Suspended sediment is a constituent of water that is monitored because of concerns about accelerated erosion, nonpoint contamination of water resources, and degradation of aquatic environments. Understanding the availability of monitored sediment data for streams in Kentucky is critical to planning future modeling and monitoring efforts. In order to assess the availability of sediment data for Kentucky, long-term records were obtained from the National Water Information System (NWIS) of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Suspended-sediment concentration (SSC), the parameter traditionally measured and reported by the USGS, was statistically compared to turbidity and total suspended solids (TSS), two parameters that are considered surrogate data. Coincident observations of SSC with either turbidity or TSS were available for 42 sites. In combination with instantaneous streamflow, turbidity and TSS both proved to be significant indicators of SSC when data from all sites were used. Because of the perceived link between sediment and nutrient abundance in streams, sediment-parameter data at these sites were correlated to total-nitrogen and total-phosphorus concentrations. A significant relation (p-value < 0.05) was found between monitored nutrient concentrations and coincident sediment abundance, although there were no clear linear relations.
This compilation of data showed that SSC was monitored at 118 sites in Kentucky at some time between 1950 and 2008. As of March 2008, 9 sites were monitored for SSC in Kentucky (8 of which are new) down from a high of more than 60 SSC sites during the 1980s. Of these 118 SSC sites, 21 sites were also monitored for TSS; there are coincident records for both SSC and TSS at 6 sites. Forty-seven of these long-term water-quality sites were also monitored for turbidity; there are coincident records for SSC and turbidity at 42 sites, including all of those at which there are coincident data for TSS. The number of sites at which SSC and at least one other sediment parameter (TSS or turbidity) were monitored decreased from a high of 27 in 1987 to zero during the period 2001-2005.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Inventory and Statistical Analysis of Sediment Data for Streams in Kentucky, 1950-2008