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Riverbed Elevations and Water Quality of the Missouri River at Sioux City, Iowa, 2002-03

By Daniel E. Christiansen

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5079—ONLINE ONLY

Prepared in cooperation with the City of Sioux City


The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Sioux City, Iowa, conducted an investigation of the Missouri River, during 2002-2003, to assess changes in riverbed elevations from its confluence with the Big Sioux River, downstream to the area of the Sioux City municipal well field. Water-quality samples also were collected across the Missouri River to provide additional information on the differences between the water quality of the Missouri River and Big Sioux River in the well field area.

The water supply at Sioux City, Iowa, is withdrawn from fourteen vertical wells and one horizontal collector well. Twelve vertical wells and the collector well are completed in the alluvial sand and gravel aquifer adjacent to the Missouri River at Sioux City. The well field is located on the left bank (looking downstream) of the Missouri River about 0.5 mile upstream from USGS streamflow gage 06486000, and approximately 5,000 feet downstream from the confluence with the Big Sioux River.

The Missouri River, adjacent to the Sioux City alluvial well field, consists of the combined streamflows from the Missouri and the Big Sioux Rivers. The streamflows do not appear to be well mixed downstream from the confluence, and the streamflow directly adjacent to the well field could be predominately from the Big Sioux River. The U.S. Geological Survey measures streamflow on the Missouri River at Sioux City, Iowa (USGS streamflow gage 06486000). The riverbed of the Missouri River at Sioux City consists of a sequence of sands and gravels. The surface of the riverbed is undulatory, with continuously migrating riverbed forms, 5 to 8 feet in relief, of sand and gravel.

Measurements of riverbed elevations from October 1, 2002, to September 30, 2003, showed an annual change of as much as 8 feet with the majority of the riverbed change closer to 5 feet. The largest change occurred near a wing dike on the Nebraska side of the Missouri River. On the Iowa side, the annual change was close to 5 feet. The results showed that channel fill occurred in the winter months and scour occurred during the summer months.

Results of analyses of water samples collected at five locations across the Missouri River, near the municipal well field, were similar for most samples. Higher values of specific conductance and turbidity were recorded on the Iowa side of the Missouri River, the side from which the Big Sioux River enters upstream. Higher concentrations of chloride, ammonia nitrogen, nitrate nitrogen, and atrazine also were detected on the Iowa side of the Missouri River. Based on these results, there does not appear to be complete mixing of water from the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers near the municipal well field.




Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Area


Data-Collection Methods

Riverbed-Elevation Data

Water-Quality Data

Quality Assurance

Riverbed Elevation

Water Quality




Suggested Citation:

Christiansen, D.E., 2004, Riverbed elevations and water quality of the Missouri River at Sioux City, Iowa, 2002-03: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5079, 14 p.

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Download the Report (PDF, 2.5MB).

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Send questions or comments about this report to the author, D.E. Christiansen (319) 358-3639.

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

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Last modified: Thursday, December 01 2016, 08:03:56 PM
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