Quantity and quality of runoff from selected guttered and unguttered roadways in northeastern Ramsey County, Minnesota

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4284
Prepared in cooperation with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Minnesota Local Road Research Board
By:  and 



Five roadway sections in northeastern Ramsey County, Minnesota were monitored during 1993-95, to evaluate water quality and loading of constituents from roadway runoff. Two snowmelt-runoff and five rainfall-runoff events were monitored per year at each site. Additional samples of rainfall were analyzed to determine if rainfall was a direct source of constituent loading to roadway runoff. Roadway-runoff samples were analyzed for selected physical properties, dissolved solids, nutrients, dissolved ions, selected metals, and semi-volatile compounds.

Concentrations of dissolved ions such as sodium, chloride, and metals such as aluminum, chromium, lead, and zinc were detected at much greater levels for snowmelt-runoff samples than rainfall-runoff samples. Analysis of chemical samples from rainfall indicate that rainfall was not a direct source for most constituents. Dissolved nitrate and dissolved ammonia in rainfall, however, can contribute up to one-half the amounts detected in roadway runoff.

Concentrations of total phosphorus and fecal Streptococcus bacteria were greater at unguttered sites than at guttered sites. Concentrations of dissolved solids, and some metals were greater at guttered sites than at unguttered sites. This suggests that the vegetated road ditches associated with unguttered sites may filter out heavier particles such as metals and solids, while contributing additional organic matter. Concentrations of aliiminum, copper, lead, and zinc exceeded chronic condition standard limits established by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency for metropolitan storm water from 96 percent, 52 percent, 9 percent, and 20 percent of the samples collected, respectively. Chemical loadings of specific constituents, such as suspended solids, from an individual rainfall-runoff event accounted for greater than 90 percent of the cumulative loadings of that constituent for all monitored events at site 4, for the entire study period.

Length of latent period was statistically compared to constituent concentration levels of total phosphorus, dissolved sulfate, and total zinc and there was a correlation. Constituent loads were not associated with latent period. No correlation was found between traffic volumes which ranged from 1,888 to 7,172 vehicles per day and constituent concentrations or loads for this study.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Quantity and quality of runoff from selected guttered and unguttered roadways in northeastern Ramsey County, Minnesota
Series title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number 96-4284
DOI 10.3133/wri964284
Year Published 1997
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Mounds View, MN
Contributing office(s) Minnesota Water Science Center
Description v, 67 p.
Country United States
State Minnesota
County Ramsey County
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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