Water-quality appraisal of NASQAN stations below impoundments, eastern Tennessee

U.S. Geological Survey, Water-Resources Investigations Report 85-4171

by R.D. Evaldi and J.G. Lewis

This report is available as a pdf below


The National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) is a network of stations at which systematic and continuing water-quality data are collected. Major objectives of this U.S. Geological Survey program are (1) to depict areal variability of streamflow and water-quality conditions nationwide on a year-by-year basis and (2) to detect long-term changes in streamflow and stream quality.

Several NASQAN stations in East Tennessee are downstream from impoundments which have a significant effect on water quality. NASQAN data obtained from the Tennessee River below Watts Bar Dam and the Clinch River below Melton Hill Dam were compared to water-quality data from the basins upstream. The comparison indicates that NASQAN data obtained below impoundment may not be adequate to describe a composite picture of water quality in the accounting unit. Detention time of storage in the impoundments is believed to moderate the range of constituent values observed at the NASQAN stations. Data obtained upstream and downstream from Watts Bar Dam indicate that the water sampled at the NASQAN station comes from stratified layers of the impoundment and is not representative of an integrated sample of water from the impoundment. Values of total recoverable iron suggest that, because of adsorption to sediments in impoundments, some constituents are not accurately described by sampling below impoundments.

Relations between water-quality constituents and flow at stations on the Clinch River and Tennessee River are not well defined due to regulation. Direct load computations for many constituents were therefore not possible, which diminished the utility of data from these NASQAN stations to account for quantity versus quality of the water. Load computations were only possible for ionic constituents through use of a continuous specific-conductance record as an intermediary. Compensation for the effects of discharge prior to application of the Seasonal Kendall test for trends could not be done and identification of trends in water-quality constituents caused by some process (source) change was not possible. Some water-quality trends indicated by data from the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers might reflect the decreasing trend in discharge during the 1972-82 water years. Thus the stations below Watts Bar Dam and below Melton Hill Dam do not adequately meet the NASQAN objective to detect and assess long-term changes in stream quality.

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