Because of the considerable wildlife benefits offered by the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge in south-central Kansas, there is a desire to ensure suitable water quality. To assess the quality of water flowing from Rattlesnake Creek into the refuge, the U.S. Geological Survey collected periodic water samples from December 1998 through June 2001 and analyzed the samples for physical properties, dissolved solids, total suspended solids, suspended sediment, major ions, nutrients, metals, pesticides, and indicator bacteria. Concentrations of 10 of the 125 chemicals analyzed did not meet water-quality criteria to protect aquatic life and drinking water in a least one sample. These were pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved solids, sodium, chloride, phosphorus, total coliform bacteria, E. coli bacteria, and fecal coliform bacteria. No metal or pesticide concentrations exceeded water-quality criteria. Twenty-two of the 43 metals analyzed were not detected, and 36 of the 46 pesticides analyzed were not detected. Because dissolved solids, sodium, chloride, fecal coliform bacteria, and other chemicals that are a concern for the health and habitat of fish and wildlife at the refuge cannot be measured continuously, regression equations were developed from a comparison of the analytical results of periodic samples and in-stream monitor measurements of specific conductance, pH, water temperature, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen. A continuous record of estimated chemical concentrations was developed from continuously recorded in-stream measurements. Annual variation in water quality was evaluated by comparing 1999 and 2000 sample data- the 2 years for which complete data sets were available. Median concentrations of alkalinity, fluoride, nitrate, and fecal coliform bacteria were smaller or did not change from 1999 to 2000. Dissolved solids, total suspended solids, sodium, chloride, sulfate, total organic nitrogen, and total phosphorus had increases in median concentrations from 1999 to 2000. Increases in the median concentrations of the major ions were expected due to decreased rainfall in 2000 and very low streamflow late in the year. Increases for solids and nutrients may have been due to the unusually high streamflow in the early spring of 2000. This was the time of year when fields were tilled, exposing solids and nutrients that were transported with runoff to Rattlesnake Creek. Load estimates indicate the chemical mass transported into the refuge and can be used in the development of total maximum daily loads (as specified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) for water-quality contaminants in Rattlesnake Creek. Load estimates also were used to evaluate seasonal variation in water quality. Seasonal variation was most pronounced in the estimates of nutrient loads, and most of the nutrient load transported to the refuge occurred during just a few periods of surface runoff in the spring and summer. This information may be used by resource managers to determine when water-diversion strategies would be most beneficial. Load estimates also were used to calculate yields, which are useful for site comparisons. The continuous and real-time nature of the record of estimated concentrations, loads, and yields may be important for resource managers, recreationalists, or others for evaluating water-diversion strategies, making water-use decisions, or assessing the environmental effects of chemicals in time to prevent adverse effects on fish or other aquatic life at the refuge.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Characterization of surface-water quality based on real-time monitoring and regression analysis, Quivira National Wildlife Refuge, south-central Kansas, December 1998 through June 2001