U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Information Report 2004-5047

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Surface-Water-Quality Conditions and Relation to Taste-and-Odor Occurrences in the Lake Olathe Watershed, Northeast Kansas, 2000–02

By David P. Mau, Andrew C. Ziegler, Stephen D. Porter, and Larry M. Pope


Surface water in the Lake Olathe watershed, located in northeast Kansas, was sampled from June 2000 through December 2002 to characterize water-quality conditions in relation to physical properties, major ions, sediment, nutrients, selected trace elements, selected pesticides, fecal indicator bacteria, phytoplankton, and taste-and-odor compounds. In addition, two continuous real-time water-quality monitors were operated—one in Cedar Creek at Highway 56, the main tributary to Lake Olathe, and one in Lake Olathe, a supplemental domestic water supply and recreational resource for the city of Olathe.

Median concentrations of dissolved and total forms of nitrogen and phosphorus in samples from Cedar Creek were larger than in samples from Lake Olathe, indicating that nutrients in the watershed were transported to Lake Olathe by Cedar Creek from June 2000 through December 2002. Increased concentrations of total phosphorus in samples from the hypolimnion of Lake Olathe compared to the epilimnion indicated that release of total phosphorus from bottom sediments occurred in the lake.

Of the 50 pesticides analyzed in water samples from Cedar Creek and Lake Olathe, 10 pesticides were detected at concentrations greater than 0.01 microgram per liter in samples from Cedar Creek, and 9 pesticides were detected at concentrations greater than 0.01 microgram per liter in Lake Olathe, including four herbicides with concentrations exceeding 1.0 microgram per liter. Atrazine was detected at larger concentrations than any other pesticide in samples from both Cedar Creek and Lake Olathe during 2001 and 2002. Concentrations did not exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water annual average criterion of 3.0 micrograms per liter; however, concentrations in single samples were larger than 3.0 micrograms per liter.

Regression analysis was used to assist in the estimation of sediment and chemical loads and yields. The estimated mean orthophosphate load for 2001 and 2002 represented 29 percent of the total phosphorus load to Lake Olathe. Estimated yields to Lake Olathe of both total nitrogen and total phosphorus, 13.0 and 1.1 pounds per acre per year, respectively, were consistent with mixed agricultural land use occurring in the watershed.

Concentrations of fecal coliform bacteria samples from Lake Olathe were less than both primary and secondary single-sample criteria for recreational water in Kansas in place at the time of sampling. Sufficient samples were not collected to compare to the December 2003 Kansas Department of Health and Environment criteria, but single-sample Escherichia coli samples collected from Cedar Creek during storm runoff exceeded 2,000 colonies per 100 milliliters of water (former secondary recreation water-quality criterion for fecal coliform bacteria) in four of the seven samples collected.

Water from Cedar Creek and Lake Olathe was analyzed in 2002 by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for microcystin-LR, a toxic algal compound. Concentrations of microcystin-LR in Lake Olathe during 2002 ranged from less than 0.1 to 0.41 microgram per liter, which is not considered a significant health risk according to guidelines published by the World Health Organization.

Regression models were developed for four taste-and-odor phytoplankton species detected frequently in Lake Olathe— Melosira granulata, Anabaena, Oscillatoria, and Cryptomonas. The coefficient of determinations, R2, ranged from 0.64 to 0.89, and p-values ranged from less than 0.001 to 0.014, indicating a statistically significant relation with lake-residence time, specific conductance, turbidity, Secchi transparency depth, real-time continuous fluorescence, and total ammonia plus organic nitrogen as nitrogen.

Actinomycetes, filamentous bacteria that are known producers of geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol (MIB), were sampled and analyzed in 2002 in water from Cedar Creek and Lake Olathe. In Lake Olathe, actinomycetes concentrations ranged from 4 to 64 colonies per milliliter of water, and geosmin concentrations ranged from less than 5.0 to 12.0 nanograms per liter. MIB was detected once at a concentration of 6.0 nanograms per liter.

A regression model for geosmin, a taste-and-odor compound, was developed in an effort to predict taste-and-odor occurrences. The regression model developed for geosmin used Secchi depth, specific conductance, and turbidity. The coefficient of determination, R2, was 0.70, and the p-value was 0.0016, which indicated a statistically significant relation. However, the use of Secchi transparency depth in the model prevented the development of a similar model using only continuous real-time water-quality sensors operated during the study.


Mau, D.P., Ziegler, A.C., Porter, S.D., and Pope, L.M., 2004, Surface-Water-Quality Conditions and Relation to Taste-and-Odor Occurrences in the Lake Olathe Watershed, Northeast Kansas, 2000–02: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5047, 95 p.


A limited number of printed copies of the full report are available free from:

U.S. Geological Survey
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049
Phone: 785-842-9909

and for a nominal charge from:

U.S. Geological Survey
Information Services
P.O. Box 25286
Federal Center
Denver, CO 80225
Phone: 1-888-ASK-USGS

NOTE: When ordering the report, please supply the report title and number, your name, and your mailing address. Thank you.

For additional information about USGS studies of the Lake Olathe Watershed in Kansas contact:

Mike Pope
U.S. Geological Survey
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049-3839
Telephone: (785) 832-3548
Fax: (785) 832-3500

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