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Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5201

Prepared in cooperation with the Vancouver Lake Watershed Partnership and Clark County Environmental Services Division

Water and Nutrient Budgets for Vancouver Lake, Vancouver, Washington, October 2010–October 2012

By Rich W. Sheibley, James R. Foreman, Cameron A. Marshall, and Wendy B. Welch

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (5.6 MB)Abstract

Vancouver Lake, a large shallow lake in Clark County, near Vancouver, Washington, has been undergoing water-quality problems for decades. Recently, the biggest concern for the lake are the almost annual harmful cyanobacteria blooms that cause the lake to close for recreation for several weeks each summer. Despite decades of interest in improving the water quality of the lake, fundamental information on the timing and amount of water and nutrients entering and exiting the lake is lacking. In 2010, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a 2-year field study to quantify water flows and nutrient loads in order to develop water and nutrient budgets for the lake. This report presents monthly and annual water and nutrient budgets from October 2010–October 2012 to identify major sources and sinks of nutrients. Lake River, a tidally influenced tributary to the lake, flows into and out of the lake almost daily and composed the greatest proportion of both the water and nutrient budgets for the lake, often at orders of magnitude greater than any other source. From the water budget, we identified precipitation, evaporation and groundwater inflow as minor components of the lake hydrologic cycle, each contributing 1 percent or less to the total water budget. Nutrient budgets were compiled monthly and annually for total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and orthophosphate; and, nitrogen loads were generally an order of magnitude greater than phosphorus loads across all sources. For total nitrogen, flow from Lake River at Felida, Washington, made up 88 percent of all inputs into the lake. For total phosphorus and orthophosphate, Lake River at Felida flowing into the lake was 91 and 76 percent of total inputs, respectively. Nutrient loads from precipitation and groundwater inflow were 1 percent or less of the total budgets. Nutrient inputs from Burnt Bridge Creek and Flushing Channel composed 12 percent of the total nitrogen budget, 8 percent of the total phosphorus budget, and 21 percent of the orthophosphate budget. We identified several data gaps and areas for future research, which include the need for better understanding nutrient inputs to the lake from sediment resuspension and better quantification of indirect nutrient inputs to the lake from Salmon Creek.

First posted November 14, 2014

For additional information, contact:
Director, Washington Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
934 Broadway, Suite 300
Tacoma, Washington 98402

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Suggested citation:

Sheibley, R.W., Foreman, J.R., Marshall, C.A., and Welch, W.B., 2014, Water and nutrient budgets for Vancouver Lake, Vancouver, Washington, October 2010–October 2012: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5201, 72 p., plus appendixes,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)




Study Area

Methods of Investigation

Water Budget for Vancouver Lake

Summary of Water-Quality Data

Nutrient Budget for Vancouver Lake

Other Considerations

Data Gaps and Future Work



References Cited


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