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Total Dissolved Gas and Water Temperature in the Lower Columbia River, Oregon and Washington, 2004: Quality-Assurance Data and Comparison to Water-Quality Standards

By Dwight Q. Tanner, Heather M. Bragg, and Matthew Johnston

Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5249

Prepared in Cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

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Significant Findings    

When water is released through the spillways of dams, air is entrained in the water, increasing the downstream concentration of dissolved gases. Excess dissolved-gas concentrations can have adverse effects on freshwater aquatic life. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, collected total-dissolved-gas (TDG) and water-temperature data at eight sites on the lower Columbia River in 2004. Significant findings from the data include:

  • Variances to the Oregon and Washington water-quality standards for TDG were exceeded on a few days at three of the monitoring sites: Camas, The Dalles forebay, and Bonneville forebay. These exceedances may have been the result of the cumulative effects of supersaturated water moving downstream through the lower Columbia River. Apparently, the levels of TDG did not dissipate rapidly enough downstream from the dams before reaching the next site.

  • TDG levels at an experimental monitoring site directly below Bonneville Dam at Cascade Island showed a larger response to spill than the site 5.5 miles farther downstream at Warrendale.

  • From mid-July to mid-September, water temperatures were above 20°C (degrees Celsius) at each of the seven lower Columbia River sites. Both the Oregon and Washington water-quality standards contain a numerical standard of 20°C for the lower Columbia River.

  • The new location of the forebay monitoring site at John Day navigation lock showed less daily temperature variation than the previous location. The probe at the new site was farther away from the dam and at a greater depth, so it apparently avoided the daily temperature excursions associated with the surface-layer heating at the previous site.

  • Most field checks of TDG sensors with a secondary standard were within ±1% saturation. Most of the field checks of barometric pressure were within ±1 mm Hg (millimeter of mercury) of a secondary standard, and water temperature field checks were all within ± 0.1°C.

  • For the seven monitoring sites used to regulate spill in water year 2004, an average of 99.0% of the TDG data were received in real time by the USGS satellite downlink and were within 1% saturation of the expected value, based on calibration data, replicate quality-control measurements in the river, and comparison to ambient river conditions at adjacent sites.


Significant Findings



Purpose and Scope


Methods of Data Collection

Summary of Total-Dissolved-Gas Data Completeness and Quality

Quality-Assurance Data

Effects of Spill on Total Dissolved Gas

Comparisons of Total Dissolved Gas and Temperature to Standards

References Cited

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For more information about the Columbia River Total Dissolved Gas study, please visit the project Web site.

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