A combination of available bathymetric-survey information and bottom-sediment coring was used to investigate sedimentation and the occurrence of selected nutrients (total nitrogen and total phosphorus), organic and total carbon, 25 trace elements, cyanobacterial akinetes, and the radionuclide cesium-137 in the bottom sediment of Clinton Lake, northeast Kansas. The total estimated volume and mass of bottom sediment deposited from 1977 through 2009 in the conservation (multi-purpose) pool of the reservoir was 438 million cubic feet and 18 billion pounds, respectively. The estimated sediment volume occupied about 8 percent of the conservation-pool, water-storage capacity of the reservoir. Sedimentation in the conservation pool has occurred about 70 percent faster than originally projected at the time the reservoir was completed. Water-storage capacity in the conservation pool has been lost to sedimentation at a rate of about 0.25 percent annually. Mean annual net sediment deposition since 1977 in the conservation pool of the reservoir was estimated to be 563 million pounds per year. Mean annual net sediment yield from the Clinton Lake Basin was estimated to be 1.5 million pounds per square mile per year. Typically, the bottom sediment sampled in Clinton Lake was at least 99 percent silt and clay.
The mean annual net loads of total nitrogen and total phosphorus deposited in the bottom sediment of Clinton Lake were estimated to be 1.29 million pounds per year and 556,000 pounds per year, respectively. The estimated mean annual net yields of total nitrogen and total phosphorus from the Clinton Lake Basin were 3,510 pounds per square mile per year and 1,510 pounds per square mile per year, respectively. Throughout the history of Clinton Lake, total nitrogen concentrations in the deposited sediment generally were uniform and indicated consistent inputs to the reservoir over time. Likewise, total phosphorus concentrations in the deposited sediment generally were uniform. Although, for two of three coring sites, a possible positive trend in phosphorus deposition was indicated. The Wakarusa River possibly was a larger contributor of nitrogen and phosphorus to Clinton Lake than was Rock Creek. As a principal limiting factor for primary production in most freshwater environments, phosphorus is of particular importance because increased inputs can contribute to accelerated reservoir eutrophication and the production of algal toxins and taste-and-odor compounds.
Trace-element concentrations in the bottom sediment of Clinton Lake generally were uniform over time. As is typical for eastern Kansas reservoirs, arsenic, chromium, and nickel concentrations typically exceeded the threshold-effects guidelines, which represent the concentrations above which toxic biological effects occasionally occur. Zinc concentrations frequently exceeded the threshold-effects guideline. Trace-element concentrations did not exceed the probable-effects guidelines (available for eight trace elements), which represent the concentrations above which toxic biological effects usually or frequently occur.
Cyanobacterial akinetes (cyanobacteria resting stage) in the bottom sediment of Clinton Lake, combined with historical water-quality data on chlorophyll-a and total phosphorus concentrations, indicated that the reservoir likely has been eutrophic throughout most of its history. A statistically significant increase in cyanobacterial akinetes in the bottom sediment indicated that Clinton Lake may have become more eutrophic over the life of the reservoir. The increase in cyanobacterial akinetes may, in part, be related to a possible increase in total phosphorus concentrations.