Research Projects

The Research Team at Phinizy Center for Water Sciences conducts basic and applied research on water quality through collaborations with local, state, and industrial partners. We aim to understand the drivers of water quality and quantity, and provide data that meets a rigorous standard to better manage water resources, and communicate results with community members.

Scientists calibrate a continuous water quality monitoring sonde and record water quality data near Hammonds Ferry, SC.

Interested in learning more about Phinizy Center research?

Contact our Research Manager for research policies and to schedule a visit of the Water Quality Research Lab:, 706-396-1425.

Long-term Savannah River Water Quality

Since 2005, Phinizy Center Research Team has monitored water quality along the Savannah River, from North Augusta, South Carolina, to Clyo, Georgia. We use water quality sondes to collect multi-parameter data, including temperature, specific conductance, pH, and dissolved oxygen at 15-minute intervals. We analyze monthly water samples for total nitrogen, total phosphorus, nitrate + nitrite, ammonia, total organic carbon, and dissolved organic carbon. We examine short- and long-term changes in water quality along the Savannah River, the effects of dams on features like the Augusta Shoals, and parameterize water quality models. As the most geographically and temporally comprehensive water quality dataset available for the Savannah River, these results inform stakeholders surrounding the Savannah River, including the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) and US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This map of the Savannah River shows Phinizy Center water quality sampling sites (dark blue circle: continuous monitoring + water samples; light blue circle: water samples only). Significant locations along the river are indicated (red rectangle: dams; white triangle: industry).

Each month, Phinizy Center scientists download water quality data from continuous monitoring sondes along the Savannah River. They collect water samples that are analyzed for nutrients. Together, these data are used to produce an annual report of Savannah River water quality.

In 2022, Savannah River Monitoring research and activities were supported by Augusta-Richmond County Utilities and Engineering, Columbia County Water Utility, and Wells Fargo.

Read the latest water quality report: Savannah River Monitoring Report

Brushy Creek Bacteria Levels Following Wild Hog Elimination

Bacterial pollution in streams can lead to disease and illness in humans. Bacteria like fecal coliform and E. coli are present in the digestive systems and feces of animals. Streams can become contaminated with fecal bacteria from wildlife, farm animals, and leaking septic systems.

Brushy Creek, near the city of Wrens, is listed as an impaired waterbody for unacceptable levels of fecal coliform based on Georgia EPD criteria. High levels of fecal coliform indicate that harmful bacteria may be present, making the stream unsafe for humans. Through an ongoing 319(h) grant partnership with the Brier Creek Soil and Water Conservation District, Phinizy Center scientists have monitored Brushy Creek for the presence of fecal coliform over the course of a wild hog elimination program. Through a Georgia Power Foundation grant to expand the project, Phinizy Center scientists are investigating the species contributing to the bacterial pollution using microbial source tracking in collaboration with Dr. Dave Bachoon (Georgia College).
Scientists collect water samples to study bacterial contamination of Brushy Creek.

Augusta Urban Stream Monitoring

We monitor streams around Augusta for water quality parameters E. coli and total suspended solids, along with stream discharge and bathymetry. Over time, this data can be used to target management efforts to streams that are most impacted by stormwater. This work is supported by the Augusta Engineering Department.

Shoals Spider Lily Monitoring & Restoration

Shoals spider lily (Hymenocallis coronaria), also known as Cahaba lily, is a historically, culturally and ecologically significant plant native to the Savannah River Region. Its flowers are stunning, but unfortunately populations have declined due to flow regulation from dams as well as predation by deer.

Hymenocallis coronaria, Rocky Shoals Spider Lily, in bloom.

In this project, we are performing habitat assessments to quantify shoal characteristics favorable for shoals lilies and monitoring current lily populations in the Savannah River. Through these assessments and past research on shoals lilies we are implementing best practice restoration techniques to grow and re-establish lily populations. The research team is planting sprouted seedlings at a shoal with a nearly extirpated population following deer feedings and a shoal with suitable habitat but no current lily population. We will conclude the project with a symposium to discuss the results of our restoration efforts ad educate the general public about the Shoals Spider Lily. This work is supported by Porter Fleming and Sandhills Garden club.

Read our interim report for the Shoals Spider Lily Project: Shoals Spider Lily Interim Report

Are you in need of the expertise of Phinizy Center Scientists?

Contact our Research Manager at or 706-396-1425.