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Water-quality assessment of Lake Houston near Houston, Texas, 2000-2004

Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5241

Prepared in cooperation with the City of Houston
By:
, , , and

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Abstract

Lake Houston is a major source of public water supply and recreational resource for the Houston metropolitan area, Texas. Water-quality issues of potential concern for the lake have included nutrient enrichment (orthophosphorus, total phosphorus, nitrite plus nitrate) and aquatic life use (dissolved oxygen). The , in cooperation with the City of Houston, collected water samples from three sites in Lake Houston and from two streams that discharge to the lake during 2000–2004. Nitrogen compounds, phosphorus, suspended sediment, organic carbon, turbidity, chlorophyll-a, and selected pesticide compounds in water were assessed for all sites. Waterquality conditions of the lake and inflow streams were assessed, and loads and yields were computed for selected constituents in the streams. Selected constituents from samples collected in Lake Houston during 1990–2004 were tested for trends. The three sites sampled in Lake Houston characterized water available to the City of Houston pumping station (site AC), water entering the lake from the largely rural eastern subbasin (site EC), and water entering the lake from the more urbanized, western subbasin (site FC). Most constituent concentrations were largest at site FC, smallest at site EC, and intermediate at site AC. Organic nitrogen was the dominant form of nitrogen in samples collected at all sites. Nitrite plus nitrate concentrations were largest at site FC. Total phosphorus concentrations in all samples were larger than that recommended by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit aquatic growth in reservoirs. There was a wide range in suspended-sediment concentrations and turbidity in the lake. Twelve pesticides were detected. Atrazine and its breakdown product, 2-chloro-4-isopropylamino-6-amino-s-triazine (CIAT), were the most commonly detected pesticides; concentrations of atrazine were larger than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency maximum contaminant level of 3.0 micrograms per liter in two samples at site FC. The relative contributions to the water quality of Lake Houston from the eastern and western subbasins were examined by collecting water samples in Cypress Creek and East Fork San Jacinto River. Nitrate and pesticide concentrations were larger in Cypress Creek than in East Fork San Jacinto River. In Cypress Creek, nitrate was the primary form of nitrogen at low flows. Atrazine exceeded 3.0 micrograms per liter in three of 17 samples, with the maximum measured concentration of 21.3 micrograms per liter. In East Fork San Jacinto River, organic nitrogen was the primary form of nitrogen. Atrazine was detected in six of 15 samples. The maximum atrazine concentration was 0.233 microgram per liter. Constituent yields allowed direct comparison of loads from Cypress Creek and East Fork San Jacinto River. In Cypress Creek, storm yields of nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen for high flows ranged from 8 to 45 pounds per square mile per day; in East Fork San Jacinto River, the maximum storm yield for high flows was 1.47 pounds per square mile per day. At low flows, the median daily yield of dissolved phosphorus from Cypress Creek was 84 times larger than the median daily yield from East Fork San Jacinto River; at high flows, it was 16 times larger. At high flows, the maximum daily yield of atrazine from Cypress Creek was 460 times larger than the maximum daily yield at high flows from East Fork San Jacinto River. The concentrations of most constituents at Lake Houston sites showed no trend during 1990–2004; however, significant trends overall or for particular seasons, or both, were detected at some sites for nitrite plus nitrate, dissolved phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon, chlorophyll-a, and diazinon (2000–2004 data only for diazinon).

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Water-quality assessment of Lake Houston near Houston, Texas, 2000-2004
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2005-5241
Edition:
\
Year Published:
2005
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
Texas Water Science Center
Description:
64 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Texas
Other Geospatial:
Lake Houston