Link to USGS home page.
Oregon Water Science Center

Sediment Oxygen Demand in Lake Ewauna and the Klamath River, Oregon, June 2003

By Micelis C. Doyle and Dennis D. Lynch

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5228

Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation

Download the report
Photo: Klamath River

The Klamath River, looking downstream, just below Upper Klamath Lake in Oregon. In summer, water rich in decomposing organic material (primarily from algae blooms) flows into the Klamath River from Upper Klamath Lake, causing a large oxygen demand in the sediment and water column, depleting oxygen in the river.


Sediment oxygen demand (SOD) is the rate at which dissolved oxygen is removed from the water column during the decomposition of organic matter in streambed or lakebed sediments. In lakes and slow moving rivers, or rivers with high levels of organic matter in the bed sediment, SOD can be a major cause of low dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations in the water column. Low DO concentrations can be detrimental to fish and other aquatic life in a stream or lake.

In June 2003, replicate SOD measurements were made at one site in Lake Ewauna and three sites in the Klamath River above Keno Dam. Individual measurements of SOD20 rates(temperature corrected to 20 degrees Celsius) ranged from 0.3 to 2.9 g O2/m2/day (grams of oxygen per square meter per day), with a median value of 1.8 g O2/m2/day (n=22). The variability of individual SOD measurements at a site was equal to or greater than the variability of SOD rates among the four sites. Consequently, the overall median SOD for the entire study reach should be used in water-quality models. SOD values measured in this study are about 10 times smaller than estimates made in this study area by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality in 1994. The rates measured in the Klamath River are similar to SOD rates measured several miles upstream in Upper Klamath Lake in 1999. These two findings indicate that the unusually high SOD rates in the Klamath River result from causes other than the presence of large amounts of woody debris in bottom sediments from past and ongoing sawmill operations, which has been suggested by other investigators.

An areal rate of water-column oxygen demand was estimated from control chambers during the study. In early June 2003, the median rate was 3.8 g O2/m2/day, which was more than double the SOD20 rate. Taken together, the SOD and water-column oxygen demand can more than account for the severe hypoxia that develops in this reach of the Klamath River from July into October. The largest source of labile organic matter contributing to this hypoxia likely comes from algal blooms in Upper Klamath Lake.

Bed-sediment samples were collected and correlations were considered between SOD20 rate and percentage of organic material, and SOD20 rate and percentage of sediment finer than 63 microns. Based on these correlations, it does not appear that SOD variability can be readily determined from these two sediment characteristics.

Download the report (PDF, 1.4 MB) (Adobe Reader® required; version 5 or higher preferred. If you do not have the Adobe PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.)


Purpose and Scope
Study area
Methods and Procedures
Study Design
Sediment Oxygen Demand Chambers
Sediment Oxygen Demand Chamber Deployment
Calculation of Sediment Oxygen Demand

Sediment Sample Collection and Analysis
Quality Assurance of Data
Assessment of Data Collected from Sediment Oxygen Demand and Control Chambers
Internal Sediment Oxygen Demand Chamber Velocity
Quality Assurance of Sediment Sample Analysis
Results and Discussion
Sediment Oxygen Demand Rates and Spatial Variability
Water-Column Oxygen Demand Measured in Control Chambers
Bottom-Sediment Characteristics
Comparison of Sediment Oxygen Demand Rates in Lake Ewauna and the Klamath River
to Those in Upper Klamath Lake
Summary and Conclusions
References Cited

You can request a printed version of the report by clicking on this link.

Document Accessibility: Adobe Systems Incorporated has information about PDFs and the visually impaired. This information provides tools to help make PDF files accessible. These tools convert Adobe PDF documents into HTML or ASCII text, which then can be read by screen-reading programs that synthesize text as audible speech. In addition, a version of Adobe Reader that contains support for screen readers is available. The conversion tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe through their conversion tools Web site.

For information on ordering Oregon Water Science Center publications, click on this link.

For more information about USGS studies in the Klamath Basin, please visit the Klamath studies Web site.

To learn more about USGS activities in Oregon, please visit our home page.


FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button