Water-quality assessment of the Sacramento River basin, California : water quality of fixed sites, 1996-1998

Water-Resources Investigations Report 2000-4247

ORCID iD and



Water-quality samples were collected from 12 sites in the Sacramento River Basin, Cali-fornia, from February 1996 through April 1998. Field measurements (dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, alkalinity, and water tem-perature) were completed on all samples, and laboratory analyses were done for suspended sediments, nutrients, dissolved and particulate organic carbon, major ions, trace elements, and mercury species. Samples were collected at four types of locations on the Sacramento River?large tributaries to the Sacramento River, agricul-tural drainage canals, an urban stream, and a flood control channel. The samples were collected across a range of flow conditions representative of those sites during the timeframe of the study. The water samples from the Sacramento River indi-cate that specific conductance increases slightly downstream but that the water quality is indicative of dilute water. Water temperature of the Sacramento River increases below Shasta Lake during the spring and summer irrigation season owing to diversion of water out of the river and subsequent lower flow. All 12 sites had generally low concentrations of nutrients, but chlorophyll concentrations were not measured; therefore, the actual consequences of nutrient loading could not be adequately assessed. Concentrations of dis-solved organic carbon in samples from the Sacramento River and the major tributaries were generally low; the formation of trihalomethanes probably does not currently pose a problem when water from the Sacramento River and its major tributaries is chlorinated for drinking-water purposes. However, dissolved organic carbon concentrations were higher in the urban stream and in agricultural drainage canals, but were diluted upon mixing with the Sacramento River. The only trace element that currently poses a water-quality problem in the Sacramento River is mercury. A federal criterion for the protection of aquatic life was exceeded during this study, and floodwater concentrations of mercury were mostly higher than the criterion. Exceedances of water-quality standards happened most frequently during winter when suspended-sediment concen-trations also were elevated. Most mercury is found in association with suspended sediment. The greatest loading or transport of mercury out of the Sacramento River Basin to the San Francisco Bay occurs in the winter and principally follows storm events.

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USGS Numbered Series
Water-quality assessment of the Sacramento River basin, California : water quality of fixed sites, 1996-1998
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
vii, 60 p. :ill. (some col.), col. maps ;28 cm.