A statewide monitoring network of 38 sites was operated during 1999-2003 in cooperation with the Montana Department of Environmental Quality to provide a broad geographic base of water-quality information on Montana streams. The purpose of this report is to summarize and describe the water-quality characteristics for those sites. Samples were collected at U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations in the Missouri, Yellowstone, and Columbia River basins for stream properties, nutrients, suspended sediment, major ions, and selected trace elements. Mean annual streamflows were below normal during the period, which likely influenced water quality. Continuous water-temperature monitors were operated at 26 sites. The median of daily mean water temperatures for the June-August summer period ranged from 12.5 degC at Kootenai River below Libby Dam to 23.0 degC at Poplar River near Poplar and Tongue River at Miles City. In general, sites in the Missouri River basin commonly had the highest water temperatures. Median daily mean summer water temperatures at four sites (Jefferson River near Three Forks, Missouri River at Toston, Judith River near Winifred, and Poplar River near Poplar) classified as supporting or marginally supporting cold-water biota exceeded the general guideline of 19.4 degC for cold-water biota. Median daily mean temperatures at sites in the network classified as supporting warm-water biota did not exceed the guideline of 26.7 degC for warm-water biota, although several sites exceeded the warm-water guideline on several days during the summer.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality characteristics of Montana streams in a statewide monitoring network, 1999-2003