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In cooperation with the City of Houston

Estimated Effects on Water Quality of Lake Houston From Interbasin Transfer of Water From the Trinity River, Texas

By Fred Liscum and Jeffery W. East

U.S. Geological Survey
Water-Resources Investigations Report 00–4082


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Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area

Water-Quality Data Available for 1983–90

Interbasin Water-Transfer Scenarios

Acknowledgments

Application of CE–QUAL–W2 Model to Lake Houston

Model Characteristics

Model Calibration and Testing

Estimated Effects of Interbasin Transfer

Summary

Selected References

Figures

1.   Map showing San Jacinto River Basin, Texas
2.   Map showing location of study area and data-collection sites
3.   Schematic showing views of Lake Houston as represented in CE–QUAL–W2 model: (a) Plan view of surface layer; (b) Longitudinal cross-section view
4.   Graphs showing water-quality properties and constituents at segments 19 and 32 in Lake Houston for selected dates:
  a.   Water temperature as computed during model calibration
  b.   Water temperature as computed during model test run
  c.   Phosphorus as computed during model calibration
  d.   Phosphorus as computed during model test run
  e.   Ammonia nitrogen as computed during model calibration
  f.   Ammonia nitrogen as computed during model test run
  g.   Nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen as computed during model calibration
  h.   Nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen as computed during model test run
  i.   Algal biomass as computed during model calibration
  j.   Algal biomass as computed during model test run
  k.   Dissolved oxygen as computed during model calibration
  l.   Dissolved oxygen as computed during model test run
  m.   Total dissolved solids as computed during model calibration
  n.   Total dissolved solids as computed during model test run
  o.   Labile dissolved organic matter as computed during model calibration
  p.   Labile dissolved organic matter as computed during model test run
  q.   Refractory dissolved organic matter as computed during model calibration
  r.   Refractory dissolved organic matter as computed during model test run
  s.   Detritus as computed during model calibration
  t.   Detritus as computed during model test run
  u.   Dissolved iron as computed during model calibration
  v.   Dissolved iron as computed during model test run
5.   Graphs showing simulated volume-weighted daily mean water-quality properties and constituents for segment 32 in Lake Houston using base dataset and six water-transfer scenarios for low- and high-flow years:
  a.   Water temperature
  b.   Phosphorus
  c.   Ammonia nitrogen
  d.   Nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen
  e.   Algal biomass
  f.   Dissolved oxygen

Tables

1.   Surface-water-quality sampling sites in Lake Houston, Trinity River, and tributaries to Lake Houston
2.   Summary of flow for six water-transfer scenarios, 1985–90, Trinity River into Lake Houston
3.   Selected coefficients and constants determined for Lake Houston application of CE–QUAL–W2
4.   Volume-weighted daily means computed for observed and simulated data for selected properties and constituents at segments 19 and 32 during calibration and test years
5.   Summary of reliability index computed for selected properties and constituents at segments 19 and 32 during calibration and test years
6.   Summary of compatibility index for volume-weighted daily mean properties and constituents simulated for base dataset and for six water-transfer scenarios at segment 32 in Lake Houston, during selected simulation periods
7.   Summary of percent change between volume-weighted mean properties and constituents simulated for base dataset and for six water-transfer scenarios at segment 32 in Lake Houston, 1985–90

Abstract

The City of Houston is considering the transfer of water from the Trinity River to Lake Houston (on the San Jacinto River) to alleviate concerns about adequate water supplies for future water demands. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Houston, conducted a study to estimate the effects on the water quality of Lake Houston from the transfer of Trinity River water.

A water-quality model, CE–QUAL–W2, was used to simulate six water-quality properties and constituents for scenarios of interbasin transfer of Trinity River water. Three scenarios involved the transferred Trinity River water augmenting streamflow in the East Fork of Lake Houston, and three scenarios involved the transferred water replacing streamflow from the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.

The estimated effects on Lake Houston were determined by comparing volume-weighted daily mean water temperature, phosphorus, ammonia nitrogen, nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen, algal biomass, and dissolved oxygen simulated for each of the transfer scenarios to simulations for a base dataset. The effects of the interbasin transfer on Lake Houston do not appear to be detrimental to water temperature, ammonia nitrogen, or dissolved oxygen. Phosphorus and nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen showed fairly large changes when Trinity River water was transferred to replace West Fork San Jacinto River streamflow. Algal biomass showed large decreases when Trinity River water was transferred to augment East Fork Lake Houston streamflow and large increases when Trinity River water was transferred to replace West Fork San Jacinto River streamflow. Regardless of the scenario simulated, the model indicated that light was the limiting factor for algal biomass growth.

 


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