The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Kansas Water Office, investigated sediment transport to and from three small impoundments (average surface area of 0.1 to 0.8 square miles) in northeast Kansas during March 2009 through September 2011. Streamgages and continuous turbidity sensors were operated upstream and downstream from Atchison County, Banner Creek, and Centralia Lakes to study the effect of varied watershed characteristics and agricultural practices on sediment transport in small watersheds in northeast Kansas. Atchison County Lake is located in a predominantly agricultural basin of row crops, with wide riparian buffers along streams, a substantial amount of tile drainage, and numerous small impoundments (less than 0.05 square miles; hereafter referred to as “ponds”). Banner Creek Lake is a predominantly grassland basin with numerous small ponds located in the watershed, and wide riparian buffers along streams. Centralia Lake is a predominantly agricultural basin of row crops with few ponds, few riparian buffers along streams, and minimal tile drainage. Upstream from Atchison County, Banner Creek, and Centralia Lakes 24, 38, and 32 percent, respectively, of the total load was transported during less than 0.1 percent (approximately 0.9 days) of the time. Despite less streamflow in 2011, larger sediment loads during that year indicate that not all storm events transport the same amount of sediment; larger, extreme storms during the spring may transport much larger sediment loads in small Kansas watersheds. Annual sediment yields were 360, 400, and 970 tons per square mile per year at Atchison County, Banner, and Centralia Lake watersheds, respectively, which were less than estimated yields for this area of Kansas (between 2,000 and 5,000 tons per square mile per year). Although Centralia and Atchison County Lakes had similar percentages of agricultural land use, mean annual sediment yields upstream from Centralia Lake were about 2.7 times those at Atchison County or Banner Creek Lakes. These data indicate larger yields of sediment from watersheds with row crops and those with fewer small ponds, and smaller yields in watersheds which are primarily grassland, or agricultural with substantial tile drainage and riparian buffers along streams. These results also indicated that a cultivated watershed can produce yields similar to those observed under the assumed reference (or natural) condition. Selected small ponds were studied in the Atchison County Lake watershed to characterize the role of small ponds in sediment trapping. Studied ponds trapped about 8 percent of the sediment upstream from the sediment-sampling site. When these results were extrapolated to the other ponds in the watershed, differences in the extent of these ponds was not the primary factor affecting differences in yields among the three watersheds. However, the selected small ponds were both 45 years old at the time of this study, and have reduced capacity because of being filled in with sediments. Additionally, trapping efficiency of these small ponds decreased over five observed storms, indicating that processes that suspended or resuspended sediments in these shallow ponds, such as wind and waves, affected their trapping efficiencies. While small ponds trapped sediments in small storms, they could be a source of sediment in larger or more closely spaced storm events. Channel slope was similar at all three watersheds, 0.40, 0.46, and 0.31 percent at Atchison County, Banner Creek, and Centralia Lake watersheds, respectively. Other factors, such as increased bank and stream erosion, differences in tile drainage, extent of grassland, or riparian buffers, could be the predominant factors affecting sediment yields from these basins. These results show that reference-like sediment yields may be observed in heavily agricultural watersheds through a combination of field-scale management activities and stream channel protection. When computing loads using published erosion rates obtained by single-point survey methodology, streambank contributions from the main stem of Banner Creek are three times more than the sediment load observed by this study at the sediment sampling site at Banner Creek, 2.6 times more than the sediment load observed by this study at the sediment sampling site at Clear Creek (upstream from Atchison County Lake), and are 22 percent of the load observed by this study at the sediment sampling site at Black Vermillion River above Centralia Lake. Comparisons of study sites to similarly sized urban and urbanizing watersheds in Johnson County, Kansas indicated that sediment yields from the Centralia Lake watershed were similar to those in construction-affected watersheds, while much smaller sediment yields in the Atchison County and Banner Creek watersheds were comparable to stable, heavily urbanized watersheds. Comparisons of study sites to larger watersheds upstream from Tuttle Creek Lake indicate the Black Vermillion River watershed continues to have high sediment yields despite 98 percent of sediment from the Centralia watershed (a headwater of the Black Vermillion River) being trapped in Centralia Lake. Estimated trapping efficiencies for the larger watershed lakes indicated that Banner Creek and Centralia Lakes trapped 98 percent of incoming sediment, whereas Atchison County Lake trapped 72 percent of incoming sediment during the 3-year study period.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Sediment transport to and from small impoundments in northeast Kansas, March 2009 through September 2011