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Open-File Report 2013–1034

Prepared in cooperation with Montgomery County, Maryland
Prince George’s County, Maryland

Water Quality in the Anacostia River, Maryland and Rock Creek, Washington, D.C.: Continuous and Discrete Monitoring with Simulations to Estimate Concentrations and Yields of Nutrients, Suspended Sediment, and Bacteria

By Cherie V. Miller, Jeffrey G. Chanat, and Joseph M. Bell

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Concentrations and loading estimates for nutrients, suspended sediment, and E.coli bacteria were summarized for three water-quality monitoring stations on the Anacostia River in Maryland and one station on Rock Creek in Washington, D.C. Both streams are tributaries to the Potomac River in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area and contribute to the Chesapeake Bay estuary. Two stations on the Anacostia River, Northeast Branch at Riverdale, Maryland and Northwest Branch near Hyattsville, Maryland, have been monitored for water quality during the study period from 2003 to 2011 and are located near the shift from nontidal to tidal conditions near Bladensburg, Maryland. A station on Paint Branch is nested above the station on the Northeast Branch Anacostia River, and has slightly less developed land cover than the Northeast and Northwest Branch stations. The Rock Creek station is located in Rock Creek Park, but the land cover in the watershed surrounding the park is urbanized.

Stepwise log-linear regression models were developed to estimate the concentrations of suspended sediment, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and E. coli bacteria from continuous field monitors. Turbidity was the strongest predictor variable for all water-quality parameters. For bacteria, water temperature improved the models enough to be included as a second predictor variable due to the strong dependence of stream metabolism on temperature. Coefficients of determination (R2) for the models were highest for log concentrations of suspended sediment (0.9) and total phosphorus (0.8 to 0.9), followed by E. coli bacteria (0.75 to 0.8), and total nitrogen (0.6).

Water-quality data provided baselines for conditions prior to accelerated implementation of multiple stormwater controls in the watersheds. Counties are currently in the process of enhancing stormwater controls in both watersheds. Annual yields were estimated for suspended sediment, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and E. coli bacteria using the U.S. Geological Survey model LOADEST with hourly time steps of turbidity, flow, and time. Yields of all four parameters were within ranges found in other urbanized watersheds in Chesapeake Bay. Annual yields for all four watersheds over the period of study were estimated for suspended sediment (65,500 – 166,000 kilograms per year per square kilometer; kg/yr/km2), total nitrogen (465 - 911 kg/yr/km2), total phosphorus (36 - 113 kg/yr/km2), and E. coli bacteria (6.0 – 38 x 1012 colony forming units/yr/km2). The length of record was not sufficient to determine trends for any of the water-quality parameters; within confidence intervals of the models, results were similar to loads determined by previous studies for the Northeast and Northwest Branch stations of the Anacostia River.

Revised July 11, 2013

First posted February 25, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, MD-DE-DC Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
5522 Research Park Drive
Baltimore, MD 21228
(443) 498–5500

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Suggested citation:

Miller, C.V., Chanat, J.G., and Bell, J.M., 2013, Water quality in the Anacostia River, Maryland and Rock Creek, Washington, D.C.: Continuous and discrete monitoring with simulations to estimate concentrations and yields of nutrients, suspended sediment, and bacteria: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2013–1034, 37 p., available only at





Hydrologic Conditions over the Study Period

Summary of Water-Quality Data

Multiple Regression Analysis

Loading Estimates



References Cited

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