The Little Sac River, north of Springfield, Missouri, flows through mainly agricultural and forest land. However, the quality of the river water is a concern because the river flows into Stockton Lake, which is a supplemental drinking water source for Springfield. Large bacterial densities and nutrient concentrations are primary concerns to the water quality of the river.
A 29-river mile reach of the Little Sac River is on the 1998 list of waters of Missouri designated under section 303(d) of the Federal Clean Water Act because of fecal coliform densities larger than the Missouri Department of Natural Resources standard (hereinafter referred to as Missouri standard) of 200 colonies per 100 milliliters for whole-body contact recreation. During an investigation of the water quality in the Little Sac River by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Watershed Committee of the Ozarks, fecal coliform bacteria densities exceeded the Missouri standard (the standard applies from April 1 through October 31) in one sample from a site near Walnut Grove. At other sites on the Little Sac River, the Missouri standard was exceeded in two samples and equalled in one sample upstream from the Northwest Wastewater Treatment Plant (NW WTP) and in one sample immediately downstream from the NW WTP.
Effluent from the NW WTP flows into the Little Sac River. Annually from April 1 through October 31, the effluent is disinfected to meet the Missouri standard for whole-body contact recreation. Fecal coliform bacteria densities in samples collected during this period generally were less than 100 colonies per 100 milliliters. For the rest of the year when the effluent was not disinfected, the bacteria densities in samples ranged from 50 (sample collected on November 1, 2000) to 10,100 colonies per 100 milliliters (both counts were non-ideal).
When the effluent was disinfected and the fecal coliform bacteria density was small, samples from sites upstream and downstream from the NW WTP had a bacteria density larger than the density in the effluent. Other sources of bacteria are likely to be present in the study area in addition to the NW WTP. These potential sources include effluent from domestic septic systems and animal wastes.
Nutrient concentrations in the Little Sac River immediately downstream from the NW WTP were affected by effluent from the NW WTP and possibly other sources. At two sites upstream from the NW WTP, median nitrite plus nitrate concentrations were 1.1 and 1.4 milligrams per liter. The median nitrite plus nitrate concentration for the effluent from the NW WTP was 6.4 milligrams per liter, and the median concentration decreased downstream in the Little Sac River to 2.2, 1.2, and 0.56 milligrams per liter.
The effects of the effluent from the NW WTP on the water quality of the Little Sac River downstream from the NW WTP were reflected in an increase in discharge (effluent from the NW WTP can be as much as 50 percent of the flow at the site about 1.5 river miles downstream from the NW WTP), an increase in specific conductance values, an increase in several inorganic constituent concentrations, including calcium, magnesium, and sulfate, and a large increase in sodium and chloride concentrations. The effluent from the NW WTP seemed to have no effect on the pH value, temperature, and dissolved oxygen concentrations in the Little Sac River.
Results of repetitive element polymerase chain reaction (rep-PCR) pattern analysis indicated that most Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in water samples probably were from nonhuman sources, such as horses and cattle. The rep-PCR pattern analysis indicated that horses were an important source of E. coli downstream from the NW WTP, which was consistent with horses pastured adjacent to the sampling site.
Fecal coliform bacteria loads increased upstream from the NW WTP from the most upstream site to the site immediately upstream from the NW WTP. Loads in the effluent from the NW WTP and also those in the Little Sac River downstream from the NW WTP were dependent on the treatment of the effluent. When the effluent was not disinfected, the loads in the effluent increased from those upstream. Downstream in the Little Sac River, the loads decreased, but then increased at the most downstream site. The increase may be a result of increased loads from tributaries and other sources not sampled during the study. When the effluent was disinfected, fecal coliform bacteria loads were less than loads in samples from the Little Sac River downstream from the NW WTP.
Smith, B.J., 2002, Water quality in the Little Sac River basin near Springfield, Missouri, 1999–2001: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 02–4154, 25 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/wri024154.
Table of Contents
- Description of the Study Area
- Methods of Study
- Water Quality
- Summary and Conclusions
Additional publication details
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Title||Water quality in the Little Sac River basin near Springfield, Missouri, 1999-2001|
|Series title||Water-Resources Investigations Report|
|Publisher||U.S. Geological Survey|
|Publisher location||Reston, VA|
|Contributing office(s)||Missouri Water Science Center|
|Description||iv, 25 p.|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|