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USGS South Dakota Water Science Center Publication

Water-Quality and Biological Characteristics of the Little White River and Selected Tributaries, Todd County, South Dakota, 2002–2003

By Joyce E. Williamson

Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5267

Prepared in cooperation with Rosebud Sioux Tribe


The Little White River originates in Shannon County in southwestern South Dakota and flows through Bennett County before entering Todd County. The Little White River drains approximately one-half of Todd County before entering Mellette County where it flows into the White River. The portion of the Little White River downstream from Rosebud Creek is listed as impaired in the 2004 South Dakota Integrated Report for Surface Water Quality Assessment for suspended solids.

This report presents the results of water-quality and biological sampling during 2002 and 2003 as well as analysis of streamflow and suspended-sediment data. Water-quality concentrations collected during 2002 correspond closely with historical values, indicating that the water quality within the Little White River has not changed substantially over time. Fecal coliform concentrations tend to be high during and immediately after storm runoff events, especially for some tributaries to the Little White River including Sawmill Canyon, South Fork Ironwood Creek, and Soldier Creek.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe currently does not have approved beneficial uses and water-quality standards; however, the suspended-sediment concentrations in the Little White River within Todd County were greater than the current (2005) South Dakota standard for total suspended solids during most of the sampling period. Suspended-sediment concentrations increased from the sampling site at the Bennett/Todd County line, Little White River near Vetal, to the sampling site just upstream from Rosebud Creek, Little White River above Rosebud. Downstream from the Little White River above Rosebud, concentrations tended to be similar. Suspended-sediment concentrations exceed the current South Dakota standard for total suspended solids approximately 45 percent of the time near the Bennett/Todd County line to 82 percent of the time at the Todd/Mellette County line. This change in sediment concentrations corresponds with changes in the natural geology of the area as the stream flows through windblown sand deposits and outcrops of the Ogallala Formation.

Benthic macroinvertebrate sampling results were used to calculate a variety of metrics used as indicators of stream health. Metric results generally followed a pattern indicating decreases in stream health from the site near Vetal to the site above Rosebud and then increased stream health downstream near the Todd/Mellette County line.




Purpose and Scope

Description of the Study Area

Physiography, Land Use, and Climate



Data Collection and Water-Quality Standards

Sampling Sites

Sampling and Analysis Methods

Water-Quality Standards

Streamflow Characteristics

Water-Quality Characteristics

Reconnaissance Sampling

Bacteria and Suspended Sediment

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

Suspended Sediment

Duration Analysis

Simulated Flow and Sediment Transport

Biological Characteristics



Supplemental Data

Suggested Citation:

Williamson, J.E., 2005, Water-quality and biological characteristics of the Little White River and selected tributaries, Todd County, South Dakota, 2002–2003: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005–5267, 76 p.

This report is available online in Portable Document Format (PDF). If you do not have the Adobe Acrobat PDF Reader, it is available for free download from Adobe Systems Incorporated.

Download the Report (PDF, 4.6MB).

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 a number of common screen-reading programs that synthesize text as audible speech. In addition, an accessible version of Acrobat Reader 5.0 for Windows (English only), which contains support for screen readers, is available. These tools and the accessible reader may be obtained free from Adobe at Adobe Access.

Send questions or comments about this report to the author, J.E. Williamson (605) 394-3219.

For more information about USGS activities in South Dakota, visit the USGS South Dakota Water Science Center home page.

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Last modified: Thursday, December 01 2016, 06:49:21 PM
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