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Water quality of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Ocmulgee river basins related to flooding from Tropical Storm Alberto; pesticides in urban and agricultural watersheds, and nitrate and pesticides in ground water, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4183

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Abstract

This report presents preliminary water-quality information from three studies that are part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River basin and the adjacent Ocmulgee River basin. During the period July 3-7, 1994, heavy rainfall from tropical storm Alberto caused record flooding on the Ocmulgee and Flint Rivers and several of their tributaries. Much of the nitrogen load transported during the flooding was as organic nitrogen generally derived from organic detritus, rather than nitrate derived from other sources, such as fertilizer. More than half the mean annual loads of total phosphorus and organic nitrogen were trans- ported in the Flint and Ocmulgee Rivers during the flood. Fourteen herbicides, five insecticides, and one fungicide were detected in floodwaters of the Ocmulgee, Flint, and Apalachicola Rivers. In a second study, water samples were collected at nearly weekly intervals from March 1993 through April 1994 from one urban and two agricultural watersheds in the ACF River basin, and analyzed for 84 commonly used pesticides. More pesticides were detected and at generally higher concentrations in water from the urban watershed than the agricultural water- sheds, and a greater number of pesticides were persistent throughout much of the year in the urban watershed. Simazine exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking-water standards in one of 57 samples from the urban watershed. In a third study, 38 wells were installed in surficial aquifers adjacent to and downgradient of farm fields within agricultural areas in the southern ACF River basin. Even though regional aquifers are generally used for irrigation and domestic- and public-water supplies, degradation of water quality in the surficial aquifers serves as an early warning of potential contamination of regional aquifers. Nitrate concentrations were less than 3 mg/L as N (indicating minimal effect of human activities) in water from about two-thirds of the wells. Water from the remaining wells had elevated nitrate con- centrations, probably the result of human activity. Nitrate concentrations in two of these wells exceeded EPA drinking-water standards. Water samples from eight wells had pesticide concentrations above method detection limits. With the exception of two samples for shallow ground-water wells and one surface-water sample from the urban watershed, concentrations of nitrate nitrogen and detected pesticides were below EPA standards and guidelines for drinking water. However, concentrations of the insecticides chlorpyrifos, carbaryl, and diazinon in the surface-water samples approached or exceeded guidelines for protection of aquatic life.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Water quality of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Ocmulgee river basins related to flooding from Tropical Storm Alberto; pesticides in urban and agricultural watersheds, and nitrate and pesticides in ground water, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
94-4183
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1994
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section, [distributor],
Description:
vi, 36 p. :ill., maps (some col.) ;28 cm.