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Trends in nutrient concentrations, loads, and yields in streams in the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Santa Ana Basins, California, 1975-2004

Scientific Investigations Report 2010-5228

National Water-Quality Assessment Program
By:
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Abstract

A comprehensive database was assembled for the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Santa Ana Basins in California on nutrient concentrations, flows, and point and nonpoint sources of nutrients for 1975-2004. Most of the data on nutrient concentrations (nitrate, ammonia, total nitrogen, orthophosphate, and total phosphorus) were from the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Information System database (35.2 percent), the California Department of Water Resources (21.9 percent), the University of California at Davis (21.6 percent), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's STOrage and RETrieval database (20.0 percent). Point-source discharges accounted for less than 1 percent of river flows in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, but accounted for close to 80 percent of the nonstorm flow in the Santa Ana River. Point sources accounted for 4 and 7 percent of the total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads, respectively, in the Sacramento River at Freeport for 1985-2004. Point sources accounted for 8 and 17 percent of the total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads, respectively, in the San Joaquin River near Vernalis for 1985-2004. The volume of wastewater discharged into the Santa Ana River increased almost three-fold over the study period. However, due to improvements in wastewater treatment, the total nitrogen load to the Santa Ana River from point sources in 2004 was approximately the same as in 1975 and the total phosphorus load in 2004 was less than in 1975. Nonpoint sources of nutrients estimated in this study included atmospheric deposition, fertilizer application, manure production, and tile drainage. The estimated dry deposition of nitrogen exceeded wet deposition in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys and in the basin area of the Santa Ana Basin, with ratios of dry to wet deposition of 1.7, 2.8, and 9.8, respectively. Fertilizer application increased appreciably from 1987 to 2004 in all three California basins, although manure production increased in the San Joaquin Basin but decreased in the Sacramento and Santa Ana Basins from 1982 to 2002. Tile drainage accounted for 22 percent of the total nitrogen load in the San Joaquin River near Vernalis for 1985-2004. Nutrient loads and trends were calculated by using the log-linear multiple-regression model, LOADEST. Loads were calculated for water years 1975-2004 for 22 sites in the Sacramento Basin, 15 sites in the San Joaquin Basin, and 6 sites in the Santa Ana Basin. The average annual load of total nitrogen and total phosphorus for 1985-2004 in subbasins in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Basins were divided by their drainage areas to calculate average annual yield. Total nitrogen yields were greater than 2.45 tons per square mile per year [(tons/mi2)/yr] in about 61 percent of the valley floor in the San Joaquin Basin compared with only about 12 percent of the valley floor in the Sacramento Basin. Total phosphorus yields were greater than 0.34 (tons/mi2)/yr in about 43 percent of the valley floor in the San Joaquin Basin compared with only about 5 percent in the valley floor of the Sacramento Basin. In a stepwise multiple linear-regression analysis of 30 subbasins in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Basins, the most important explanatory variables (out of 11 variables) for the response variable (total nitrogen yield) were the percentage of land use in (1) orchards and vineyards, (2) row crops, and (3) urban categories. For total phosphorus yield, the most important explanatory variable was the amount of fertilizer application plus manure production. Trends were evaluated for three time periods: 1975-2004, 1985-2004, and 1993-2004. Most trends in flow-adjusted concentrations of nutrients in the Sacramento Basin were downward for all three time periods. The decreasing nutrient trends in the American River at Sacramento and the Sacramento River at Freeport for 1975-2004 were attributed to the consolidation of wastewater in the Sacramento metropolitan area in December 1982 to

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Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Trends in nutrient concentrations, loads, and yields in streams in the Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Santa Ana Basins, California, 1975-2004
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2010-5228
Year Published:
2011
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
California Water Science Center
Description:
xii, 112p.; Data ZIP
State:
California
Additional Online Files(Y/N):
Y