Increased nutrient loading to the Gulf of Mexico from off-continent flux has been identified as contributing to the increase in the areal extent of the low dissolved-oxygen zone that develops annually off the Louisiana and Texas coast. The proximity of the Yazoo River Basin in northwestern Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico, and the intensive agricultural activities in the basin have led to speculation that the Yazoo River Basin contributes a disproportionate amount of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Mississippi River and ultimately to the Gulf of Mexico. An empirical measurement of the flux of nitrogen and phosphorus from the Yazoo Basin has not been possible due to the hydrology of the lower Yazoo River Basin.
Streamflow for the Yazoo River below Steele Bayou is affected by backwater from the Mississippi River. Flow at the gage is non-uniform and varying, with bi-directional and reverse flows possible. Streamflow was computed by using remote sensing and acoustic and conventional discharge and velocity measurement techniques. Streamflow from the Yazoo River for the 1996-2000 period accounted for 2.8 percent of the flow of the Mississippi River for the same period.
Water samples from the Yazoo River were collected from February 1996 through December 2000 and were analyzed for total nitrogen, nitrate, total phosphorus, and orthophosphorus as part of the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program. These data were used to compute annual loads of nitrogen and phosphorus discharged from the Yazoo River for the period 1996-2000.
Annual loads of nitrogen and phosphorus were calculated by two methods. The first method used multivariate regression and the second method multiplied the mean annual concentration by the total annual flow. Load estimates based on the product of the mean annual concentration and the total annual flow were within the 95 percent confidence interval for the load calculated by multivariate regression in 10 of 20 cases. The Yazoo River loads, compared to average annual loads in the Mississippi River, indicated that the Yazoo River was contributing 1.4 percent of the total nitrogen load, 0.7 percent of the nitrate load, 3.4 percent of the total phosphorus load, and 1.6 percent of the orthophosphorus load during 1996 - 2000. The total nitrogen, nitrate, and orthophosphorus loads in the Yazoo River Basin were less than expected, whereas the total phosphorus load was slightly higher than expected based on discharge.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Streamflow and nutrient data for the Yazoo River below Steele Bayou near Long Lake, Mississippi, 1996-2000