Suspended sediment, sediment-associated, total trace element, phosphorus (P), and total organic carbon (TOC) fluxes were determined for the Mississippi, Columbia, Rio Grande, and Colorado Basins for the study period (the 1996, 1997, and 1998 water years) as part of the US Geological Survey's redesigned National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) programme. The majority (??? 70%) of Cu, Zn, Cr, Ni, Ba, P, As, Fe, Mn, and Al are transported in association with suspended sediment; Sr transport seems dominated by the dissolved phase, whereas the transport of Li and TOC seems to be divided equally between both phases. Average dissolved trace element levels are markedly lower than reported during the original NASQAN programme; this seems due to the use of 'clean' sampling, processing, and analytical techniques rather than to improvements in water quality. Partitioning between sediment and water for Ag, Pb, Cd, Cr, Co, V, Be, As, Sb, Hg, and Ti could not be estimated due to a lack of detectable dissolved concentrations in most samples. Elevated suspended sediment-associated Zn levels were detected in the Ohio River Basin and elevated Hg levels were detected in the Tennessee River, the former may affect the mainstem Mississippi River, whereas the latter probably do not. Sediment-associated concentrations of Ag, Cu, Pb, Zn, Cd, Cr, Co, Ba, Mo, Sb, Hg, and Fe are markedly elevated in the upper Columbia Basin, and appear to be detectable (Zn, Cd) as far downstream as the middle of the basin. These elevated concentrations seem to result from mining and/or mining-related activities. Consistently detectable concentrations of dissolved Se were found only in the Colorado River Basin. Calculated average annual suspended sediment fluxes at the mouths of the Mississippi and Rio Grande Basins were below, whereas those for the Columbia and Colorado Basins were above previously published annual values. Downstream suspended sediment-associated and total trace element fluxes increase in the Mississippi and Columbia Basins, whereas fluxes markedly decrease in the Colorado Basin. No consistent pattern in trace element fluxes was detected in the Rio Grande Basin.
Additional publication details
Annual suspended sediment and trace element fluxes in the Mississippi, Columbia, Colorado, and Rio Grande drainage basins