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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5071

Prepared in cooperation with the city of Wichita, Kansas

Continuous Real-Time Water-Quality Monitoring and Regression Analysis to Compute Constituent Concentrations and Loads in the North Fork Ninnescah River Upstream from Cheney Reservoir, South-Central Kansas, 1999–2012

By Mandy L. Stone, Jennifer L. Graham, and Jackline W. Gatotho

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.85 MB)Abstract

Cheney Reservoir, located in south-central Kansas, is the primary water supply for the city of Wichita. The U.S. Geological Survey has operated a continuous real-time water-quality monitoring station since 1998 on the North Fork Ninnescah River, the main source of inflow to Cheney Reservoir. Continuously measured water-quality physical properties include streamflow, specific conductance, pH, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity. Discrete water-quality samples were collected during 1999 through 2009 and analyzed for sediment, nutrients, bacteria, and other water-quality constituents. Regression models were developed to establish relations between discretely sampled constituent concentrations and continuously measured physical properties to compute concentrations of those constituents of interest that are not easily measured in real time because of limitations in sensor technology and fiscal constraints.

Regression models were published in 2006 that were based on data collected during 1997 through 2003. This report updates those models using discrete and continuous data collected during January 1999 through December 2009. Models also were developed for four new constituents, including additional nutrient species and indicator bacteria. In addition, a conversion factor of 0.68 was established to convert the Yellow Springs Instruments (YSI) model 6026 turbidity sensor measurements to the newer YSI model 6136 sensor at the North Ninnescah River upstream from Cheney Reservoir site. Newly developed models and 14 years of hourly continuously measured data were used to calculate selected constituent concentrations and loads during January 1999 through December 2012. The water-quality information in this report is important to the city of Wichita because it allows the concentrations of many potential pollutants of interest to Cheney Reservoir, including nutrients and sediment, to be estimated in real time and characterized over conditions and time scales that would not be possible otherwise.

In general, model forms and the amount of variance explained by the models was similar between the original and updated models. The amount of variance explained by the updated models changed by 10 percent or less relative to the original models. Total nitrogen, nitrate, organic nitrogen, E. coli bacteria, and total organic carbon models were newly developed for this report. Additional data collection over a wider range of hydrological conditions facilitated the development of these models. The nitrate model is particularly important because it allows for comparison to Cheney Reservoir Task Force goals.

Mean hourly computed total suspended solids concentration during 1999 through 2012 was 54 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The total suspended solids load during 1999 through 2012 was 174,031 tons. On an average annual basis, the Cheney Reservoir Task Force runoff (550 mg/L) and long-term (100 mg/L) total suspended solids goals were never exceeded, but the base flow goal was exceeded every year during 1999 through 2012. Mean hourly computed nitrate concentration was 1.08 mg/L during 1999 through 2012. The total nitrate load during 1999 through 2012 was 1,361 tons. On an annual average basis, the Cheney Reservoir Task Force runoff (6.60 mg/L) nitrate goal was never exceeded, the long-term goal (1.20 mg/L) was exceeded only in 2012, and the base flow goal of 0.25 mg/L was exceeded every year. Mean nitrate concentrations that were higher during base flow, rather than during runoff conditions, suggest that groundwater sources are the main contributors of nitrate to the North Fork Ninnescah River above Cheney Reservoir. Mean hourly computed phosphorus concentration was 0.14 mg/L during 1999 through 2012. The total phosphorus load during 1999 through 2012 was 328 tons. On an average annual basis, the Cheney Reservoir Task Force runoff goal of 0.40 mg/L for total phosphorus was exceeded in 2002, the year with the largest yearly mean turbidity, and the long-term goal (0.10 mg/L) was exceeded in every year except 2011 and 2012, the years with the smallest mean streamflows. The total phosphorus base flow goal of 0.05 mg/L was exceeded every year. Given that base flow goals for total suspended solids, nitrate, and total phosphorus were exceeded every year despite hydrologic conditions, the established base flow goals are either unattainable or substantially more best management practices will need to be implemented to attain them.

On an annual average basis, no discernible patterns were evident in total suspended sediment, nitrate, and total phosphorus concentrations or loads over time, in large part because of hydrologic variability. However, more rigorous statistical analyses are required to evaluate temporal trends. A more rigorous analysis of temporal trends will allow evaluation of watershed investments in best management practices.

First posted May 7, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Kansas Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049

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Suggested citation:

Stone, M.L., Graham, J.L., and Gatotho, J.W., 2013, Continuous real-time water-quality monitoring and regression analysis to compute constituent concentrations and loads in the North Fork Ninnescah River upstream from Cheney Reservoir, south-central Kansas, 1999–2012: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5071, 44 p.,






Results of Continuously Monitored Variables

Results of Regression Analysis for Selected Constituents

Turbidity, YSI Model 6026 and 6136 Sensors

Computed Constituent Concentrations, Loads, and Yields


References Cited

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