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Water-Quality Characteristics for Sites in the Tongue, Powder, Cheyenne, and Belle Fourche River Drainage Basins, Wyoming and Montana, Water Years 2001-05, with Temporal Patterns of Selected Long-Term Water-Quality Data

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5146

Prepared in cooperation with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality
By:
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Abstract

Water-quality sampling was conducted regularly at stream sites within or near the Powder River structural basin in northeastern Wyoming and southeastern Montana during water years 2001-05 (October 1, 2000, to September 30, 2005) to characterize water quality in an area of coalbed natural gas development. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality, characterized the water quality at 22 sampling sites in the Tongue, Powder, Cheyenne, and Belle Fourche River drainage basins. Data for general hydrology, field measurements, major-ion chemistry, and selected trace elements were summarized, and specific conductance and sodium-adsorption ratios were evaluated for relations with streamflow and seasonal variability. Trend analysis for water years 1991-2005 was conducted for selected sites and constituents to assess change through time. Average annual runoff was highly variable among the stream sites. Generally, streams that have headwaters in the Bighorn Mountains had more runoff as a result of higher average annual precipitation than streams that have headwaters in the plains. The Powder River at Moorhead, Mont., had the largest average annual runoff (319,000 acre-feet) of all the sites; however, streams in the Tongue River drainage basin had the highest runoff per unit area of the four major drainage basins. Annual runoff in all major drainage basins was less than average during 2001-05 because of drought conditions. Consequently, water-quality samples collected during the study period may not represent long-term water-quality con-ditions for all sites. Water-quality characteristics were highly variable generally because of streamflow variability, geologic controls, and potential land-use effects. The range of median specific-conductance values among sites was smallest in the Tongue River drainage basin. Median values in that basin ranged from 643 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius (?S/cm at 25?C) on the Tongue River to 1,460 ?S/cm at 25?C on Prairie Dog Creek. The Tongue River drainage basin has the largest percentage of area underlain by Mesozoic-age and older rocks and by more resistant rocks. In addition, the higher annual precipitation and a steeper gradient in this basin compared to basins in the plains produce relatively fast stream velocities, which result in a short contact time between stream waters and basin materials. The Powder River drainage basin, which has the largest drainage area and most diverse site conditions, had the largest range of median specific-conductance values among the four major drainage basins. Median values in that basin ranged from 680 ?S/cm at 25?C on Clear Creek to 5,950 ?S/cm at 25?C on Salt Creek. Median specific-conductance values among sites in the Cheyenne River drainage basin ranged from 1,850 ?S/cm at 25?C on Black Thunder Creek to 4,680 ?S/cm at 25?C on the Cheyenne River. The entire Cheyenne River drainage basin is in the plains, which have low precipitation, soluble geologic materials, and relatively low gradients that produce slow stream velocities and long contact times. Median specific-conductance values among sites in the Belle Fourche River drainage basin ranged from 1,740 ?S/cm at 25?C on Caballo Creek to 2,800 ?S/cm at 25?C on Donkey Creek. Water in the study area ranged from a magnesium-calcium-bicarbonate type for some sites in the Tongue River drainage basin to a sodium-sulfate type at many sites in the Powder, Cheyenne, and Belle Fourche River drainage basins. Little Goose Creek, Goose Creek, and the Tongue River in the Tongue River drainage basin, and Clear Creek in the Powder River drainage basin, which have headwaters in the Bighorn Mountains, consistently had the smallest median dissolved-sodium concentrations, sodium-adsorption ratios, dissolved-sulfate concentrations, and dissolved-solids concentrations. Salt Creek, Wild Horse Creek, Little Powder River, and the Cheyenne River, which have headwat

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Water-Quality Characteristics for Sites in the Tongue, Powder, Cheyenne, and Belle Fourche River Drainage Basins, Wyoming and Montana, Water Years 2001-05, with Temporal Patterns of Selected Long-Term Water-Quality Data
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2007-5146
Edition:
-
Year Published:
2007
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
Wyoming Water Science Center
Description:
vii, 66 p.
Time Range Start:
2000-10-01T12:00:00
Time Range End:
2005-09-30T12:00:00