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Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5192

In cooperation with the National Park Service and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission

Predicting Recreational Water Quality Using Turbidity in the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, 2004–7

By Amie M.G. Brady, Rebecca N. Bushon, and Meg B. Plona

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The Cuyahoga River within Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) in Ohio is often impaired for recreational use because of elevated concentrations of bacteria, which are indicators of fecal contamination. During the recreational seasons (May through August) of 2004 through 2007, samples were collected at two river sites, one upstream of and one centrally-located within CVNP. Bacterial concentrations and turbidity were determined, and streamflow at time of sampling and rainfall amounts over the previous 24 hours prior to sampling were ascertained. Statistical models to predict Escherichia coli (E. coli) concentrations were developed for each site (with data from 2004 through 2006) and tested during an independent year (2007). At Jaite, a sampling site near the center of CVNP, the predictive model performed better than the traditional method of determining the current day’s water quality using the previous day’s E. coli concentration. During 2007, the Jaite model, based on turbidity, produced more correct responses (81 percent) and fewer false negatives (3.2 percent) than the traditional method (68 and 26 percent, respectively). At Old Portage, a sampling site just upstream from CVNP, a predictive model with turbidity and rainfall as explanatory variables did not perform as well as the traditional method. The Jaite model was used to estimate water quality at three other sites in the park; although it did not perform as well as the traditional method, it performed well—yielding between 68 and 91 percent correct responses. Further research would be necessary to determine whether using the Jaite model to predict recreational water quality elsewhere on the river would provide accurate results.

First posted September 2009

For additional information contact:
Ohio Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
6480 Doubletree Ave.
Columbus, Ohio 43229-1111

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Suggested citation:

Brady, A.M.G., Bushon, R.N., and Plona, M.B., 2009, Predicting recreational water quality using turbidity in the Cuyahoga River, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio, 2004–7: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2009–5192, 16 p.





Relation of Escherichia coli Concentrations to Environmental Variables

Predictive Models

Model Applications and Suggestions for Future Work

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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