Trends in Streamflow and Concentrations and Flux of Nutrients and Total Suspended Solids in the Upper White River at Muncie, near Nora, and near Centerton, Indiana

Scientific Investigations Report 2019-5119
Prepared in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy
By:

Links

Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy, completed a study to estimate and assess trends in streamflow and annual mean concentrations and flux of nutrients (nitrate plus nitrite, total Kjeldahl nitrogen, and total phosphorus) and total suspended solids at three USGS streamgages (hereafter referred to as “study gages”) on the Upper White River at Muncie (USGS station 03347000), near Nora (USGS station 03351000), and near Centerton (USGS station 03354000), Indiana. Water-quality data used in the analyses were collected by several agencies between calendar years 1991 and 2017, and streamflow (discharge) data were collected by the USGS. For most of the water-quality constituents, there were suitable data to facilitate an analysis of the 26-year period extending from calendar years 1991 to 2017 (water years 1992 to 2017); however, shorter analytical periods were necessary for total Kjeldahl nitrogen for the study gages at Muncie and near Centerton and for total suspended solids for the study gage near Centerton.

Temporal trends in streamflows at the study gages for the period extending from water years 1978 to 2017 were assessed using Exploration and Graphics for RivEr Trends (EGRET) and Mann-Kendall and Pettitt tests. With just one exception, the annual maximum and mean daily streamflows and the annual minimum 7-day mean streamflows at the study gages demonstrated upward trends (increasing streamflows) in the EGRET analyses. The exception was the annual 7-day minimum streamflow at the study gage near Nora, which indicated no trend. Mann-Kendall tests also indicated that the average trend for the annual maximum daily, annual mean daily, and annual 7-day minimum streamflow statistics between water years 1978 and 2017 was upward at each of the study gages; however, only the trends in the annual mean daily streamflows at the study gage at Muncie and the annual maximum daily streamflows at the study gages near Nora and near Centerton were statistically significant at a 0.05 probability level. The Pettitt tests indicated that a statistically significant step trend (abrupt change) in annual mean daily streamflows occurred at each of the study gages around water year 2001.

The seasonal distributions of total suspended solids, total phosphorus, nitrate plus nitrite, and total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations at the study gages were evaluated to identify patterns and other distinguishing characteristics by examining boxplots of concentrations as a function of month of the year. Seasonal distributions of nitrate plus nitrite concentrations and total suspended solids concentrations differed from each other but were generally similar among the three study gages for a given constituent. Median concentrations of nitrate plus nitrite were highest during the January–June months, whereas median concentrations of total suspended solids were highest during June and July. Seasonal distributions of total phosphorus concentrations were similar at the study gages near Nora and near Centerton, but the seasonal distribution was noticeably different at the study gage at Muncie, which had monthly median concentrations that were substantially lower than at the two downstream study gages (near Nora and near Centerton). The seasonal distribution of total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations differed in pattern among the three study gages; however, in general, some of the higher monthly median total Kjeldahl nitrogen concentrations at each study gage were associated with the late spring and summer periods.

The Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) method implemented in EGRET was used to estimate water-year annual mean daily concentrations and flux of nutrients and total suspended solids, as well as estimates of concentrations and flux that were “normalized” to remove the effect of year-to-year variation in streamflow. The approximate coefficients of determination for the WRTDS regression models ranged from a high of 0.82 for total phosphorus for the study gage near Centerton to a low of 0.19 for nitrate plus nitrite for the study gage near Nora.

Loads and yields of total suspended solids, total phosphorus, nitrate plus nitrite, and total Kjeldahl nitrogen were estimated for analytical periods consisting of the longest periods of concurrent record at the three study gages. Loads of each of the constituents increased sequentially from the most upstream study gage to the most downstream study gage; however, the same was not true for yields. The highest yields of total suspended solids, total phosphorus, and total Kjeldahl nitrogen occurred at the most upstream study gage (at Muncie); however, the highest yield of nitrate plus nitrite occurred at the most downstream study gage (near Centerton).

WRTDS bootstrap tests were used to assess the magnitude, direction, and likelihood of changes in annual flow-normalized mean daily concentrations and flux of total suspended solids, total phosphorus, nitrate plus nitrite, and total Kjeldahl nitrogen at the study gages between water years 1997 and 2017. Changes in flow-normalized concentrations and flux of the constituents between water years 1997 and 2017 were mostly downward (decreasing). The exceptions were likely to highly likely upward (increasing) changes in (1) flow-normalized annual mean daily concentration and annual flux for total suspended solids and total phosphorus at the study gage at Muncie, (2) flow-normalized annual mean daily total phosphorus concentration at the study gage near Centerton, (3) flow-normalized annual flux of total phosphorus at the study gage near Centerton, and (4) flow-normalized annual mean daily nitrate plus nitrite concentration at the study gage near Centerton. Although an upward change in flow-normalized nitrate plus nitrite concentrations was likely at the study gage near Centerton, flow-normalized annual flux of nitrate plus nitrite at that study gage was determined to have a highly likely downward change.

EGRET and Exploration and Graphics for RivEr Trends Confidence Intervals (EGRETci) analyses can be used to improve our understanding of how concentrations and flux change as functions of time and streamflow, as well as provide information on how the relations between streamflow and constituent concentrations have changed within the calendar year between any 2 years included in the analyses. Examples of those uses, illustrating changes between calendar years 1992 and 2017, were given for total suspended solids concentrations at the study gage near Nora and for nitrate plus nitrite concentrations at the study gage near Centerton.

Suggested Citation

Koltun, G.F., 2019, Trends in streamflow and concentrations and flux of nutrients and total suspended solids in the Upper White River at Muncie, near Nora, and near Centerton, Indiana: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2019–5119, 34 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20195119.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Acknowledgments
  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Trends in Streamflow and Concentrations and Flux of Nutrients and Total Suspended Solids
  • Summary
  • References

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Trends in streamflow and concentrations and flux of nutrients and total suspended solids in the Upper White River at Muncie, near Nora, and near Centerton, Indiana
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2019-5119
DOI 10.3133/sir20195119
Year Published 2019
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Water Science Center
Description Report: viii, 34 p.; Data Release
Country United States
State Indiana
County Morgan County
Online Only (Y/N) Y