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Constituent Loads and Flow-Weighted Average Concentrations for Major Subbasins of the Upper Red River of the North Basin, 1997-99

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5200

 

By Bradley A. Sether, W. Berkas, and A. Vecchia

 

In cooperation with the North Dakota Department of Health, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Red River Joint Water Resource Board, and Red River Watershed Management Board

 


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Abstract

Data were collected at 11 water-quality sampling sites in the upper Red River of the North (Red River) Basin from May 1997 through September 1999 to describe the water-quality characteristics of the upper Red River and to estimate constituent loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for major tributaries of the Red River upstream from the bridge crossing the Red River at Perley, Minn. Samples collected from the sites were analyzed for 5-day biochemical oxygen demand, bacteria, dissolved solids, nutrients, and suspended sediment.


Concentration data indicated the median concentrations for most constituents and sampling sites during the study period were less than existing North Dakota and Minnesota standards or guidelines. However, more than 25 percent of the samples for the Red River at Perley, Minn., site had fecal coliform concentrations that were greater than 200 colonies per 100 milliliters, indicating an abundance of pathogens in the upper Red River Basin. Although total nitrite plus nitrate concentrations generally increased in a downstream direction, the median concentrations for all sites were less than the North Dakota suggested guideline of 1.0 milligram per liter. Total and dissolved phosphorus concentrations also generally increased in a downstream direction, but, for those constituents, the median concentrations for most sampling sites exceeded the North Dakota suggested guideline of 0.1 milligram per liter.


For dissolved solids, nutrients, and suspended sediments, a relation between constituent concentration and streamflow was determined using the data collected during the study period. The relation was determined by a multiple regression model in which concentration was the dependent variable and streamflow was the primary explanatory variable. The regression model was used to compute unbiased estimates of annual loads for each constituent and for each of eight primary water-quality sampling sites and to compute the degree of uncertainty associated with each estimated annual load. The estimated annual loads for the eight primary sites then were used to estimate annual loads for five intervening reaches in the study area.  Results were used as a screening tool to identify which subbasins contributed a disproportionate amount of pollutants to the Red River. To compare the relative water quality of the different subbasins, an estimated flow-weighted average (FWA) concentration was computed from the estimated average annual load and the average annual streamflow for each subbasin.


The 5-day biochemical oxygen demands in the upper Red River Basin were fairly small, and medians ranged from 1 to 3 milligrams per liter. The largest estimated FWA concentration for dissolved solids (about 630 milligrams per liter) was for the Bois de Sioux River near Doran, Minn., site. The Otter Tail River above Breckenridge, Minn., site had the smallest estimated FWA concentration (about 240 milligrams per liter). The estimated FWA concentrations for dissolved solids for the main-stem sites ranged from about 300 to 500 milligrams per liter and generally increased in a downstream direction.


The estimated FWA concentrations for total nitrite plus nitrate for the main-stem sites increased from about 0.2 milligram per liter for the Red River below Wahpeton, N. Dak., site to about 0.9 milligram per liter for the Red River at Perley, Minn., site. Much of the increase probably resulted from flows from the tributary sites and intervening reaches, excluding the Otter Tail River above Breckenridge, Minn., site. However, uncertainty in the estimated concentrations prevented any reliable conclusions regarding which sites or reaches contributed most to the increase.


The estimated FWA concentrations for total ammonia for the main-stem sites increased from about 0.05 milligram per liter for the Red River above Fargo, N. Dak., site to about 0.15 milligram per liter for the Red River near Harwood, N. Dak., site. The increase resulted from a decrease in flows in the Red River above Fargo, N. Dak., to the Red River near Harwood, N. Dak., intervening reach and the large load for that reach.


The estimated FWA concentrations for total organic nitrogen for the main-stem sites were relatively constant and ranged from about 0.5 to 0.7 milligram per liter. The relatively constant concentrations were in sharp contrast to the total nitrite plus nitrate concentrations, which increased about fivefold between the Red River below Wahpeton, N. Dak., site and the Red River at Perley, Minn., site.


The Red River near Harwood, N. Dak., to the Red River at Perley, Minn., intervening reach had the largest estimated FWA concentration for total nitrogen (about 2.9 milligrams per liter), but the estimate was highly uncertain. The Otter Tail River above Breckenridge, Minn., site had the smallest concentration (about 0.6 milligram per liter). The estimated FWA concentrations for total nitrogen for the main-stem sites increased from about 0.9 milligram per liter for the Red River at Hickson, N. Dak., site to about 1.6 milligrams per liter for the Red River at Perley, Minn., site.


The Sheyenne River at Harwood, N. Dak., site had the largest estimated FWA concentration for total phosphorus (about 0.5 milligram per liter). The Otter Tail River above Breckenridge, Minn., site had the smallest concentration (about 0.1 milligram per liter). The estimated FWA concentrations for total phosphorus for the main-stem sites increased from about 0.15 milligram per liter for the Red River below Wahpeton, N. Dak., site to about 0.35 milligram per liter for the Red River at Perley, Minn., site.


The estimated FWA concentrations for suspended sediment for the main-stem sites increased from about 50 milligrams per liter for the Red River below Wahpeton, N. Dak., site to about 300 milligrams per liter for the Red River at Perley, Minn., site. Much of the increase occurred as a result of the large yield of suspended sediment from the Red River below Wahpeton, N. Dak., to the Red River at Hickson, N. Dak., intervening reach.


 

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Table of Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and scope

Description of Red River of the North Basin

Study design

Methods

Sample collection and analysis

Load computation

Water-quality characteristics

Biochemical oxygen demand

Bacteria

Dissolved solids

Nutrients

Nitrogen

Phosphorus

Suspended Sediment

Constituent loads and flow-weighted average concentrations

Dissolved solids

Nutrients

Nitrogen

Total nitrite plus nitrate

Total ammonia

Total organic nitrogen

Total nitrogen

Phosphorus

Total phosphorus

Dissolved phosphorus

Suspended sediment

Summary

References

Appendix 1.  Regression models for daily concentration and uncertainty in estimated annual loads

Table 1-1. Results of regression analysis for historical constituent concentrations and daily loads

Table 1-2. Estimated annual dissolved-solids loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-3. Estimated annual total nitrite plus nitrate loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-4. Estimated annual total ammonia loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-5. Estimated annual total organic nitrogen loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-6. Estimated annual total nitrogen loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-7. Estimated annual total phosphorus loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-8. Estimated annual dissolved phosphorus loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

Table 1-9. Estimated annual suspended-sediment loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for the upper Red River of the North Basin

 

Figures

  1. Map showing location of study area, locations of water-quality sampling sites, land use and land cover, and physiographic areas in the Red River of the North Basin

  2. Map showing mean annual precipitation and streamflow in the Red River of the North Basin

  3. Diagram showing sample-collection timelines for water-quality sampling sites used in study

  4. Graph showing distribution of 5-day biochemical oxygen demand in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  5. Graph showing distribution of fecal coliform in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  6. Graph showing distribution of fecal streptococci in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  7. Graph showing distribution of dissolved solids in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  8. Diagram showing movement of nutrients from subbasins of the Red River of the North Basin

  9. Map showing nitrogen fertilizer applications by county in North Dakota, Minnesota, and South Dakota during 1991

  10. Graph showing distribution of total nitrite plus nitrate in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  11. Graph showing distribution of total ammonia in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  12. Graph showing distribution of total organic nitrogen in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  13. Graph showing distribution of total nitrogen in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  14. Graph showing distribution of total phosphorus in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  15. Graph showing distribution of dissolved phosphorus in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1997 through September 1999

  16. Graph showing distribution of suspended sediment in the upper Red River of the North Basin during May 1994 through September 1999

  17. Map showing disjoint subbasins used to compute estimated annual loads

  18. Graph showing mean daily streamflow for the Red River of the North at Fargo, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station for water years 1997, 1998, and 1999

  19. Graph showing mean daily streamflow for the Sheyenne River at West Fargo, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station for water years 1997, 1998, and 1999

  20. Graphs showing estimated annual dissolved-solids loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  21. Graphs showing estimated annual total nitrite plus nitrate loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  22. Graphs showing estimated annual total ammonia loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  23. Graphs showing estimated annual total organic nitrogen loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  24. Graphs showing estimated annual total nitrogen loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  25. Graphs showing estimated annual total phosphorus loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  26. Graphs showing estimated annual dissolved phosphorus loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

  27. Graphs showing estimated annual suspended-sediment loads and flow-weighted average concentrations for 1998-99 (loads not shown for main-stem sites)

 

Tables

  1. Water-quality sampling sites used in study

  2. Water-quality properties and constituents for which water samples were analyzed

  3. Annual streamflows and yields in the upper Red River of the North Basin for water years 1998 and 1999

 

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