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Water-quality characteristics of five tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay at the Fall Line, Virginia, July 1988 through June 1993

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4258

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Abstract

Development in the Chesapeake Bay region has adversely affected the water quality of the Bay. The general degradation in the Bay has resulted in the decline of commercial fishing industries and has reduced the area of aquatic vegetation that provides food and habitat for fish and shellfish. In order to assess the effectiveness of programs aimed at reducing the effects of excess nutrients and suspended solids on Chesapeake Bay, it is necessary to quantify the loads of these constituents into the Bay, and to evaluate the trends in water quality. This report presents the results of a study funded by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality-Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Programs and the U.S. Geological Survey, to monitor and estimate loads of selected nutrients and suspended solids discharged to Chesapeake Bay from five major tributaries in Virginia. The water-quality data and load estimates provided in this report also will be used to calibrate computer models of Chesapeake Bay. Water-quality constituents were monitored in the James and Rappahannock Rivers over a 5-year period, and in the Pamunkey, Appomattox, and Mattaponi Rivers over a 4-year period. Water-quality samples were collected from July 1, 1988 through June 30, 1993, for the James and Rappahannock Rivers; from July 1, 1989 through June 30, 1993, for the Pamunkey and Appomattox Rivers; and from September 1, 1989 through June 30, 1993, for the Mattaponi River. Water-quality samples were collected on a scheduled basis and during stormflow to cover a range in discharge conditions. Monitored water-quality constituents, for which loads were estimated include total suspended solids (residue, total at 105 Celsius), dissolved nitrite-plus-nitrate nitrogen, dissolved ammonia nitrogen, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, dissolved orthophosphorus, total organic carbon, and dissolved silica. Organic nitrogen concentrations were calculated from measurements of ammonia and total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and organic nitrogen loads were estimated using these calculations. Other selected water-quality constituents were monitored for which loads were not calculated. Daily mean load estimates of each constituent were computed by use of a seven-parameter log-linear-regression model that uses variables of time, discharge, and seasonality. Concentration of total nitrogen ranged from less than 0.14 to 3.41 mg/L (milligrams per liter), with both extreme values occurring at the Rappahannock River. Concentration of total Kjeldahl nitrogen ranged from less than 0.1 mg/L in the James, Rappahannock, and Appomattox Rivers to 3.0 mg/L in the James River. Organic nitrogen was the predominant form of nitrogen at all stations except the Rappahannock River, where nitrite-plus-nitrate nitrogen was predominant, and organic nitrogen comprised the majority of the measured total Kjeldahl nitrogen at all stations, ranging from 0.01 mg/L in the Appomattox River to 2.86 mg/L in the James River. Concentration of dissolved ammonia nitrogen ranged from 0.01 mg/L in the Pamunkey River to 0.54 mg/L at the James River. Concentration of nitrite-plus-nitrate nitrogen ranged from 0.02 to 1.05 mg/L in the James River. Concentrations of total phosphorus ranged from less than 0.01 mg/L in the Rappahannock and the Mattaponi Rivers to 1.4 mg/L in the James River. Dissolved orthophosphorus ranged from less than 0.01 mg/L in all five rivers to 0.51 mg/L in the James River. Total suspended solids ranged from a concentration of less than 1 mg/L in all five rivers to 844 mg/L in the Rappahannock River. Total organic carbon ranged from 1.1 mg/L in the Appomattox River to 110 mg/L in the Rappahannock River. Dissolved silica ranged from 2.4 mg/L in the James River to 18 mg/L in the Appomattox River. The James and Rappahannock Rivers had high median concentrations and large ranges in concentrations for most constituents, probably because of a greater number of point and nonpoint sources of nutrients and suspend

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Water-quality characteristics of five tributaries to the Chesapeake Bay at the Fall Line, Virginia, July 1988 through June 1993
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
95-4258
Edition:
-
Year Published:
1995
Language:
ENGLISH
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey ; Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
Description:
vi, 71 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm. +1 diskette (3 1/2 in.)