, Volume 138, Issue 1-4, pp 79-100

Mercury Concentrations in Stream and River Water: An Analytical Framework Applied to Minnesota and Wisconsin (USA)

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The total concentration of all mercuryspecies in water, [THg]w, is a key water qualitymeasure. This paper proposes an analytical framework forthe analysis, interpretation and eventual projection ofstream (and river) [THg]w. Mercury (Hg) isconceptualized as being distributed among four carriergroups in water: suspended mineral particles, particulateorganic carbon, dissolved organic carbon, and inorganiccomplexes and ions. The conceptual understanding is used asa statistical analytical framework and turned into aquantitative model for Minnesota and Wisconsin based on some1000 data cases from 18 streams (watershed area: 9 ha–115500km2). The resultant model yields a coefficient ofdetermination of 92% for [THg]w of the fitting datasubset, or 94% for the evaluation subset. Its coefficientshave well defined physical meanings, and are generallyconsistent with independent field measurements from the sameregion or elsewhere. The model provides a comprehensive andquantitative view of the Hg contents of the carriers: thecontents increase with the proportion of watershed area aswetlands or as forests, rise drastically and then fallprecipitously during spring snowmelt, and otherwise peak inthe growing season and reach a minimum in the presence ofsnowpack. The model further reveals that dissolved Hg tendsto increase with emission-related wet sulfate depositionacross the data region.