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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5136

In cooperation with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board,
Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, and
Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi

Hydrologic Conditions and Water Quality of Rainfall and Storm Runoff for Two Agricultural Areas of the Oso Creek Watershed, Nueces County, Texas, 2005–08

By Darwin J. Ockerman1 and Carlos J. Fernandez2

1 U.S. Geological Survey, San Antonio, Texas.
2 Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi, Texas.

Abstract

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The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Coastal Bend Bays and Estuaries Program, and Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Corpus Christi, studied hydrologic conditions and water quality of rainfall and storm runoff of two primarily agricultural subwatersheds of the Oso Creek watershed in Nueces County, Texas. One area, the upper West Oso Creek subwatershed, is about 5,145 acres. The other area, a subwatershed drained by an unnamed tributary to Oso Creek (hereinafter, Oso Creek tributary), is about 5,287 acres. Rainfall and runoff (streamflow) were continuously monitored at the outlets of the two subwatersheds during the study period October 2005–September 2008. Seventeen rainfall samples were collected and analyzed for nutrients and major inorganic ions. Twenty-four composite runoff water-quality samples (12 at West Oso Creek, 12 at Oso Creek tributary) were collected and analyzed for nutrients, major inorganic ions, and pesticides. Twenty-six discrete suspended-sediment samples (12 West Oso Creek, 14 Oso Creek tributary) and 17 bacteria samples (10 West Oso Creek, 7 Oso Creek tributary) were collected and analyzed. These data were used to estimate, for selected constituents, rainfall deposition to and runoff loads and yields from the two subwatersheds. Quantities of fertilizers and pesticides applied in the two subwatersheds were compared with quantities of nutrients and pesticides in rainfall and runoff.

For the study period, total rainfall was greater than average. Most of the runoff from the two subwatersheds occurred in response to a few specific storm periods. The West Oso Creek subwatershed produced more runoff during the study period than the Oso Creek tributary subwatershed, 13.95 inches compared with 9.45 inches. Runoff response was quicker and peak flows were higher in the West Oso Creek subwatershed than in the Oso Creek tributary subwatershed. Total nitrogen runoff yield for the 3-year study period averaged 2.62 pounds per acre per year from the West Oso Creek subwatershed and 0.839 pound per acre per year from the Oso Creek tributary subwatershed. Total phosphorus yields from the West Oso Creek and Oso Creek tributary subwatersheds for the 3-year period were 0.644 and 0.419 pound per acre per year, respectively. Runoff yields of nitrogen and phosphorus were relatively small compared to inputs of nitrogen in fertilizer and rainfall deposition. Average annual runoff yield of total nitrogen (subwatersheds combined) represents about 2.5 percent of nitrogen applied as fertilizer to cropland in the watershed and nitrogen entering the subwatersheds through rainfall deposition. Average annual runoff yield of total phosphorus (subwatersheds combined) represents about 4.0 percent of the phosphorus in applied fertilizer and rainfall deposition. Suspended-sediment yields from the West Oso Creek subwatershed were more than twice those from the Oso Creek tributary subwatershed. The average suspended-sediment yield from the West Oso Creek subwatershed was 522 pounds per acre per year and from the Oso Creek tributary subwatershed was 139 pounds per acre per year. Twenty-four herbicides and eight insecticides were detected in runoff samples collected at the two subwatershed outlets. At the West Oso Creek site, 19 herbicides and 4 insecticides were detected; at the Oso Creek tributary site, 18 herbicides and 6 insecticides were detected. Fourteen pesticides were detected in only one sample at low concentrations (near the laboratory reporting level). Atrazine and atrazine degradation byproduct 2-chloro-4-isopropylamino-6-amino-s-triazine (CIAT) were detected in all samples. Glyphosate and glyphosate byproduct aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) were detected in all samples collected and analyzed during water years 2006–07 but were not included in analysis for samples collected in water year 2008. Of all pesticides detected in runoff, the highest runoff yields were for glyphosate, 0.012 and 0.001 pound per acre per year for the West Oso Creek and Oso Creek tributary subwatersheds, respectively. About 0.9 percent of glyphosate applied to the West Oso Creek subwatershed was detected in runoff and for the Oso Creek tributary subwatershed, about 0.08 percent. At both subwatershed outlet sites, most sample concentrations of fecal coliform, Escherichia coli, and Enterococci were greater than Texas surface-water-quality standards for those bacteria established for the receiving waters of Oso Creek and Oso Bay. Because runoff and associated bacteria concentrations represent relatively brief and infrequent conditions, the resulting effect on Oso Creek and Oso Bay is not known.

First posted September 2, 2010

Supersedes SIR 2008-5103

For additional information contact:
Director, Texas Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
1505 Ferguson Lane
Austin, TX 78754-4501

http://tx.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Ockerman, D.J., and Fernandez, C.J., 2010, Hydrologic conditions and water quality of rainfall and storm runoff for two agricultural areas of the Oso Creek watershed, Nueces County, Texas, 2005–08: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5136, 63 p.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Data Collection

Hydrologic Conditions

Water Quality

Summary

References

Appendix 1. Quality Control and Assurance Data for Rainfall Samples

Appendix 2. Water-Quality Data for Runoff Samples Collected at West Oso Creek

Appendix 3. Water-Quality Data for Runoff Samples Collected at Oso Creek Tributary


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