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Flux of nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediment from the Susquehanna River Basin to the Chesapeake Bay during Tropical Storm Lee, September 2011, as an indicator of the effects of reservoir sedimentation on water quality

Scientific Investigations Report 2012-5185

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Abstract

Concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediment are measured at the U.S. Geological Survey streamgage at Conowingo Dam at the downstream end of the Susquehanna River Basin in Maryland, where the river flows into the Chesapeake Bay. During the period September 7-15, 2011, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Lee, concentrations of these three constituents were among the highest ever measured at this site. These measurements indicate that sediment-storage processes behind the three dams on the lower Susquehanna River are evolving. In particular, they indicate that scouring of sediment (and the nitrogen and phosphorus attached to that sediment) may be increasing with time. Trends in flow-normalized fluxes at the Susquehanna River at Conowingo, Maryland, streamgage during 1996-2011 indicate a 3.2-percent decrease in total nitrogen, but a 55-percent increase in total phosphorus and a 97-percent increase in suspended sediment. These large increases in the flux of phosphorus and sediment from the Susquehanna River to the Chesapeake Bay have occurred despite reductions in the fluxes of these constituents from the Susquehanna River watershed upstream from the reservoirs. Although the Tropical Storm Lee flood event contributed about 1.8 percent of the total streamflow from the Susquehanna River to the Chesapeake Bay over the past decade (water years 2002-11), it contributed about 5 percent of the nitrogen, 22 percent of the phosphorus, and 39 percent of the suspended sediment during the same period. These results highlight the importance of brief high-flow events in releasing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment derived from the Susquehanna River watershed and stored in the Conowingo Reservoir to the Chesapeake Bay.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Flux of nitrogen, phosphorus, and suspended sediment from the Susquehanna River Basin to the Chesapeake Bay during Tropical Storm Lee, September 2011, as an indicator of the effects of reservoir sedimentation on water quality
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2012-5185
Year Published:
2012
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
National Research Program
Description:
v, 17 p.
Number of Pages:
28
Country:
United States
State:
Delaware;Maryl;New York;Pennsylvania;Virginia;West Virginia
Other Geospatial:
Chesapeake Bay Basin;Conowingo Dam;Holtwood Dam;Safe Harbor Dam;Susquehanna River Basin
Datum:
North American Datum of 1983
Projection:
Albers Equal-Area Conic Projection