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Evaluation of Streamflow, Water Quality, and Permitted and Nonpermitted Loads and Yields in the Raritan River Basin, New Jersey, Water Years 1991-98

U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4207

Prepared in cooperation with the New Jersey Water Supply Authority

By Robert G. Reiser


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Abstract

Seventeen water-quality constituents were analyzed in samples collected from 21 surface-water sampling sites in the Raritan River Basin during water years 1991-97. Loads were computed for seven constituents. Thirteen constituents have associated instream water-quality standards that are used as reference levels when evaluating the data. Nine of the 13 constituents did not meet water-quality reference levels in all samples at all sites. The constituents that most commonly failed to meet the water-quality reference levels in the 801 samples analyzed were total phosphorus (greater than 0.1 mg/L (milligrams per liter) in 32 percent of samples), fecal coliform bacteria (greater than 400 counts/100 milliliters in 29 percent), hardness (less than 50 mg/L in 21 percent), pH (greater than 8.5 or less than 6.5 in 17 percent), and water temperature in designated trout waters (greater than 20 degrees Celsius in 12 percent of samples). Concentrations of chloride, total dissolved solids, nitrate plus nitrite, and sulfate did not exceed water-quality reference levels in any sample. Results from previous studies on pesticides and volatile organic compounds in streamwater during 1996-98, and organic compounds and trace elements in sediments during 1976-93, were summarized for this study. Concentrations of pesticides in some samples exceeded the relevant standards.

Water-quality data varied significantly as season and streamflow changed. Concentrations or values of 12 constituents were significantly higher in the growing season than in the nongrowing season at 1 to 21 sites, and concentrations of 6 constituents were significantly higher in the nongrowing season at 1 to 21 sites. Concentrations or values of seven constituents decreased significantly with increased streamflow, indicating a more significant contribution from base flow or permitted sources than from runoff. Concentrations or values of four constituents increased with increased flow, indicating a more significant contribution from runoff than from base flow or permitted sources. Phosphorus concentrations increased with flow at two sites with no point sources and decreased with flow at five sites with four or more permitted point sources. Concentrations of five constituents did not vary significantly with changes in streamflow at any of the sites.

Concentrations of constituents differed significantly between sites. The sites with the most desirable values for the most constituents were Mulhockaway Creek, Spruce Run, Millstone River at Manalapan, Manalapan Brook, and Lamington River at Pottersville. The sites with the least desirable values for the most constituents were Millstone River at Blackwells Mills, Matchaponix Brook, Raritan River at Bound Brook, Neshanic River, and Millstone River at Grovers Mill.

The total instream loads of seven constituents–-total ammonia plus organic nitrogen (TKN), biochemical oxygen demand (BOD), total dissolved solids (TDS), nitrate plus nitrite (NO3+NO2), total organic carbon (TOC), total phosphorus, and total suspended solids (TSS)-- were analyzed at low, median, and high flows. The quantities of total instream load that originated from facilities with permits issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection to discharge effluent to streams (permitted sources) and from other sources (nonpermitted sources) were estimated for each sampling site. TOC and TSS loads primarily were contributed by nonpermitted sources at all flows. BOD and TDS loads primarily were contributed by nonpermitted sources at median and high flows. At low flow, permitted sources contributed more than one-third of the TDS load at 10 sites and more than one-third of the BOD load at 3 sites. Permitted sources contributed more than one-third of the total phosphorus load at 15 and 14 sites at low and median flows, respectively. Permitted sources accounted for more than one-third of total instream load of NO3+NO2 at low- and median-flow conditions at nearly half of the sampling sites.

Samples from the Raritan River at Bound Brook site represent a composite of water that drains nearly three-quarters of the Raritan River Basin, including effluent from 70 permitted point sources. Contributions by permitted sources at the Bound Brook sampling site for each of the seven constituents ranged from 4 to 56 percent of total instream load at median flow. Permitted sources accounted for 4 percent of TSS, 10 percent of TOC, 14 percent of BOD, 22 percent of TDS, 35 percent of TKN, 45 percent of total phosphorus, and 56 percent of NO3+NO2 loads.

Nonpermitted yields were related to environmental factors such as land use, soils, lithology, basin shape, and hydrology. Total phosphorus and TSS yields most strongly correlated with the soils, lithology, and slope associated with the Coastal Plain. At low flow, increases in BOD yield most strongly correlated with increases in septic-system density and other factors related to urban areas. At median and high flows, correlations were strongest between decreases in BOD yield and increases in the percentages of soil types and lithology characteristic of the Coastal Plain in the drainage area upstream from the site. Increases in TKN yields most strongly correlated with decreases in slope and percent of forested land at high flow and with increases in basin elongation associated with streams at low flow in the New England Physiographic Province. Nonpermitted TDS yields most strongly correlated with septic-system density and with soils and lithology associated with the New England Physiographic Province. Nonpermitted yields of NO3+NO2 most significantly correlated with septic-system density and soil permeability at low flow. No significant correlations were observed at high flow. Nonpermitted TOC yield correlated most significantly with increases in factors related to urban land uses and soil permeability.

Table of Contents

Abstract
Introduction
     Purpose and Scope
     Description of Study Area
     Basin Characteristics
     Previous Studies
     Acknowledgments
Methods of Study
     Water-Quality Data
          Selection of Constituents
          Quality Assurance of Data
     Statistical Methods
     Computation of Instream Loads and Yields
          Permitted Load
          Nonpermitted Load
     Estimation of Time of Travel
     Estimation of Velocities
     Selection of Regression Methods
     Correlation Analysis and Multiple Regression Analysis
Evaluation of Streamflow
     Streamflow Characteristics
     Comparison of Recent Streamflow Data to Historical Streamflow and Precipitation Data
Evaluations of Water Quality
     Major Ions, Nutrients, and Field Characteristics
          Water-Quality Standards
               Phosphorus
               Fecal Coliform Bacteria
               Hardness
               Water Temperature
               pH
               Total Suspended Solids
               Dissolved Oxygen
               Sodium
               Un-ionized Ammonia
               Other Constituents
          Exceedence of Reference Levels
          Trends in Water-Quality Characteristics
          Relation of Constituent Values to Season and Flow
               Alkalinity
               Ammonia plus Organic Nitrogen (TKN)
               Biochemical Oxygen Demand
               Chloride
               Dissolved Oxygen
               Dissolved Solids, Total
               Fecal Coliform Bacteria
               Hardness
               Nitrate Plus Nitrite
               Organic Carbon, Total
               pH
               Phosphorus
               Sodium
               Sulfate
               Total Suspended Solids
               Un-ionized Ammonia
               Water Temperature
          Water-Quality Rating
          Relation of Total Suspended Solids to Other Constituents
     Comparison of Ground-Water-Quality Data to Surface-Water-Quality Data
     Constituent Concentrations in Ground Water and Surface Water
     Relation of Land Use and Population Density to Water Quality
     Pesticides
          Relation to Season, Flow, and Water-Quality and Drinking-Water Standards
          Relation to Land Use
     Volatile Organic Compounds
          Relation to Season
          Relation to Land Use
          Relation to Flow and Land Use in the Bound Brook Subbasin
Evaluation of Total Loads and Yields
     Relation to Streamflow
     Total Loads and Yields by Constituent
          Ammonia plus Organic Nitrogen, Total
          Biochemical Oxygen Demand
          Chloride
          Dissolved Solids, Total
          Nitrate Plus Nitrite
          Organic Carbon,Total
          Phosphorus, Total
          Total Suspended Solids
     Relation to Land Use and Population Density
     Sources of Constituent Load
          Ground-Water Sources
          Permitted Surface-Water Sources
Evaluation of Load from Permitted Sources
     Effects of Upgraded Effluent Treatment
          Adjustment for Withdrawals
          Adjustment for Time of Travel
               Time-of-Travel Studies
               Time of Travel through Lakes
          Adjustment for Attenuation Rates
     Loads and Yields from Permitted Sources
          Ammonia plus Organic Nitrogen, Total
          Biochemical Oxygen Demand
          Chloride
          Dissolved Solids, Total
          Nitrate Plus Nitrite
          Organic Carbon, Total
          Phosphorus, Total
          Total Suspended Solids
Evaluation of Loads and Yields from Nonpermitted Sources
     Nonpermitted loads and yields by constituent
          Ammonia plus Organic Nirtogen, Total
          Biochemical Oxygen Demand
          Chloride
          Dissolved Solids, Total
          Nitrate Plus Nitrite
          Organic Carbon, Total
          Phosphorus, Total
          Total Suspended Solids
     Relation of Nonpermitted Yields Among Sites
          Ammonia Plus Organic Nitrogen, Total
          Biochemical Oxygen Demand
          Dissolved Solids, Total
          Nitrate Plus Nitrite
          Organic Carbon, Total
          Phosphorus,Total
          Total Suspended Solids
Summary and Conclusions
References Cited
Appendix A. Distributions of 17 Constituents in Samples from 21 Sites
             B. Water-Quality Standards and Percentage of Samples That Do Not Meet
                 the Reference Levels
             C. Cumulative Probability Curves for Concentrations of Each of 17 Constituents
                 at Each of the 21 Surface-Water Sampling Sites, 1991-97


Suggested citation:
Reiser, R.G., 2004, Evaluation of streamflow, water quality, and permitted and nonpermitted loads and yields in the Raritan River Basin, New Jersey, Water Years 1991-98: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4207, 210 p.


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View the report in Portable Document Format (PDF) WRIR 03-4207 (14.2 MB)


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USGS New Jersey Water Science Center
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