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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5103

Application of the SPARROW Model to Assess Surface-Water Nutrient Conditions and Sources in the United States Pacific Northwest

By Daniel R. Wise and Henry M. Johnson

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (11.3 MB)Abstract

The watershed model SPARROW (Spatially Referenced Regressions on Watershed attributes) was used to estimate mean annual surface-water nutrient conditions (total nitrogen and total phosphorus) and to identify important nutrient sources in catchments of the Pacific Northwest region of the United States for 2002. Model-estimated nutrient yields were generally higher in catchments on the wetter, western side of the Cascade Range than in catchments on the drier, eastern side. The largest source of locally generated total nitrogen stream load in most catchments was runoff from forestland, whereas the largest source of locally generated total phosphorus stream load in most catchments was either geologic material or livestock manure (primarily from grazing livestock). However, the highest total nitrogen and total phosphorus yields were predicted in the relatively small number of catchments where urban sources were the largest contributor to local stream load. Two examples are presented that show how SPARROW results can be applied to large rivers—the relative contribution of different nutrient sources to the total nitrogen load in the Willamette River and the total phosphorus load in the Snake River. The results from this study provided an understanding of the regional patterns in surface-water nutrient conditions and should be useful to researchers and water-quality managers performing local nutrient assessments.

First posted July 17, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Oregon Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
2130 SW 5th Avenue
Portland, Oregon 97201

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Suggested citation:

Wise, D.R., and Johnson, H.M., 2013, Application of the SPARROW model to assess surface-water nutrient conditions and sources in the United States Pacific Northwest: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5103, 32 p.,

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