Summer Intern Research

Below are summaries of the research conducted by past Undergraduate Summer Water Interns.

Water and Sewer Affordability: An Insight into Water Equity in Allegheny County

Amanda Zelnis, 2020
Partner: UrbanKind Institute

To keep up with aging infrastructure and previously deferred maintenance, many of the water and sewer authorities in Allegheny County have been forced to raise utility bills. Rate increases threaten the affordability of water and sewer services for financially vulnerable households. Water and sewer unaffordability is a known barrier to water and sanitation access and implicates other public health, wellbeing, and safety concerns. This report seeks to quantify water and sewer affordability in Allegheny County and theorize possible correlates of unaffordability.


Streets Run Watershed and the Effects of Urbanization, Abandoned Mine Drainage, and Nitrogen Eutrophication on Water Quality

Aidan Conway, 2018

Aidan's research has been focused on the Streets Run Watershed located in Allegheny County. Water quality in the Streets Run watershed has been and continues to be impaired by multiple stressors. Decades of coal extraction, urban encroachment, and excess nutrients have degraded water quality throughout the watershed. Furthermore, predicted increases in precipitation in the Ohio River Basin increase the risk of flooding in an already flood-prone valley. This study utilizes a number of water quality parameters (total metals, anions, nitrogen isotopes, total organic carbon, and pH) to clarify spatial and temporal patterns of water and water chemistry within the watershed. This project developed into an undergraduate thesis. The final thesis will be posted when completed.


Streets Run Watershed Property Acquisition Report

Kayla Maurer, 2018

This project evaluated land use patterns in Streets Run Watershed and developed recommendations for a land acquisition strategy, using geographic information systems (GIS) to conduct a multi-criteria decision analysis. Multiple layers of spatial data are combined in GIS and used to characterize land use in the watershed including 908 individual land parcels.  Kayla's analysis incorporated stakeholder input to create a ranked prioritization of parcel acquisition, with a higher score indicating the property contributes more to regional stakeholder goals.This analysis can facilitate future land use transitions along Streets Run to increase the sustainability and resilience of Streets Run. This research was conducted in collaboration with Lisa Brown, Streets Run Watershed Assocation. The research culminated in the production of the Streets Run Watershed Property Acquisition Report.