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Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5117

Prepared in cooperation with the City of Oklahoma City

Evaluation and Trends of Land Cover, Streamflow, and Water Quality in the North Canadian River Basin near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1968–2009

By Rachel A. Esralew, William J. Andrews, and S. Jerrod Smith

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (9.11 MB)Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of Oklahoma City, collected water-quality samples from the North Canadian River at the streamflow-gaging station near Harrah, Oklahoma (Harrah station), since 1968, and at an upstream streamflow-gaging station at Britton Road at Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (Britton Road station), since 1988. Statistical summaries and frequencies of detection of water-quality constituent data from water samples, and summaries of water-quality constituent data from continuous water-quality monitors are described from the start of monitoring at those stations through 2009. Differences in concentrations between stations and time trends for selected constituents were evaluated to determine the effects of: (1) wastewater effluent discharges, (2) changes in land-cover, (3) changes in streamflow, (4) increases in urban development, and (5) other anthropogenic sources of contamination on water quality in the North Canadian River downstream from Oklahoma City.

Land-cover changes between 1992 and 2001 in the basin between the Harrah station and Lake Overholser upstream included an increase in developed/barren land-cover and a decrease in pasture/hay land cover. There were no significant trends in median and greater streamflows at either streamflow-gaging station, but there were significant downward trends in lesser streamflows, especially after 1999, which may have been associated with decreases in precipitation between 1999 and 2009 or construction of low-water dams on the river upstream from Oklahoma City in 1999.

Concentrations of dissolved chloride, lead, cadmium, and chlordane most frequently exceeded the Criterion Continuous Concentration (a water-quality standard for protection of aquatic life) in water-quality samples collected at both streamflow-gaging stations. Visual trends in annual frequencies of detection were investigated for selected pesticides with frequencies of detection greater than 10 percent in all water samples collected at both streamflow-gaging stations. Annual frequencies of detection of 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid and bromacil increased with time. Annual frequencies of detection of atrazine, chlorpyrifos, diazinon, dichlorprop, and lindane decreased with time.

Dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were significantly greater in water samples collected at the Harrah station than at the Britton Road station, whereas specific conductance was greater at the Britton Road station. Concentrations of dissolved oxygen, biochemical oxygen demand, and fecal coliform bacteria were not significantly different between stations.

Daily minimum, mean, and maximum specific conductance collected from continuous water-quality monitors were significantly greater at the Britton Road station than in water samples collected at the Harrah station. Daily minimum, maximum, and diurnal fluctuations of water temperature collected from continuous water-quality monitors were significantly greater at the Harrah station than at the Britton Road station. The daily maximums and diurnal range of dissolved oxygen concentrations were significantly greater in water samples collected at the Britton Road station than at the Harrah station, but daily mean dissolved oxygen concentrations in water at those streamflow-gaging stations were not significantly different.

Daily mean and diurnal water temperature ranges increased with time at the Britton Road and Harrah streamflow-gaging stations, whereas daily mean and diurnal specific conductance ranges decreased with time at both streamflow-gaging stations from 1988–2009. Daily minimum dissolved oxygen concentrations collected from continuous water-quality monitors more frequently indicated hypoxic conditions at the Harrah station than at the Britton Road station after 1999. Fecal coliform bacteria counts in water decreased slightly from 1988–2009 at the Britton Road station.

The Seasonal Kendall’s tau test indicated significant downward trends in flow-adjusted dissolved phosphorus concentrations from 1988–2009 in water samples collected at the Britton Road station. Trends in water quality were analyzed before and after 1999 because of trends in streamflow after 1999. For the period 1988–98, there were significant downward trends in nitrogen and phosphorus. For the period 1999–2009, there were also significant downward trends in flow- and temperature-adjusted dissolved oxygen concentrations in water samples collected at the Harrah station, significant upward trends in flow-adjusted dissolved nitrogen concentrations in water samples collected at both stations, and significant upward trends in flow-adjusted dissolved phosphorus concentrations only at the Harrah station.

Statistically significant differences in concentrations of water-quality constituents and trends in water-quality constituents may have been caused, in part, by changes in streamflow and discharges from wastewater-treatment plants. Urban development, population growth, and agricultural activities, including application of treated biosolids along the riparian corridor of the North Canadian River upstream from these stations, also may have affected trends in water quality in the river.

Revised November 3, 2011

First posted September 29, 2011

For additional information contact:
Director, Oklahoma Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
202 NW 66th Street, Building 7
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73116 http://ok.water.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Esralew, R.A., Andrews, W.J., and Smith, S.J., 2011, Evaluation and trends of land cover, streamflow, and water quality in the North Canadian River Basin near Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 1968–2009: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5117, 97 p. (Revised November 2011) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Methods of Analysis

Evaluation of Changes in Land Cover

Evaluation of Streamflow

Evaluation of Water Quality

Potential Sources of Differences and Trends in Constituent Concentrations

Summary

References Cited

Appendixes


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