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Water-Quality Trend Analysis and Sampling Design for Streams in the Red River of the North Basin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, 1970-2001

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5224

 

By Aldo V. Vecchia

 

In cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation

 


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Abstract

The Bureau of Reclamation is considering several alternatives to meet the future municipal, rural, and industrial water-supply needs in the Red River of the North (Red River) Basin, and an environmental impact statement is being prepared to evaluate the potential effects of the various alternatives on the water quality and aquatic health in the basin in relation to the historical variability of streamflow and constituent concentration. Therefore, a water-quality trend analysis was needed to determine the amount of natural water-quality variability that can be expected to occur in the basin, to determine if significant water-quality changes have occurred as a result of human activities, to explore potential causal mechanisms for water-quality changes, and to establish a baseline from which to monitor future water-quality trends. This report presents the results of a study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, to analyze historical water-quality trends in two dissolved major ions, dissolved solids, three nutrients, and two dissolved trace metals for nine streamflow-gaging stations in the basin.

 

Annual variability in streamflow in the Red River Basin was high during the trend-analysis period (1970-2001). The annual variability affects constituent concentrations in individual tributaries to the Red River and, in turn, affects constituent concentrations in the main stem of the Red River because of the relative streamflow contribution from the tributaries to the main stem. Therefore, an annual concentration anomaly, which is an estimate of the interannual variability in concentration that can be attributed to long-term variability in streamflow, was used to analyze annual streamflow-related variability in constituent concentrations. The concentration trend is an estimate of the long-term systematic changes in concentration that are unrelated to seasonal or long-term variability in streamflow. Concentrations that have both the seasonal and annual variability removed are called standardized concentrations. Numerous changes that could not be attributed to natural streamflow-related variability occurred in the standardized concentrations during the trend-analysis period. During various times from the late 1970's to the mid-1990's, significant increases occurred in standardized dissolved sulfate, dissolved chloride, and dissolved- solids concentrations for eight of the nine stations for which water-quality trends were analyzed. Significant increases also occurred from the early 1980's to the mid-1990's for standardized dissolved nitrite plus nitrate concentrations for the main-stem stations. The increasing concentrations for the main-stem stations indicate the upward trends may have been caused by human activities along the main stem of the Red River. Significant trends for standardized total ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations occurred for most stations. The fitted trends for standardized total phosphorus concentrations for one tributary station increased from the late 1970's to the early 1980's and decreased from the early 1980's to the mid-1990's. Small but insignificant increases occurred for two main-stem stations. No trends were detected for standardized dissolved iron or dissolved manganese concentrations. However, the combination of extreme high-frequency variability, few data, and the number of censored values may have disguised the streamflow-related variability for iron.

 

The time-series model used to detect historical concentration trends also was used to evaluate sampling designs to monitor future water-quality trends. Various sampling designs were evaluated with regard to their sensitivity to detect both annual and seasonal trends during three 4-month seasons. A reasonable overall design for detecting trends for all stations and constituents consisted of eight samples per year, with monthly sampling from April to August and bimonthly sampling from October to February.

 

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Table of Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and scope

Streamflow data and hydrologic characteristics

Concentration data used for water-quality trend analysis

Water-quality trend analysis

Time-series model used for water-quality trend analysis

Results of water-quality trend analysis

Major ions and dissolved solids

Nutrients

Trace metals

Possible human causes of historical water-quality trends

Sampling designs to monitor future water-quality trends

Detection of annual trends

Detection of seasonal trends

Summary

References

Appendix 1. Time-series model for streamflow and concentration

Appendix 2. Fitted trends and generalized likelihood ratio test results

Table 2-1. Fitted trends for standardized dissolved sulfate concentrations

Table 2-2. Fitted trends for standardized dissolved chloride concentrations

Table 2-3. Fitted trends for standardized dissolved-solids concentrations

Table 2-4. Fitted trends for standardized dissolved nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen concentrations

Table 2-5. Fitted trends for standardized total ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations

Table 2-6. Fitted trends for standardized total phosphorus concentrations


Figures

  1. Map showing locations of streamflow-gaging stations used for water-quality trend analysis

  2. Graph showing daily mean streamflows (three values per month) and measured total ammonia plus organic nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations for1970-2001 for the Sheyenne River near Kindred, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station

  3. Graph showing measured total ammonia plus organic nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations and fitted annual and seasonal concentration anomalies for 1970-2001 for the Sheyenne River near Kindred, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station

  4. Graph showing seasonally adjusted total ammonia plus organic nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations and fitted annual concentration anomalies for 1970-2001 for the Sheyenne River near Kindred, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station

  5. Graph showing standardized total ammonia plus organic nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations and fitted trends for 1970-2001 for the Sheyenne River near Kindred, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station

  6. Graphs showing fitted standard deviation (top graph) and serial correlation at a 10-day time lag (bottom graph) for the high-frequency variability in total phosphorus concentrations for the Sheyenne River near Kindred, North Dakota, streamflow-gaging station

  7. Graph showing fitted annual concentration anomalies for dissolved sulfate for 1970-2001 for main-stem and major tributary stations

  8. Graph showing fitted annual concentration anomalies for dissolved sulfate for 1970-2001 for small tributary stations

  9. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized dissolved sulfate concentrations for 1970-2001 for main-stem and major tributary stations

  10. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized dissolved sulfate concentrations for 1970-2001 for small tributary stations

  11. Graph showing fitted annual concentration anomalies for dissolved chloride for 1970-2001 for main-stem and major tributary stations

  12. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized dissolved chloride concentrations for 1970-2001 for main-stem and major tributary stations

  13. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized dissolved-solids concentrations for 1970-2001 for main-stem and major tributary stations

  14. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized dissolved-solids concentrations for 1970-2001 for small tributary stations

  15. Graph showing fitted annual concentration anomalies for dissolved nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen for 1975-2001

  16. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized dissolved nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen concentrations for 1975-2001

  17. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized total ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations for 1975-2001

  18. Graph showing fitted annual concentration anomalies for total phosphorus for 1975-2001

  19. Graph showing fitted trends for standardized total phosphorus concentrations for 1975-2001

  20. Graph showing fitted annual concentration anomalies for dissolved manganese for 1970-2001

  21. Graph showing estimated cropland for the Red River of the North at Emerson, Manitoba, Basin for 1974-2001

  22. Graph showing estimated livestock inventory for the Red River of the North at Emerson, Manitoba, Basin for 1974-2001

  23. Graph showing characteristic annual trends for selected sampling designs for dissolved sulfate concentrations for main-stem and major tributary stations

  24. Graph showing characteristic annual trends for selected sampling designs for total ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations for main-stem and major tributary stations

  25. Graph showing characteristic seasonal trends for selected sampling designs for dissolved sulfate concentrations for main-stem and major tributary stations

  26. Graph showing characteristic seasonal trends for selected sampling designs for dissolved nitrite plus nitrate as nitrogen concentrations for main-stem and major tributary stations

  27. Graph showing characteristic seasonal trends for selected sampling designs for total ammonia plus organic nitrogen concentrations for main-stem and major tributary stations

  28. Graph showing characteristic seasonal trends for selected sampling designs for total phosphorus concentrations for main-stem and major tributary stations

Tables

  1. Selected characteristics of streamflow-gaging stations used for water-quality trend analysis

  2. Mean daily streamflows for selected stations in the Red River of the North Basin for various periods during 1970-2001

  3. Constituents used for water-quality trend analysis

  4. Stations and constituents used for water-quality trend analysis and number of samples for concentration data

 

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