Generalized sediment budgets of the Lower Missouri River, 1968–2014

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5097
Prepared in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers



Sediment budgets of the Lower Missouri River were developed in a study led by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The scope of the study included the development of a long-term (post-impoundment, 1968–2014) average annual sediment budget and selected annual, monthly, and daily sediment budgets for a reach and period that adequate data were available. Included in the analyses were 31 main-stem and tributary stations of the Lower Missouri River and two Mississippi River stations—the Mississippi River below Grafton, Illinois, and the Mississippi River at St. Louis, Missouri.

Long-term average annual suspended-sediment loads of Missouri River main-stem stations ranged from 0.33 million tons at the Missouri River at Yankton, South Dakota, station to 71.2 million tons at Missouri River at Hermann, Mo., station. Gaged tributary gains accounted for 9–36 percent of the local reach budgets and cumulative gaged tributary contributions accounted for 84 percent of the long-term average suspended-sediment load of the Missouri River at Hermann, Mo., station. Although the sediment budgets for seven defined main-stem reaches generally were incomplete—missing bedload, reach storage, and ungaged tributary contributions—the budget residuals (net result of sediment inputs and outputs) for six of the seven reaches ranged from -7.0 to 1.7 million tons, or from -9.2 to 4.0 percent of the reach output suspended-sediment load, and were within the 10 percent reported measurement error of annual suspended-sediment loads for large rivers. The remaining reach, downstream from Gavin’s Point Dam, extended from Yankton, S. Dak., to Sioux City, Iowa, and had a budget residual of -9.8 million tons, which was -88 percent of the suspended-sediment load at Sioux City.

The Lower Missouri River reach from Omaha, Nebraska, to Nebraska City, Nebr., had periods of concurrent sediment data for each primary budget component with which to analyze and determine a suspended-sediment budget for selected annual, monthly, and daily time increments. The temporal changes in the cumulative annual budget residuals were poorly correlated with the comparatively steady 1968–2011 annual stage trends at the Missouri River at Nebraska City, Nebr., station. An accurate total sediment budget is developed by having concurrent data available for all primary suspended and bedload components for a reach of interest throughout a period. Such a complete budget, with concurrent record for suspended-sediment load and bedload components, is unavailable for any reach and period in the Lower Missouri River. The primary data gaps are in bedload data, and also in suspended-sediment gains and losses including ungaged tributary inputs and sediment storage. Bedload data gaps in the Missouri River Basin are much more prevalent than suspended-sediment data gaps, and the first step in the development of reach bedload budgets is the establishment of a standardized bedload monitoring program at main-stem stations.

The temporal changes in flow-adjusted suspended-sediment concentrations analyzed at main-stem Missouri River stations indicated an overall downward change in concentrations between 1968 and 2014. Temporary declines in flow-adjusted suspended-sediment concentrations during and following large floods were evident but generally returned to near pre-flood values within about 6 months.

Data uncertainties associated with the development of a sediment budget include uncertainties associated with the collection of suspended-sediment and bedload data and the computation of suspended-sediment loads. These uncertainties vary depending on the frequency of data collection, the variability of conditions being represented by the discrete samples, and the statistical approach to suspended-sediment load computations. The coefficients of variation of suspended-sediment loads of Missouri River tributary stations for 1968–2014 were greater, 75.0 percent, than the main-stem stations, 47.1 percent. The lower coefficient of variation at main-stem stations compared to tributaries, primarily is the result of the lower variability in streamflow and sediment discharge identified at main-stem stations. To obtain similar accuracy between suspended-sediment loads at main-stem and tributary stations, a longer period of record is required of the tributary stations. During 1968–2014, however, the Missouri River main-stem station record was much more complete (87 percent) than the tributary station record (28 percent).

Suggested Citation

Heimann, D.C., 2016, Generalized sediment budgets of the Lower Missouri River, 1968–2014: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5097, 51 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Methods
  • Sediment Budgets of the Lower Missouri River
  • Summary
  • References Cited

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Generalized sediment budgets of the Lower Missouri River, 1968–2014
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2016-5097
DOI 10.3133/sir20165097
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Missouri Water Science Center
Description Report: vii, 51 p.; Tables 1-9
Country United States
Other Geospatial Missouri River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details