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Evaluation of long-term trends in hydrologic and water-quality conditions, and estimation of water budgets through 2013, Chester County, Pennsylvania

Scientific Investigations Report 2017-5025

Prepared in cooperation with the Chester County Water Resources Authority
By:
and ORCID iD
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175025

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Abstract

An evaluation of trends in hydrologic and water quality conditions and estimation of water budgets through 2013 was done by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the Chester County Water Resources Authority. Long-term hydrologic, meteorologic, and biologic data collected in Chester County, Pennsylvania, which included streamflow, groundwater levels, surface-water quality, biotic integrity, precipitation, and air temperature were analyzed to determine possible trends or changes in hydrologic conditions. Statistically significant trends were determined by applying the Kendall rank correlation test; the magnitudes of the trends were determined using the Sen slope estimator. Water budgets for eight selected watersheds were updated and a new water budget was developed for the Marsh Creek watershed. An average water budget for Chester County was developed using the eight selected watersheds and the new Marsh Creek water budget.

Annual and monthly mean streamflow, base flow, and runoff were analyzed for trends at 10 streamgages. The periods of record at the 10 streamgages ranged from 1961‒2013 to 1988‒2013. The only statistically significant trend for annual mean streamflow was for West Branch Brandywine Creek near Honey Brook, Pa. (01480300) where annual mean streamflow increased 1.6 cubic feet per second (ft3/s) per decade. The greatest increase in monthly mean streamflow was for Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pa. (01481000) for December; the increase was 47 ft3/s per decade. No statistically significant trends in annual mean base flow or runoff were determined for the 10 streamgages. The greatest increase in monthly mean base flow was for Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pa. (01481000) for December; the increase was 26 ft3/s per decade.

The magnitude of peaks greater than a base streamflow was analyzed for trends for 12 streamgages. The period of record at the 12 stream gages ranged from 1912‒2012 to 2004–11. Fifty percent of the streamgages showed a small statistically significant increase in peaks greater than the base streamflow. The greatest increase was for Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pa. (01481000) during 1962‒2012; the increase was 1.8 ft3/s per decade. There were no statistically significant trends in the number of floods equal to or greater than the 2-year recurrence interval flood flow.

Twenty‒one monitoring wells were evaluated for statistically significant trends in annual mean water level, minimum annual water level, maximum annual water level, and annual range in water-level fluctuations. For four wells, a small statistically significant increase in annual mean water level was determined that ranged from 0.16 to 0.7 feet per decade. There was poor or no correlation between annual mean groundwater levels and annual mean streamflow and base flow. No correlation was determined between annual mean groundwater level and annual precipitation. Despite rapid population growth and land-use change since 1950, there appears to have been little or no detrimental effects on groundwater levels in 21 monitoring wells.

Long-term precipitation and temperature data were available from the West Chester (1893‒2013) and Phoenixville, Pa. (1915‒2013) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather stations. No statistically significant trends in annual mean precipitation or annual mean temperature were determined for either station. Both weather stations had a significant decrease in the number of days per year with precipitation greater than or equal to 0.1 inch. Annual mean minimum and maximum temperatures from the NOAA Southeastern Piedmont Climate Division increased 0.2 degrees Fahrenheit (F) per decade between 1896 and 2014. The number of days with a maximum temperature equal to or greater than 90 degrees F increased at West Chester and decreased at Phoenixville. No statistically significant trend was determined for annual snowfall amounts.

Data from 1974 to 2013 for three stream water-quality monitors in the Brandywine Creek watershed were evaluated. The monitors are on the West Branch Brandywine Creek at Modena, Pa. (01480617), East Branch Brandywine Creek below Downingtown, Pa. (01480870), and Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pa. (01481000). Statistically significant upward trends were determined for annual mean specific conductance at all three stations, indicating the total dissolved solids load has been increasing. If the current trend continues, the annual mean specific conductance could almost double from 1974 to 2050. The increase in specific conductance likely is due to increases in chloride concentrations, which have been increasing steadily over time at all three stations. No correlation was found between monthly mean specific conductance and monthly mean streamflow or base flow. Statistically significant upward trends in pH were determined for all three stations. Statistically significant upward trends in stream temperature were determined for East Branch Brandywine Creek below Downingtown, Pa. (01480870) and Brandywine Creek at Chadds Ford, Pa. (01481000). The stream water-quality data indicate substantial increases in the minimum daily dissolved oxygen concentrations in the Brandywine Creek over time.

The Chester County Index of Biotic Integrity (CC-IBI) determined for 1998‒2013 was evaluated for the five biological sampling sites collocated with streamgages. CC-IBI scores are based on a 0‒100 scale with higher scores indicating better stream quality. Statistically significant upward trends in the CC-IBI were determined for West Branch Brandywine Creek at Modena, Pa. (01480617) and East Branch Brandywine Creek below Downingtown, Pa. (01480870). No correlation was found between the CC-IBI and streamflow, precipitation, or stream specific conductance, pH, temperature, or dissolved oxygen concentration.

A Chester County average water budget was developed using the nine estimated watershed water budgets. Average precipitation was 48.4 inches, and average streamflow was 21.4 inches. Average runoff and base flow were 8.3 and 13.1 inches, respectively, and average evapotranspiration and estimation of errors was 27.2 inches."

Suggested Citation

Sloto, R.A., and Reif, A.G., 2017, Evaluation of long-term trends in hydrologic and water-quality conditions, and estimation of water budgets through 2013, Chester County, Pennsylvania (ver.1.1, July 2017): U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2017–5025, 59 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20175025.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Evaluation of Long-Term Trends in Hydrologic Conditions
  • Evaluation of Long-Term Trends in Water-Quality Conditions 
  • Estimation of Water Budgets through 2013
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Evaluation of long-term trends in hydrologic and water-quality conditions, and estimation of water budgets through 2013, Chester County, Pennsylvania
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2017-5025
DOI:
10.3133/sir20175025
Edition:
Version 1.0: Originally posted June 2,2017; Version 1.1: July 10, 2017
Year Published:
2017
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Pennsylvania Water Science Center
Description:
vii, 59 p.
Country:
United States
State:
Pennsylvania
County:
Chester County
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
Y