Regression Relations and Long-Term Water-Quality Constituent Concentrations, Loads, Yields, and Trends in the North Fork Ninnescah River, South-Central Kansas, 1999–2019

Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5006
Prepared in cooperation with the City of Wichita
By: , and 



Cheney Reservoir, in south-central Kansas, is the primary water supply for the city of Wichita, Kansas. The North Fork Ninnescah River is the largest tributary to Cheney Reservoir and contributes about 70 percent of the inflow. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Wichita, has been continuously monitoring water quality (including water temperature, specific conductance, pH, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity) on the North Fork Ninnescah River upstream from Cheney Reservoir (U.S. Geological Survey site 07144780) since November 1998. Continued data collection would be beneficial to update and describe changing water-quality conditions in the drainage basin and in the reservoir over time.

Regression models were developed to describe relations between discretely measured constituent concentrations and continuously measured physical properties. The models updated in this report include total suspended solids (TSS), suspended-sediment concentration (SSC), nitrate plus nitrite, nitrate, orthophosphate (OP), total phosphorus (TP), and total organic carbon (TOC).

Daily computed concentrations for TSS, TP, and nitrate plus nitrite during 1999–2019 were compared with Cheney Reservoir Task Force (CRTF) goals for base-flow and runoff conditions. CRTF goals for base-flow concentrations were exceeded more frequently (70 to 99.9 percent of the time) than runoff goals (0 to 11 percent of the time). Except for 2012, annual mean TSS concentrations exceeded the base-flow goal every year. Nitrate plus nitrite and TP annual mean concentrations exceeded the base-flow goals every year. TSS and nitrate plus nitrite annual mean concentrations during runoff conditions never exceeded the CRTF runoff goal. TP annual mean concentrations during runoff conditions only exceeded the CRTF runoff goal during 2002.

Sedimentation is progressively reducing the storage capacity of Cheney Reservoir. During 1999–2019, 55 percent of the computed suspended-sediment load was transported during the top 1 percent of loading days (76 days); 22 percent of the total load was transported in the top 10 loading days, indicating that substantial parts of suspended-sediment loads continue to be delivered during disproportionately small periods in Cheney Reservoir. Successful sediment management efforts necessitate reduction techniques that account for these large load events.

Flow-normalized concentrations and fluxes were computed during 1999 through 2019 using Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) statistical models and WRTDS bootstrap tests. Flow-normalized concentrations of TSS, SSC, OP, TP, and TOC had upward trend probabilities; conversely, nitrate plus nitrite had a downward trend. Flow-normalized fluxes for OP, TP, and TOC had an upward trend. No discernible patterns were identified for flow-normalized flux of TSS or suspended sediment. Nitrate plus nitrite flow-normalized flux indicated a downward trend.

Flow-normalized concentrations for TSS were less than the CRTF long-term goal of 100 milligrams per liter (mg/L), but the upward trend indicated the long-term goal may be exceeded if no changes are made. Flow-normalized TP concentrations exceeded the CRTF long-term goal (0.1 mg/L) and were assigned a very likely upward trend. Flow-normalized nitrate plus nitrite concentrations exceeded the CRTF long-term goal of 1.2 mg/L during the beginning of the study period, then were less than the CRTF goal for the remainder of the study; however, during 2010–19 flow-normalized concentrations increased by 6 percent.

Linking water-quality changes to causal factors requires consistent monitoring before, during, and after changes; this presents challenges related to length and frequency of data collection and available concomitant land-use and conservation practice data. As such, attribution of water-quality trends to land-use changes or conservation practices was not possible for this study because of a lack of land-use and conservation practice data. Additionally, because precipitation frequency and intensity are projected to continue to increase in the Great Plains region, accounting for extreme episodic events may be an important consideration in future sediment and nutrient load reduction plans.

Suggested Citation

Kramer, A.R., Klager, B.J., Stone, M.L., and Eslick-Huff, P.J., 2021, Regression relations and long-term water-quality constituent concentrations, loads, yields, and trends in the North Fork Ninnescah River, south-central Kansas, 1999–2019: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5006, 51 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Regression Relations and Water-Quality Trend Results
  • Summary
  • References Cited
  • Appendixes 1–24
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Regression relations and long-term water-quality constituent concentrations, loads, yields, and trends in the North Fork Ninnescah River, south-central Kansas, 1999–2019
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2021-5006
DOI 10.3133/sir20215006
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Kansas Water Science Center
Description Report: ix, 51 p.; Appendixes: 24; Dataset
Country United States
State Kansas
Other Geospatial North Fork Ninnescah River
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details