Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5172
The City of Tulsa, Oklahoma, uses water from Lake Eucha and Spavinaw Lake in the Eucha-Spavinaw basin of northwestern Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma for public water supply. Increases in algal biomass, which cause taste and odor problems in drinking water produced from the lakes, may be attributable to increases in nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in the lakes and in streams discharging to the lakes. To evaluate transport of nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediment in this basin, loads and temporal trends were evaluated for five streamflow-gaging stations in the Spavinaw and Beaty Creek basins.
Two approaches were used to develop regression equations for estimation of loads and yields of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. The first approach used regression equations referred to as daily mean load (DML) regressions, developed from water-quality samples and daily mean streamflow data collected from 2002 through 2010 at five streamflow-gaging stations in the basin. This approach was updated to compare loading results with those used in previous investigations. The second approach used regression equations, referred to as instantaneous continuous (INSTC) regressions, developed from continuous measurements of physical water-quality constituents (specific conductance, temperature, and turbidity, and streamflow data) obtained from 2004 through 2010 to estimate loads of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment at two of the streamflow-gaging stations, Spavinaw Creek near Colcord, Okla., and Beaty Creek near Jay, Okla. Daily, annual, and mean annual loads estimated from these two regression methods were compared for the period 2005–10.
Based on estimates obtained using DML regressions, mean annual loads of 1,640,000 pounds of nitrogen, 99,900 pounds of phosphorus, and 116,000,000 pounds of sediment were transported into Lake Eucha from the Spavinaw and Beaty Creek basins. Estimated annual loads of nitrogen and phosphorus delivered to Lake Eucha from the Spavinaw and Beaty Creek basins during 2002–10 were 2.5 to 7.8 percent less, respectively, than the loads of those constituents discharged to Lake Eucha from 2002–09, indicating that nitrogen and phosphorus loads in 2010 were less than loads typical for the period 2002–09.
Daily, annual, and mean annual load estimates varied substantially, depending on streamflow conditions and the independent variables used to develop regressions. Daily and annual loads estimated from INSTC regressions that included turbidity, streamflow, temperature, specific conductance, and seasonality fit better with the field data than loads estimated from DML regressions that included streamflow, seasonality, and time. Loads estimated from the INSTC regression generally were greater than those estimated from the DML regression. Relative percent differences in the mean annual total nitrogen load estimated by the INSTC and DML regressions were within 2 percent for Spavinaw Creek near Colcord, and Beaty Creek near Jay, Okla. The relative percent difference between the two types of regressions for estimates of mean annual total phosphorus loads at the two streamflow-gaging stations was 27.7 for Spavinaw Creek near Colcord, Okla., and only -2.6 percent for Beaty Creek near Jay, Okla. The relative percent difference between mean annual suspended-sediment loads at the streamflow-gaging stations was -38.6 percent for Spavinaw Creek near Colcord, Okla., and -122.7 percent for Beaty Creek near Jay, Okla. The DML regression may have substantially underestimated phosphorus load at the Spavinaw Creek near Colcord, Okla., streamflow-gaging station in wet years and overestimated sediment load at both streamflow-gaging stations in wet years.
Temporal trends in flow-adjusted nitrate-nitrogen, nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended-sediment concentrations were analyzed for the five streamflow-gaging stations for the period 2001–10. No significant trends were observed for nitrate plus nitrite-nitrogen or total nitrogen concentrations at any streamflow-gaging station. There were significant upward trends in phosphorus concentrations in water samples collected during base-flow conditions at the Spavinaw Creek near Maysville, Okla., streamflow-gaging station and during runoff conditions for the Beaty Creek near Jay, Okla., streamflow-gaging station (3.5 to 4.2 percent per year). There were significant downward trends in phosphorus concentrations in base-flow and runoff samples collected at the Spavinaw Creek near Cherokee City, Sycamore, and Colcord, Okla., streamflow-gaging stations (-4.9 to -12.9 percent per year). There were significant downward trends in suspended-sediment concentration at the Spavinaw Creek near Maysville, and Sycamore, Okla., and the Beaty Creek near Jay, Okla., streamflow-gaging stations (-1.5 to -1.8 percent per year). No significant trends were detected in suspended-sediment concentration for the Spavinaw Creek near Cherokee City, and Colcord, Okla., streamflow-gaging stations.
Possible causes for downward trends in phosphorus concentrations include decreases in phosphorus discharges from a wastewater-treatment plant upstream from the Spavinaw Creek near Cherokee City, Okla., streamflow-gaging station, and implementation of best management practices in the basin. Downward trends in sediment concentrations may be related to effects of best management practices in the basin.
First posted May 7, 2012
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Esralew, R.A., Andrews, W.J., Allen, M.L., and Becker, C.J., 2011, Comparison of load estimation techniques and trend analysis for nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediment in the Eucha-Spavinaw Basin, northwestern Arkansas and northeastern Oklahoma, 2002–10: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2011–5172, 60 p. (Revised January 2013)
Methods of Analysis
Streamflows, Loads, and Instantaneous Concentrations in the Eucha-Spavinaw Basin, 2002–10
Evaluation of Temporal Trends in Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Sediment Concentrations in the Eucha-Spavinaw Basin, 2002–10