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Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5216

Prepared in cooperation with Monroe County Department of Health

Water Resources of Monroe County, New York, Water Years 2003–08: Streamflow, Constituent Loads, and Trends in Water Quality

By Brett A. Hayhurst, William F. Coon, and David A.V. Eckhardt


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This report, the sixth in a series published since 1994, presents analyses of hydrologic data in Monroe County for the period October 2002 through September 2008. Streamflows and water quality were monitored at nine sites by the Monroe County Department of Health and the U.S. Geological Survey. Streamflow yields (flow per unit area) were highest in Northrup Creek, which had sustained flows from year-round inflow from the village of Spencerport wastewater-treatment plant and seasonal releases from the New York State Erie (Barge) Canal. Genesee River streamflow yields also were high, at least in part, as a result of higher rainfall and lower evapotranspiration rates in the upper part of the Genesee River Basin than in the other study basins. The lowest streamflow yields were measured in Honeoye Creek, which reflected a decrease in flows due to the withdrawals from Hemlock and Canadice Lakes for the city of Rochester water supply.

Water samples collected at nine monitoring sites were analyzed for nutrients, chloride, sulfate, and total suspended solids. The loads of constituents, which were computed from the concentration data and the daily flows recorded at each of the monitoring sites, are estimates of the mass of the constituents that was transported in the streamflow. Annual yields (loads per unit area) also were computed to assess differences in constituent transport among the study basins. All urban sites—Allen Creek and the two downstream sites on Irondequoit Creek—had seasonally high concentrations and annual yields of chloride. Chloride loads are attributed to the application of road-deicing salts to the county’s roadways and are related to population and road densities. The less-urbanized sites in the study—Genesee River, Honeoye Creek, and Oatka Creek—had relatively low concentrations and yields of chloride. The highest concentrations and yields of sulfate were measured in Black Creek, Oatka Creek, and Irondequoit Creek at Railroad Mills and are attributable to dissolution of sulfate from gypsum (calcium sulfate) deposits in Silurian shale bedrock that crops out upstream from these monitoring sites.

Northrup Creek had the highest concentrations of phosphorus, orthophosphate, and nitrogen, and high yields of nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen and ammonia plus organic nitrogen. These results are attributed to discharges from the Spencerport wastewater-treatment plant (which ceased operation in June 2008), diversions from the New York State Erie (Barge) Canal, and manure and fertilizers applied to agricultural fields. Concentrations and yields of nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen also were high in Oatka Creek and Black Creek; basins with substantial agricultural land uses. Allen Creek had the second highest yield of ammonia plus organic nitrogen. Honeoye Creek, which drains a relatively undeveloped basin, had the lowest yields of nitrogen constituents. The second highest median concentrations and highest sample concentrations of phosphorus and orthophosphate, as well as the highest phosphorus yields, were measured in the Genesee River.

A comparison of the yields computed for the two downstream sites on Irondequoit Creek—above Blossom Road and at Empire Boulevard—permitted an assessment of the mitigative effects of the Ellison Park wetland on constituent loads, which would otherwise be transported to Irondequoit Bay. These effects also include those provided by a flow-control structure (installed mid-way through the wetland during February 1997), which was designed to increase the dispersal and short-term detention of stormflows in the wetland. The wetland decreased yields of particulate constituents—phosphorus and ammonia plus organic nitrogen—but had little effect on the yields of dissolved constituents—chloride, sulfate, and nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen.

Trends in flow-adjusted concentrations were identified at all sites for most of the nutrient constituents that were evaluated. All of the linear time trends that were detected in the data indicated that nutrient concentrations monotonically decreased during the 6-year study period, except for phosphorus concentrations in the Genesee River, which increased. Seasonal trends also were identified at all sites for nearly every constituent that was evaluated.

First posted December 7, 2010

For additional information contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
New York Water Science Center
425 Jordan Road
Troy, NY 12180

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Suggested citation:

Hayhurst, B.A., Coon, W.F., and Eckhardt, D.A., 2010, Water resources of Monroe County, New York, water years 2003–08: Streamflow, constituent loads, and trends in water quality: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2010–5216, 34 p., also available at




Purpose and Scope

Related Studies

Study Area


Land Use and Land Cover


Selected Waterways

Water-Resources Data Collection and Processing

Stage and Streamflow

Water Temperature

Chemical Constituents

Mean Streamflow Associated with Water-Quality Samples

Water-Resources Data Analyses


Water Quality

Water Temperature

Chemical Constituents

Nutrients and Total Suspended Solids

Chloride and Sulfate

Constituent Loads

Temporal Trends


References Cited

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