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Summary of surface-water-quality data collected for the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins National Water-Quality Assessment Program in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, water years 1999-2001

Open-File Report 2002-472

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Abstract

Water-quality samples were collected at 10 sites in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River Basins in water years 1999 – 2001 as part of the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins (NROK) National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Sampling sites were located in varied environments ranging from small streams and rivers in forested, mountainous headwater areas to large rivers draining diverse landscapes. Two sampling sites were located immediately downstream from the large lakes; five sites were located downstream from large-scale historical mining and oreprocessing areas, which are now the two largest “Superfund” (environmental remediation) sites in the Nation. Samples were collected during a wide range of streamflow conditions, more frequently during increasing and high streamflow and less frequently during receding and base-flow conditions. Sample analyses emphasized major ions, nutrients, and selected trace elements.


Streamflow during the study ranged from more than 130 percent of the long-term average in 1999 at some sites to 40 percent of the long-term average in 2001. River and stream water in the study area exhibited small values for specific conductance, hardness, alkalinity, and dissolved solids. Dissolved oxygen concentrations in almost all samples were near saturation. Median total nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations in samples from most sites were smaller than median concentrations reported for many national programs and other NAWQA Program study areas. The only exceptions were two sites downstream from large wastewater-treatment facilities, where median concentrations of total nitrogen exceeded the national median. Maximum concentrations of total phosphorus in samples from six sites exceeded the 0.1 milligram per liter threshold recommended for limiting nuisance aquatic growth. Concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, mercury, and zinc were largest in samples from sites downstream from historical mining and ore-processing areas in the upper Clark Fork in Montana and the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River in Idaho. Concentrations of dissolved lead in all 32 samples from the South Fork Coeur d’Alene River exceeded the Idaho chronic criterion for the protection of aquatic life at the median hardness level measured during the study. Concentrations of dissolved zinc in all samples collected at this site exceeded both the chronic and acute criteria at all hardness levels measured.


When all data from all NROK sites were combined, median concentrations of dissolved arsenic, dissolved and total recoverable copper, total recoverable lead, and total recoverable zinc in the NROK study area appeared to be similar to or slightly smaller than median concentrations at sites in other NAWQA Program study areas in the Western United States affected by historical mining activities. Although the NROK median total recoverable lead concentration was the smallest among the three Western study areas compared, concentrations in several NROK samples were an order of magnitude larger than the maximum concentrations measured in the Upper Colorado River and Great Salt Lake Basins. Dissolved cadmium, dissolved lead, and total recoverable zinc concentrations at NROK sites were more variable than in the other study areas; concentrations ranged over almost three orders of magnitude between minimum and maximum values; the range of dissolved zinc concentrations in the NROK study area exceeded three orders of magnitude.

Study Area

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Summary of surface-water-quality data collected for the Northern Rockies Intermontane Basins National Water-Quality Assessment Program in the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille and Spokane River basins, Montana, Idaho, and Washington, water years 1999-2001
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
2002-472
Year Published:
2003
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Idaho Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 47 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Montana;Idaho;Washington
City:
Spokane;Missoula;Butte;St. Regis;Bonner;Perma;Clark Fork;Enaville;Pinehurst;Post Falls
Other Geospatial:
Flathead River;Glacier National Park;St. Joe River;Coeur D'alene River;Red Ives Ranger Station;Hungry Horse Reservoir