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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5152

Prepared in cooperation with City of Tuscaloosa

Estimation of Sediment Inflows to Lake Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2009–11

By K.G. Lee

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The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the City of Tuscaloosa, evaluated the concentrations, loads, and yields of suspended sediment in the tributaries to Lake Tuscaloosa in west-central Alabama, from October 1, 2008, to January 31, 2012. The collection and analysis of these data will facilitate the comparison with historical data, serve as a baseline for future sediment-collection efforts, and help to identify areas of concern.

Lake Tuscaloosa, at the reservoir dam, receives runoff from a drainage area of 423 square miles (mi2). Basinwide in 2006, forested land was the primary land cover (68 percent). Comparison of historical imagery with the National Land Cover Database (2001 and 2006) indicated that the greatest temporal land-use change was timber harvest. The land cover in 2006 was indicative of this change, with shrub/scrub land (12 percent) being the secondary land use in the basin. Agricultural land use (10 percent) was represented predominantly by hay and pasture or grasslands. Urban land use was minimal, accounting for 4 percent of the entire basin. The remaining 6 percent of the basin has a land use of open water or wetlands.

Storm and monthly suspended-sediment samples were collected from seven tributaries to Lake Tuscaloosa: North River, Turkey Creek, Binion Creek, Pole Bridge Creek, Tierce Creek, Carroll Creek, and Brush Creek. Suspended-sediment concentrations and streamflow measurements were statistically analyzed to estimate annual suspended-sediment loads and yields from each of these contributing watersheds.

Estimated annual suspended-sediment yields in 2009 were 360, 540, and 840 tons per square mile (tons/mi2) at the North River, Turkey Creek, and Carroll Creek streamflow-gaging stations, respectively. Estimated annual suspended-sediment yields in 2010 were 120 and 86 tons/mi2 at the Binion Creek and Pole Bridge Creek streamflow-gaging stations, respectively. Estimated annual suspended-sediment yields in 2011 were 190 and 300 tons/mi2 at the Tierce Creek and Brush Creek streamflow-gaging stations, respectively.

The North River watershed at the streamflow-gaging station contributes 53 percent of the drainage area for Lake Tuscaloosa. A previous study in the 1970s analyzed streamflow and historical suspended-sediment samples to estimate a long-term average suspended-sediment yield of 300 tons per year per square mile in the North River watershed. Analysis of data collected in the North River watershed during the 2009 water year (October 2008 to September 2009) estimated a sediment yield of 360 tons/mi2. The North River watershed, a major portion of the Lake Tuscaloosa drainage basin, has not experienced a substantial increase in sedimentation rates.

During the 2009 water year, the Turkey Creek watershed (6.16 mi2) and the Carroll Creek watershed (20.9 mi2) produced greater suspended-sediment yields than the North River watershed but contribute a much smaller drainage area to Lake Tuscaloosa. Aerial photography and bathymetric surveys indicate that Carroll Creek has experienced increased sediment deposition in the upstream portions of the channel. Carroll Creek is also the only watershed in the current study that has a substantial percentage (11 percent) of urban land use.

First posted September 24, 2013

For additional information contact:
Director, Alabama Water Science Center
75 TechnalCenter Drive
Montgomery, AL 36117
Telephone: (334) 395–4120

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Suggested citation:

Lee, K.G., 2013, Estimation of sediment inflows to Lake Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 2009–11: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5152, 65 p.,




Description of Study Area

Previous Investigations

Approach and Methods

North River

Turkey Creek

Binion Creek

Pole Bridge Creek

Tierce Creek

Carroll Creek

Brush Creek

Estimation of Suspended-Sediment Loads to Lake Tuscaloosa


References Cited

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