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Reconnaissance of Surface-Water Quality and Possible Sources of Nutrients and Bacteria in the Turkey Creek Watershed, Northwest Oklahoma, 2002-2003

By Carol J. Becker

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5039

Prepared in cooperation with the
Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and U.S. Environmental Protection Atency



The U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency investigated the distribution of surface-water quality and possible sources of nutrients and Escherichia coli bacteria to surface water in Turkey Creek, which flows about 70 miles through mostly rural agricultural areas in northwest Oklahoma. Results show that discharge on the main stem of Turkey Creek increased during low-flow conditions from an average of 5.4 cubic feet per second at the upper most site to 39 cubic feet per second at the lower most site in the watershed, indicating that Turkey Creek gains water from ground-water discharge. A portion of the increase in stream discharge may be from discharges of treated effluent from city sewage lagoons. However, the volume and frequency of discharges are unknown.

Surface-water-quality samples show that specific conductance ranged from 1,180 to 1,740 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius during low-flow conditions and in general, decreased downstream with site 1 or site 2 having the largest measurement and site 5 having the lowest. The pH values were slightly alkaline and ranged from 6.8 to 8.5 with a median of 8.2. Dissolved oxygen ranged from 9.3 to 15.9 milligrams per liter in samples collected in the months of November, February, and March and ranged from 5.3 to 13.9 milligrams per liter in samples collected in the months of June, July, and August.

Surface-water-quality samples show that the median concentrations of nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen (1.16 milligrams per liter) and total phosphorus (0.275 milligram per liter) are larger than the average median concentrations of 0.35 and 0.083 milligram per liter, respectively, calculated from water-quality sites in Oklahoma and part of Arkansas (excluding sites in the Ozark Highland and the Ouachita Mountains ecoregions) having similar stream orders and stream slopes. Concentrations of nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen increased slightly in the winter months and decreased in the summer months, whereas, concentrations of total phosphorus and orthophosphate as phosphorus tended to increase during the summer months and decrease in the winter months. During high-flow conditions total phosphorus increased 7.7 times above the average concentration of 0.261 milligram per liter in low-flow samples. Orthophosphate concentrations increased 3.5 to 4 times during high-flow conditions.

Almost all low-flow samples showed symbol15N values between 4 and 10 parts per thousand, above the range for atmospheric nitrogen and synthetic fertilizer and below the range for animal waste. These samples may represent a mixture of nitrate from these two sources and other sources enriched with symbol15N, such as soils and plants.

Results of the bacterial source tracking indicated that the two source groups having the greatest number of ribopattern matches with surface-water isolates were the cattle group, 53 isolates or 23.5 percent, and the human group, 41 isolates or 18.2 percent. Fewer surface-water isolates matched the deer and horse groups, 8.0 percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. About 43 percent or 96 surface-water isolates were not matched to any source group.




Purpose and scope


Description of study area

Nutrients in the watershed

Bacteria in the watershed


Surface-water-data collection

Nutrient sources

Bacterial source tracking

Water quality



Possible sources of nutrients and bacteria

Nitrogen isotopes

Bacterial source tracking


References cited

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For more information about USGS activities in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, visit the USGS Oklahoma District home page.

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