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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5217

Water-Quality Trends for Selected Sampling Sites in the Upper Clark Fork Basin, Montana, Water Years 1996–2010

By Steven K. Sando, Aldo V. Vecchia, David L. Lorenz, and Elliott P. Barnhart

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (6.35 MB)Abstract

A large-scale trend analysis was done on specific conductance, selected trace elements (arsenic, cadmium, copper, iron, lead, manganese, and zinc), and suspended-sediment data for 22 sites in the upper Clark Fork Basin for water years 1996–2010. Trend analysis was conducted by using two parametric methods: a time-series model (TSM) and multiple linear regression on time, streamflow, and season (MLR). Trend results for 1996–2010 indicate moderate to large decreases in flow-adjusted concentrations (FACs) and loads of copper (and other metallic elements) and suspended sediment in Silver Bow Creek upstream from Warm Springs. Deposition of metallic elements and suspended sediment within Warm Springs Ponds substantially reduces the downstream transport of those constituents. However, mobilization of copper and suspended sediment from floodplain tailings and stream banks in the Clark Fork reach from Galen to Deer Lodge is a large source of metallic elements and suspended sediment, which also affects downstream transport of those constituents. Copper and suspended-sediment loads mobilized from within this reach accounted for about 40 and 20 percent, respectively, of the loads for Clark Fork at Turah Bridge (site 20); whereas, streamflow contributed from within this reach only accounted for about 8 percent of the streamflow at Turah Bridge. Minor changes in FACs and loads of copper and suspended sediment are indicated for this reach during 1996–2010.

Clark Fork reaches downstream from Deer Lodge are relatively smaller sources of metallic elements than the reach from Galen to Deer Lodge. In general, small decreases in loads and FACs of copper and suspended sediment are indicated for Clark Fork sites downstream from Deer Lodge during 1996–2010. Thus, although large decreases in FACs and loads of copper and suspended sediment are indicated for Silver Bow Creek upstream from Warm Springs, those large decreases are not translated to the more downstream reaches largely because of temporal stationarity in constituent transport relations in the Clark Fork reach from Galen to Deer Lodge.

Unlike metallic elements, arsenic (a metalloid element) in streams in the upper Clark Fork Basin typically is mostly in dissolved phase, has less variability in concentrations, and has weaker direct relations with suspended-sediment concentrations and streamflow. Arsenic trend results for 1996–2010 indicate generally moderate decreases in FACs and loads in Silver Bow Creek upstream from Opportunity. In general, small temporal changes in loads and FACs of arsenic are indicated for Silver Bow Creek and Clark Fork reaches downstream from Opportunity during 1996–2010. Contribution of arsenic (from Warm Springs Ponds, the Mill-Willow bypass, and groundwater sources) in the Silver Bow Creek reach from Opportunity to Warm Springs is a relatively large source of arsenic. Arsenic loads originating from within this reach accounted for about 11 percent of the load for Clark Fork at Turah Bridge; whereas, streamflow contributed from within this reach only accounted for about 2 percent of the streamflow at Turah Bridge.

First posted March 10, 2014

For additional information contact:
Director, Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
3162 Bozeman Ave.
Helena, MT 59601
http://wy-mt.water.usgs.gov/

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Suggested citation:

Sando, S.K., Vecchia, A.V., Lorenz, D.L., and Barnhart, E.P., 2014, Water-quality trends for selected sampling sites in the upper Clark Fork Basin, Montana, water years 1996–2010: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5217, 162 p., with appendixes, http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20135217.

ISSN 2328-031X (print)

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Data Collection and Analytical Methods

Quality Assurance

Overview of Water-Quality Characteristics for Sampling Sites in the Upper Clark Fork Basin

Data Analysis Methods

Streamflow Conditions and Various Data-Related Factors that Affect Trend Analysis and Interpretation

Water-Quality Trends for Selected Sampling Sites in the Upper Clark Fork Basin

Summary and Conclusions

References Cited

Appendix 1—Summary Information Relating to Quality-Control, Water-Quality, and Continuous Streamflow Data

Appendix 2—Summary of the Time-Series Model as Applied in this Study

Appendix 3—Summary of Multiple Linear Regression of Water-Quality Constituents on Time, Streamflow, and Season, as Applied in this Study

Appendix 4—Trend Analysis Results

Appendix 5—Transport-Analysis Balance Calculations for Data-Summary Reaches


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