Summary and analysis of water-quality data for the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, east-central North Dakota, 1987-2004

Scientific Investigations Report 2009-5017

Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Department of the Interior
ORCID iD and



The Bureau of Reclamation collected water-quality samples at 16 sites on the James River and the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, N. Dak., as part of its refuge-monitoring program from 1987-93 and as part of an environmental impact statement commitment from 1999-2004. Climatic and hydrologic conditions varied greatly during both sampling periods. The first period was dominated by drought conditions, which abruptly changed to cooler and wetter conditions in 1992-93. During the second period, conditions were near normal to very wet and included higher inflow from the James River into the refuge. The two periods also differed in the sites sampled, seasons sampled, and properties and constituent concentrations measured. Summary statistics were reported separately for the two sampling periods for all physical properties and constituents. Nonparametric statistical tests were used to further analyze some of the water-quality data. During the first sampling period, 1987-93, specific conductance, turbidity, hardness, alkalinity, total dissolved solids, total suspended solids, nonvolatile suspended solids, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium, sulfate, chloride, phosphate, total phosphorus, total organic carbon, chlorophyll a, and arsenic were determined to have significantly different medians among the sites tested. During the second sampling period, 1999-2004, the medians of pH, sodium, chloride, barium, and boron varied significantly among sites. Sites sampled and period of record varied between the two sampling periods and the period of record varied among the sites. Also, some constituents analyzed during the first period (1987-93) were not analyzed during the second period (1999-2004), and winter sampling was done during the second sampling period only. This variability reduces the number of direct comparisons that can be made between the two periods. Three sites had complete periods of record for both sampling periods and were compared. Differences in variability and median concentration were identified between the two time periods. Sites representing inflow to the refuge and outflow were compared statistically for the period when data were available for both sites, 1999-2004. Of the nutrients tested - ammonia plus organic nitrogen, phosphate, and total phosphorus - no significant statistical differences were found between the inflow samples and the outflow samples. Statistically significant differences were found for pH, sulfate, chloride, barium, and manganese. Nutrients are of particular interest in the refuge because of the aquatic plant and animal life and the use of the wetland resources by waterfowl. However, the nutrient data were highly censored and there were differences in the seasonal timing of sample collection between the two sampling periods. Therefore, the nutrient data were examined graphically with stripplots that highlighted differences in the seasonal timing of sample collection and concentration differences likely related to the differences in climatic and hydrologic conditions between the two periods.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Summary and analysis of water-quality data for the Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge, east-central North Dakota, 1987-2004
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s):
North Dakota Water Science Center, Dakota Water Science Center
vi, 92 p.
Time Range Start:
Time Range End:
United States
North Dakota
Other Geospatial:
Arrowwood National Wildlife Refuge
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