Spatial and temporal variability of dissolved sulfate in Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1998

Fact Sheet 096-99
By: , and 



The Devils Lake Basin is a 3,810-squaremile closed subbasin of the Red River of the North Basin (fig. 1). About 3,320 square miles of the total 3,810 square miles is tributary to Devils Lake. The Devils Lake Basin contributes to the Red River of the North Basin when the level of Devils Lake is greater than 1,459 feet above sea level.

Lake levels of Devils Lake were recorded sporadically from 1867 to 1890. In 1901, the U.S. Geological Survey established a gaging station on Devils Lake. From 1867 through 1998, the lake level has fluctuated between a minimum of 1,400.9 feet above sea level in 1940 and a maximum of 1,444.7 feet above sea level in 1998 (fig. 2). The maximum, which occurred on July 7, 1998, was 22.1 feet higher than the level recorded in February 1993.

The rapid rise in the lake level of Devils Lake since 1993 is in response to abovenormal precipitation and below-normal evaporation from the summer of 1993 through 1998. Because of the rising lake level, more than 50,000 acres of land and many roads around the lake have been flooded. In addition, the water quality of Devils Lake changed substantially in 1993 because of the summer flooding (Williams-Sether and others, 1996). In response to the flooding, the Devils Lake Basin Interagency Task Force, comprised of many State and Federal agencies, was formed in 1995 to find and propose intermediate (5 years or less) flood mitigation options. Current and accurate hydrologic and water-quality information is needed to assess the effectiveness of the flood mitigation options, which include managing and storing water in the Devils Lake Basin, continuing infrastructure protection, and providing an outlet to the Sheyenne River (Wiche, 1998).

As part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Devils Lake emergency outlet feasibility study, the U.S. Geological Survey is modeling lake levels and sulfate concentrations in Devils Lake to simulate operation of an emergency outlet. Accurate simulation of sulfate concentrations in Devils Lake is required to determine potential effects of the outlet on downstream water quality. Historical sulfate concentrations are used to calibrate and verify the model. Most of the Devils Lake water-quality data available before 1998 were obtained from samples collected from the water column about three to four times a year. The samples were collected at one location in each of the Devils Lake major bays (West Bay, Main Bay, East Bay, and East Devils Lake). However, sample collection from only one location in a bay may not give an adequate representation of the water quality of the bay because of factors such as wind, precipitation, temperature, surface- and ground-water inflow, and possible bed-sediment interactions. Thus, spatial variability (the variability within each bay) and temporal variability (the variability with time) of dissolved sulfate need to be determined to evaluate the accuracy of the estimates obtained from the model.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Spatial and temporal variability of dissolved sulfate in Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1998
Series title Fact Sheet
Series number 096-99
DOI 10.3133/fs09699
Year Published 1998
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) North Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
Description 4 p.
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