Knowledge of the daily, monthly, and yearly distribution of contaminant loadings and streamflow can be critical for the successful implementation and evaluation of water-quality management practices. Loading data for solids (suspended sediment and total suspended solids) and total phosphorus and streamflow data for 23 watersheds were summarized for four ecoregions of Wisconsin: the Driftless Area Ecoregion, the Northern Lakes and Forests Ecoregion, the North Central Hardwoods Ecoregion, and the Southeastern Wisconsin Till Plains Ecoregion. The Northern Lakes and Forests and the North Central Hardwoods Ecoregions were combined into one region for analysis due to a lack of sufficient data in each region. Urban watersheds, all located in the Southeastern Wisconsin Till Plains, were analyzed separately from rural watersheds as the Rural Southeastern Wisconsin Till Plains region and the Urban Southeastern Wisconsin Till Plains region. Results provide information on the distribution of loadings and streamflow between base flow and stormflow, the timing of loadings and streamflow throughout the year, and information regarding the number of days in which the majority of the annual loading is transported.
The average contribution to annual solids loading from stormflow periods for the Driftless Area Ecoregion was 84 percent, the Northern Lakes and Forests/North Central Hardwoods region was 71 percent, the Rural Southeastern Wisconsin Till Plains region was 70 percent, and the Urban Southeastern Wisconsin Till Plains region was 90 percent. The average contributions to annual total phosphorus loading from stormflow periods were 72, 49, 61, and 76 percent for each of the respective regions. The average contributions to annual streamflow from stormflow periods are 20, 23, 31, and 50 percent for each of the respective regions.
In all regions, the most substantial loading contributions for solids were in the late winter (February through March), spring (April through May), and early summer (June through July), with fall (October through November) and early winter (December through January) contributing the smallest loadings. The Northern Lakes and Forests/North Central Hardwoods region had some substantial loading in September. There was a similar pattern for total phosphorus loading in all regions, with the pattern somewhat less pronounced in urban watersheds. As with the loading results, average monthly streamflow values were greatest in late winter, spring, and early summer, with the lowest values typically in fall and early winter. Loading contributions were greater from stormflow than from base flow in all instances, except total phosphorus in the Northern Lakes and Forests/North Central Hardwoods region, which had equal or greater base-flow contribution for several months. Base flow constituted a greater percentage of the total streamflow than stormflow in all rural watersheds for all regions.
Only a few storms each year dominated the annual loading totals for solids and total phosphorus. When daily loading values were ranked for the year, all regions reached 50 percent of the annual solids loading in the 5 highest loading days and nearly 50 percent of the annual total phosphorus loading in the 14 highest loading days.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Characterization of suspended solids and total phosphorus loadings from small watersheds in Wisconsin