Water-quality and biological samples were collected at several sites in the Boeuf River Basin between November 1994 and December 1996. Water-quality and benthic macroinvertebrate community samples were collected and habitat was measured once at 25 ambient monitoring sites during periods of seasonal low flow. Water-quality storm-runoff samples were collected during 11 storm events at two sites (one draining a cotton field and one draining a forested area). Water-quality samples were collected at one site during the draining of a catfish pond.
Water-quality samples from the 25 ambient sites indicate that streams in the Boeuf River Basin typically are turbid and nutrient enriched in late fall during periods of relatively low flow. Most suspended solids concentrations ranged from about 50 to 200 milligrams per liter (mg/L), most total nitrogen concentrations ranged from about 1.1 to 1.8 mg/L, and most total phosphorus concentrations ranged from about 0.25 to 0.40
Suspended solids, total nitrogen, total ammonia plus organic nitrogen, total phosphorus, and dissolved orthophosphorus concentrations from samples collected during storm events were typically higher at the cotton field site than at the forested site. Estimated annual yields of suspended solids, nitrogen, and phosphorus were substantially higher from the cotton field than from the forested area. Dissolved chloride concentrations typically were higher at the forested site than from the cotton field site. Typically, the suspended solids and nutrient concentrations from the 25 ambient sites were lower than concentrations in runoff from the cotton field but higher than concentrations in runoff from the forest area. Concentrations of sulfate, chloride, suspended solids, and some nutrients in samples from the catfish pond generally were greater than concentrations in samples from other sites. Total phosphorus, orthophosphorus, and fecal coliform bacteria concentrations from the catfish pond generally were lower than concentrations in samples from other sites.
Biological condition scores calculated using macroinvertebrate samples and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Rapid Bioassessment Protocol II indicated that most of the 25 ambient sites would be in the 'moderately impaired' category. However, substantial uncertainty exists in this rating because bioassessment data were compared with data from a reference site outside of the Boeuf River Basin sampled using different methods. Several metrics indicated that communities at most of the ambient sites are composed of more tolerant macroinvertebrates than the community at the reference site.
Habitat assessments (using Rapid Bioassessment Protocol II) indicated the reference site outside the Boeuf River Basin had better habitat than the ambient sites. Physical habitat scores for the 25 ambient sites indicated that most ambient sites had poor bottom substrate cover, embeddedness values, and flow and had poor to fair habitat related to most other factors. Most habitat factors at the reference site were considered good to excellent.
Part of the variation in biological condition scores was explained by physical habitat scores and concentrations of suspended solids and dissolved oxygen. However, a considerable amount of variability in biological condition scores is not explained by these factors.