Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 9, pp 4051–4060 | Cite as

A case study considering the comparability of mass and volumetric suspended sediment data

  • Jason A. HubbartEmail author
  • Elliott Kellner
  • Graham Freeman
Original Article


Contemporary real-time instruments that advance suspended sediment monitoring capabilities often provide results in units (e.g. volumetric) that are not easily comparable to traditional mass (e.g. gravimetric) methods. A Midwest case study was initiated to assess the accuracy of three methods commonly used to convert volumetric data to mass. Water samples from rural, suburban, and urban stream reaches were analyzed for suspended sediment concentration using laser diffraction and wet sieving methods, resulting in paired volumetric (μl/l) and mass (mg/l) suspended sediment concentrations. Observed volumetric data were converted to mass using an assumed particle density (Pd) of 2.65 g/cm3, a calculated Pd, and linear regression. Using the assumed Pd, estimated mass data differed from observed mass data by as much as 60 %. Dividing mass concentration (mg/l) by the volumetric concentration (μl/l) resulted in site-specific average suspended sediment particle densities ranging from 2.17, 1.99, 1.76 g/cm3 for different land use types. Using a calculated Pd, estimated mass data differed from observed mass data by as much as 45 %. Paired sample t tests showed observed and estimated mass values to be significantly different (p < 0.01). R 2 values for regression equations ranged from 0.82 to 0.88. Conversion difficulties likely result from temporal and spatial variations of Pd. The results illustrate the imprecision of conversion methods and highlight possible estimation errors assuming idealized conditions. Continued work is necessary to improve quantitative relationship(s) between mass and volumetric suspended sediment data and the utility of both types of information for science and land management practices.


Suspended sediment Land use Hinkson creek Laser diffraction analysis 



The Environmental Protection Agency Region 7, through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources provided funding for this project (P.N: G08-NPS-17) under Sect. 319 of the Clean Water Act. Other funding and support is provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation, Boone County Public Works, the City of Columbia, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Special thanks are extended to scientists and other collaborators of the Interdisciplinary Hydrology Laboratory, and multiple reviewers whose comments improved this article.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason A. Hubbart
    • 1
    Email author
  • Elliott Kellner
    • 2
  • Graham Freeman
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Forestry and Department of Soils, Environmental and Atmospheric SciencesUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forestry, Water Resources ProgramUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA

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