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Trends in water quality of selected streams and reservoirs used for water supply in the Triangle area of North Carolina, 1989–2013

Scientific Investigations Report 2018-5077

Prepared in cooperation with the Triangle Area Water Supply Monitoring Project Steering Committee
By:
https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185077

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Abstract

As the population of the Triangle area in central North Carolina increases, the demand for good quality drinking water from streams and lakes within the upper Neuse and upper Cape Fear River Basins also increases. The Triangle area includes Raleigh, Cary, Research Triangle Park, Durham, Chapel Hill, and the surrounding communities. The U.S. Geological Survey examined temporal trends in water quality for 13 stream and 8 reservoir sites in the two basins on the basis of data collected during 1989–2013. Trends were analyzed using a fitted time-series model that accommodated for shifting trends and variations in streamflow at multiple time scales. Seventeen water-quality properties and constituents were evaluated, including specific conductance and major ions, nutrients, and organic carbon. Suspended solids and suspended sediment were examined at stream sites; chlorophyll a and Secchi transparency were examined at lake sites.

The investigation identified considerable changes in population, land cover, streamflow, and selected water-quality characteristics in the study area over the 25-year period. Specific conductance and concentrations of calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride tended to increase throughout the study area. Area-wide increases were also observed for organic nitrogen. Trends for other water-quality constituents varied on a more site-specific basis because of local watershed influences such as changes to wastewater-treatment processes and substantial shifts from rural to urban land use. Water quality is influenced by multiple, often confounding factors, and thus may change in a non-uniform manner over time. Long-term monitoring is critical for tracking these trends and ensuring resiliency of water supplies for the future. Results from this study may promote the understanding of water-quality response to a growing population and land-cover changes and can assist water-resource managers in the Triangle area in tracking progress toward water-quality goals.

Suggested Citation

Giorgino, M.J., Cuffney, T.F., Harden, S.L., and Feaster, T.D., 2018, Trends in water quality of selected streams and reservoirs used for water supply in the Triangle area of North Carolina, 1989–2013: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2018–5077, 67 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20185077.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Study Area
  • Approach
  • Water-Quality Trends Related to Watershed Setting and Hydrologic Conditions
  • Summary and Conclusions
  • References Cited

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Trends in water quality of selected streams and reservoirs used for water supply in the Triangle area of North Carolina, 1989–2013
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2018-5077
DOI:
10.3133/sir20185077
Year Published:
2018
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
South Atlantic Water Science Center
Description:
Report: viii, 67 p.; Data release
Country:
United States
State:
North Carolina
Other Geospatial:
Cape Fear River basin, Neuse River basin
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N