, particularly in the Lost River headwaters
region. The Lost River,
in part because of data obtained in the baseline study, has been classified as not
meeting the state and federal standards for recreational rivers.
Greenbrier River Baseline study
In 1992, at the invitation of the Greenbrier River Watershed Association, the
Cacapon Institute began an intensive baseline study of the water quality and
ecological health of the Greenbrier River in southeastern West Virginia.
Four years later, the results were published in "Greenbrier: A Scientific
Portrait of a West Virginia River".
The study found that, overall, the Greenbrier River's water quality is very
good. It supports the river's legally- designated uses, which include
swimming, fishing and as a source of drinking water. However, at times,
particularly after rainstorms, the river is burdened by non point source
pollutants that wash into the river from surrounding lands.
As part of the Cacapon River baseline study from 1988-1992, benthic
macroinvertebrates were collected. These are the small animals without
backbones (invertebrates) that live on the river bottom (benthos)
and are visible without magnification (macro). These animals are
often used to provide important clues to the river's health because they are
biological indicators. An indicator species is one that, by its
presence, absence or abundance relative to other organisms, indicates
This study, published in 1998, found that overall the river is relatively
healthy. Diverse benthic communities were found throughout the Cacapon
watershed. In the Lost River headwaters, however, unexpectedly high
species diversity suggests moderate nutrient enrichment. This is of
concern. If the river's nutrient load increases, numerous studies suggest
benthic communities will suffer. Just as too much fertilizer on a lawn can
kill grass, too many nutrients in a stream can overwhelm life.
Lost and North Rivers Water Quality Study
The major focus of this research project was to determine
the effect of land use practices and non-point
source pollution on rivers and watersheds. The project focused especially,
but not only, on farming practices and land development. The Lost River
(headwaters of the Cacapon) contains the major study sites because of the heavy
concentration of poultry houses, and hence the heavy application of
nutrient-rich poultry litter as fertilizer, in those two watersheds and because there is
some increase in land development in those two places. The North River (a major
tributary of the Cacapon), still a
relatively pristine stream, was used as a control watershed. Funded by
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Potomac Headwaters Resource Alliance and
our members. Check out our new Interactive
Maps of these study areas!
South Branch of the Potomac Water
South Branch of the Potomac water quality study was complementary to the Lost and
North Rivers study. The South Branch watershed, much larger than the Lost,
contains municipal and industrial point sources and varying levels of
agricultural intensity; it was included to determine if water quality patterns
in the Lost River were typical of other Potomac Headwater streams. Funded
by USFWS and Potomac Headwaters Resource Alliance.
of Save Our Streams and Professional Stream Assessment Methods, Year
In recent years, the science of using animals to
assess the vitality of a river ecosystem has gone public. Volunteer
monitoring programs, such as the Isaak Walton League's pioneering Save
Our Streams (SOS) program, have sprouted up around the country. The SOS
and other volunteer methods are similar in general design to the methods
used by professionals, but tailored to the capabilities of
Cacapon Institute (CI) received funding from the WVDNR
Non-Game Program to compare results from WVís volunteer SOS monitoring
and the more scientifically rigorous Rapid Bioassessment Protocol (RBPII)
stream assessment methods used by WVís Division of Environmental
Protection (WVDEP). Both methods assess stream health using benthic
macroinvertebrates, the small animals without backbones (invertebrates)
that live on the river bottom (benthos) and are visible without
magnification (macro). This project would not have been possible
without the substantial cooperation of WVDEP's Watershed Assessment Program (WAP). To
learn more, click here.
Institute - From the Cacapon to the Potomac to the Chesapeake Bay,
we protect rivers and watersheds using science and education.
#10 Rock Ford Road
Great Cacapon, WV 25422
possible by funding from The Norcross Wildlife Foundation, the
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Virginia Environmental
Endowment, NOAA-BWET, USEPA, The MARPAT Foundation, and our generous