Data for the Red River of the North (Red River) Basin in Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota were analyzed to determine whether the water quality of streams in the basin is adequate to meet future needs. For the Red River at Emerson, Manitoba, site, pH values, water temperatures, and dissolved-oxygen concentrations generally were within the criteria established for the protection of aquatic life. Dissolved-solids concentrations ranged from 245 to 1,100 milligrams per liter. Maximum sulfate and chloride concentrations were near, but did not exceed, the established secondary maximum contaminant level. The trace elements considered potentially harmful generally were at concentrations that were less than the established guidelines, standards, and criteria. The concentrations of lead that were detected may have occurred as a result of sample contamination.
For the Red River upstream from Emerson, Manitoba, sites, pH and other field values rarely exceeded the criteria established for the protection of aquatic life. Many constituent concentrations for the Red River below Fargo, N. site exceeded water-quality guidelines, standards, and criteria. However, the trace-element exceedances could be natural or could be related to pollution or sample contamination.
Many of the tributaries in the western part of the Red River Basin had median specific-conductance values that were greater than 1,000 microsiemens per centimeter. Sulfate concentrations occasionally exceeded the established drinking-water standard. Median arsenic concentrations were 6 micrograms per liter or less, and maximum concentrations rarely exceeded the 10-microgram-per-liter drinking-water standard that is scheduled to take effect in 2006. The small concentrations of lead, mercury, and selenium that occasionally were detected may have been a result of sample contamination or other factors. The tributaries in the eastern part of the Red River Basin had median specific-conductance values that were less than 1,000 microsiemens per centimeter.
Concentrations of pesticides that were detected and that had regulatory limits were less than the cited water-quality guidelines, standards, and criteria. Concentrations of compounds that were detected generally were less than the sediment- quality standards and criteria.
The data considered in this report generally provide a good baseline from which to evaluate changes in water-quality conditions. However, because many of the trace elements detected, including lead and mercury, may have been the result of sample contamination, additional data are needed to confirm that trace-element concentrations generally are low. Concentrations of major ions, including sulfate, and specific conductance may continue to approach drinking-water standards during periods of low flow because the streams, particularly those in the western part of the basin, are sustained mostly by ground-water discharge that generally has large dissolved-solids concentrations.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water quality of streams in the Red River of the North Basin, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, 1970-2001