U.S. Geological Survey
Scientific Investigations Report 2004–5228

Download this report as a PDF file (7.36 mb)

Download a free copy of Acrobat Reader

Sedimentation and Occurrence and Trends of Selected Chemical Constituents in Bottom Sediment of 10 Small Reservoirs, Eastern Kansas

By Kyle E. Juracek


Many municipalities in Kansas rely on small reservoirs as a source of drinking water and for recreational activities. Because of their significance to the community, management of the reservoirs and the associated basins is important to protect the reservoirs from degradation. Effective reservoir management requires information about water quality, sedimentation, and sediment quality.

A combination of bathymetric surveying and bottom-sediment coring during 2002 and 2003 was used to investigate sediment deposition and the occurrence of selected nutrients (total nitrogen and total phosphorus), organic and total carbon, 26 trace elements, 15 organochlorine compounds, and 1 radionuclide in the bottom sediment of 10 small reservoirs in eastern Kansas. Original reservoir water-storage capacities ranged from 23 to 5,845 acre-feet. The mostly agricultural reservoir basins range in area from 0.6 to 14 square miles.

The mean annual net volume of deposited sediment, estimated separately for several of the reservoirs, ranged from about 43,600 to about 531,000 cubic feet. The estimated mean annual net mass of deposited sediment ranged from about 1,360,000 to about 23,300,000 pounds. The estimated mean annual net sediment yields from the reservoir basins ranged from about 964,000 to about 2,710,000 pounds per square mile. Compared to sediment yield estimates provided by a statewide study published in 1965, the estimates determined in this study differed substantially and were typically smaller. A statistically significant positive correlation was determined for the relation between sediment yield and mean annual precipitation.

Nutrient concentrations in the bottom sediment varied substantially among the 10 reservoirs. Median total nitrogen concentrations ranged from 1,400 to 3,700 milligrams per kilogram. Median total phosphorus concentrations ranged from 550 to 1,300 milligrams per kilogram. A statistically significant positive trend (that is, nutrient concentration increased toward the top of the sediment core) was indicated in one reservoir for total nitrogen and in two reservoirs for total phosphorus. Also, a possible positive trend for total nitrogen was indicated in two other reservoirs. These trends in nutrient concentrations may be related to a statewide increase in fertilizer use. Alternatively, the trends may be indicative of diagenesis (that is, postdepositional changes in the sediment caused by various processes including decomposition).

Nutrient loads and yields also varied substantially among the five reservoirs for which loads and yields were estimated. Estimated mean annual net loads of total nitrogen deposited in the bottom sediment ranged from 4,080 to 49,100 pounds. Estimated mean annual net loads of total phosphorus deposited in the bottom sediment ranged from 1,120 to 20,800 pounds. Estimated mean annual net yields of total nitrogen from the basins ranged from 2,210 to 6,800 pounds per square mile. Estimated mean annual net yields of total phosphorus from the basins ranged from 598 to 2,420 pounds per square mile.

Compared to nonenforceable sediment-quality guidelines adopted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, bottom-sediment concentrations of arsenic, chromium, copper, and nickel in samples from all 10 reservoirs typically exceeded the threshold-effects levels (TELs) but were less than the probable-effects levels (PELs). TELs represent the concentrations above which toxic biological effects occasionally occur in aquatic organisms, whereas PELs represent the concentrations above which toxic biological effects usually or frequently occur. Concentrations of cadmium, lead, and zinc exceeded the TELs but were less than the PELs in sediment samples from about one-half of the reservoirs and were less than the TELs in samples from the remaining reservoirs. Mercury concentrations were less than the TEL (information only available for four reservoirs). Silver was not detected in the bottom sediment from any of the 10 reservoirs sampled. Trace element concentrations at the bottom of the sediment core for the oldest reservoir indicated the possibility that, for certain constituents in certain areas, baseline concentrations may equal or exceed the TELs prior to the effects of human activity.

With few exceptions, organochlorine compounds typically either were not detected or were detected at concentrations that were less than the TELs in the most recently deposited bottom sediments. Compounds detected included chlordane, DDD, DDE, dieldrin, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Exceptions included the chlordane detections, which exceeded the TEL in a sediment sample from one reservoir and exceeded the PEL in sediment samples from another reservoir. Also, the DDE detection in a sediment sample from one reservoir exceeded the TEL but was less than the PEL.

With one possible exception, the effects of human activity are evident in the bottom sediment of each reservoir. Evidence includes possible positive trends in nutrient deposition, elevated concentrations and trends of certain trace elements (for example, copper, lead, and zinc), and detectable concentrations of organochlorine compounds.


Juracek, K.E., 2004, Sedimentation and occurrence and trends of selected chemical constituents in bottom sediment of 10 small reservoirs, eastern Kansas, 80 p.

For additional information contact:

Kyle Juracek
U.S. Geological Survey
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049-3839
Telephone: (785) 832-3527
Fax: (785) 832-3500

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Persistent URL:
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Last modified: Thursday, January 10 2013, 06:36:28 PM
FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button