The Middle Fork of the Saline River has many qualities that have been recognized by State and Federal agencies. The Middle Fork provides habitat for several rare aquatic species and is part of a larger stream system (the Upper Saline River) that is known for relatively high levels of species richness and relatively high numbers of species of concern.
Water-quality samples were collected and streamflow was measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at three sites in the Middle Fork Basin between October 2003 and October 2006. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality collected discrete synoptic water-quality samples from eight sites between January 2004 and October 2006. The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality also sampled fish (September-October 2003) and benthic macroinvertebrate communities (September 2003-December 2005) at five sites.
Streamflow varied annually among the three streamflow sites from October 2003 to October 2006. The mean annual streamflow for Brushy Creek near Jessieville (MFS06) was 0.72 cubic meters per second for water years 2004-2006. The Middle Fork below Jessieville (MFS05) had a mean annual streamflow of 1.11 cubic meters per second for water years 2004-2006. The Middle Fork near Owensville (MFS02), the most downstream site, had a mean annual streamflow of 3.01 cubic meters per second. The greatest streamflows at the three sites generally occurred in the winter and spring and the least in the summer.
Nutrient dynamics in the Middle Fork are controlled by activities in the basin and processes that occur in the stream. Point sources and nonpoint sources of nutrients occur in the Middle Fork Basin that could affect the water-quality. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations generally were greatest in Mill Creek (MFS04E) and in the Middle Fork immediately downstream from the confluence with Mill Creek (MFS04) with decreasing concentrations at sites farther downstream in Middle Fork. The site in Mill Creek is located downstream from a wastewater-treatment plant discharge and concentrations at sites farther downstream probably had lesser concentrations because of dilution effects and from algal uptake. Nutrient concentrations generally were significantly greater during high-flow conditions compared to base-flow conditions.
Flow-weighted nutrient concentrations were computed for the three streamflow sites and were compared to 82 relatively undeveloped sites identified across the Nation, to the Alum Fork of the Saline River near Reform, Arkansas, and to the Illinois River south of Siloam Springs, Arkansas, a site influenced by numerous point and nonpoint sources of nutrients. Annual flow-weighted nutrient concentrations for MFS06, MFS05, and MFS02 were greater than relatively undeveloped sites, but were substantially less than the Illinois River south of Siloam Springs.
Fecal indicator bacteria concentrations were slightly greater at MFS06 and MFS05 compared to concentrations at MFS02 for October 2003 to October 2006. MFS05 had the greatest E.coli concentrations and MFS06 had the greatest fecal coliform concentrations. Overall, fecal indicator bacteria concentrations were significantly greater for samples collected during high-flow conditions compared to samples collected during low-flow conditions at all three sites.
Suspended-sediment concentrations did not vary significantly among MFS06, MFS05, and MFS02 for all the samples collected from October 2003 to October 2006. Suspended-sediment concentrations were significantly greater in samples collected during high-flow conditions compared to samples collected during base-flow conditions. Synoptic samples indicated varied total suspended-solids distributions from upstream to downstream in the Middle Fork between January 2004 and October 2006. Overall, total suspended-solids values were the greatest at site MFS02 and decreased at sites upstream and downstream.
Turbidity measured when water-quality samples were