In Kansas and nationally, stream and lake sediment is a primary concern as related to several important issues including water quality and reservoir water-storage capacity. The ability to achieve meaningful decreases in sediment loads to reservoirs requires a determination of the relative importance of sediment sources within the contributing basins. To investigate sources of sediment within the Perry Lake and Lake Wabaunsee Basins of northeast Kansas, representative samples of channel-bank sources, surface-soil sources (cropland and grassland), and reservoir bottom sediment were collected, analyzed, and compared. Subbasins sampled within the Perry Lake Basin included Atchison County Lake, Banner Creek Reservoir, Gregg Creek, Mission Lake, and Walnut Creek. The samples were sieved to isolate the less than 63-micron fraction (that is, the silt and clay) and analyzed for selected nutrients (total nitrogen and total phosphorus), organic and total carbon, 25 trace elements, and the radionuclide cesium-137 (137Cs).
To determine which of the 30 constituents provided the best ability to discriminate between channel-bank and surface-soil sources in the two basins, four selection criteria were used. To be selected, it was required that the candidate constituent (1) was detectable, (2) had concentrations or activities that varied substantially and consistently between the sources, (3) had concentration or activity ranges that did not overlap between the sources, and (4) had concentration or activity differences between the sources that were statistically significant.
On the basis of the four selection criteria, total nitrogen (TN), total phosphorus (TP), total organic carbon (TOC), and 137Cs were selected. Of the four selected constituents, 137Cs likely is the most reliable indicator of sediment source because it is known to be conservative in the environment. Trace elements were not selected because concentrations in the channel-bank and surface-soil sources generally were similar or did not vary in a consistent manner. To further account for differences in particle-size composition between the sources and the reservoir bottom sediment prior to the sediment-source estimations, constituent ratio and clay-normalization techniques were used. Computed ratios included the ratio of TOC to TN, TOC to TP, and TN to TP. Constituent concentrations (TN, TP, TOC) and activities (137Cs) were normalized by dividing by the percentage of clay. Thus, the sediment-source estimations involved the use of seven sediment-source indicators (that is, three constituent ratios and the clay-normalized concentration or activity for four constituents).
Sediment-source estimation for each reservoir was based on a comparison between the reservoir bottom sediment and the end member channel-bank and surface-soil sources. Within the Perry Lake Basin, the seven-indicator consensus indicated that both channel-bank and surface-soil sources were important contributors of the sediment deposited in Atchison County Lake and Banner Creek Reservoir, whereas channel-bank sources were the dominant source of sediment for Mission Lake. On the sole basis of 137Cs activity, surface-soil sources contributed the most sediment to Atchison County Lake, and channel-bank sources contributed the most sediment to Banner Creek Reservoir and Mission Lake. For Perry Lake, both the seven-indicator consensus and 137Cs indicated that channel-bank sources were dominant and that channel-bank sources increased in importance with distance downstream in the Perry Lake Basin. For Lake Wabaunsee, the seven-indicator consensus and 137Cs indicated that both channel-bank and surface-soil sources were important. Given that the relative contribution of sediment from channel-bank and surface-soil sources can vary within and between basins and over time, basin-specific strategies for sediment management and monitoring are appropriate.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Estimation of Sediment Sources Using Selected Chemical Tracers in the Perry Lake and Lake Wabaunsee Basins, Northeast Kansas