, Volume 165, Issue 1-4, pp 435-447
Date: 13 May 2009

Spatial and temporal variation in suspended sediment, organic matter, and turbidity in a Minnesota prairie river: implications for TMDLs

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access

Abstract

The Minnesota River Basin (MRB), situated in the prairie pothole region of the Upper Midwest, contributes excessive sediment and nutrient loads to the Upper Mississippi River. Over 330 stream channels in the MRB are listed as impaired by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, with turbidity levels exceeding water quality standards in much of the basin. Addressing turbidity impairment requires an understanding of pollutant sources that drive turbidity, which was the focus of this study. Suspended volatile solids (SVS), total suspended solids (TSS), and turbidity were measured over two sampling seasons at ten monitoring stations in Elm Creek, a turbidity impaired tributary in the MRB. Turbidity levels exceeded the Minnesota standard of 25 nephelometric units in 73% of Elm Creek samples. Turbidity and TSS were correlated (r 2 = 0.76), yet they varied with discharge and season. High levels of turbidity occurred during periods of high stream flow (May–June) because of excessive suspended inorganic sediment from watershed runoff, stream bank, and channel contributions. Both turbidity and TSS increased exponentially downstream with increasing stream power, bank height, and bluff erosion. However, organic matter discharged from wetlands and eutrophic lakes elevated SVS levels and stream turbidity in late summer when flows were low. SVS concentrations reached maxima at lake outlets (50 mg/l) in August. Relying on turbidity measurements alone fails to identify the cause of water quality impairment whether from suspended inorganic sediment or organic matter. Therefore, developing mitigation measures requires monitoring of both TSS and SVS from upstream to downstream reaches.