Surface-water quality assessment of the Clover Creek basin, Pierce County, Washington, 1991-1992

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4181




Increasing urbanization in the 67-square-mile Clover Creek Basin has generated interest in the effects of land-use changes on local water quality. To investigate these effects, water-quality and streamflow data were collected from 19 surface-water sites in the basin over a 16-month period from January 1991 through April 1992. These data were used to understand the effects of surficial geology, land-use practices, and wastewater disposal practices on surface-water quality within the basin. The basin was divided into four drainage subbasins with dissimilar hydrogeologic, land-use, and water-quality characteristics. In the Upper Clover Creek subbasin, the high permeability of surficial geologic materials promotes infiltration of precipitation to ground water and thus attenuates the response of streams to rainfall. Significant interaction occurs between surface and ground water in this subbasin, and nitrate concentrations and specific conductance values, similar to those found historically in local ground water, indicate that sources such as subsurface waste-disposal systems and fertilizers are affecting surface- water quality in this area. In the Spanaway subbasin, the presence of Spanaway and Tule Lakes affects water quality, primarily because of the reduced velocity and long residence time of water in the lakes. Reduced water velocity and long residence times (1) cause settling of suspended materials, thereby reducing concentrations of suspended sediment and constituents that are bound to the sediment; (2) promote biological activity, which tends to trap nutrients in the lakes; and (3) allow dispersion to attenuate peaks in discharge and water-quality constituent concentrations. In the North Fork subbasin, the low permeability of surficial geologic materials and areas of intensive land development inhibit infiltration of precipitation and thus promote surface runoff to streams. Surface pathways provide little attenuation of storm runoff and result in rapid increases in stream discharge in response to rainfall. Substantial increases in concentrations of constituents associated with surface wash off, for example, suspended sediment, ammonia, phosphorus, and fecal coliform, also were observed in this subbasin during rainfall. In the Lower Clover Creek subbasin, which is the most downstream subbasin, stream-discharge and water-quality characteristics show the integrated effects of the entire basin. The data show that further characterization of local ground water and discharge from stormwater outfalls entering Clover Creek and its tributaries would be necessary to successfully apply a numerical water-quality model to the basin.

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USGS Numbered Series
Surface-water quality assessment of the Clover Creek basin, Pierce County, Washington, 1991-1992
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey ; Branch of Information Services [distributor],
v, 113 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.