Evaluation of water-quality data and monitoring program for Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas

Water-Resources Investigations Report 97-4257

Prepared in cooperation with the Lower Colorado River Authority



Statistical analyses were made of selected water-quality properties and constituents for Lake Travis, northwest of Austin in central Texas. Objectives for the evaluation were: (1) to provide information on levels of selected water-quality properties or constituents to use as reference values for assessing the future effectiveness of the Lake Travis Nonpoint-Source Control ordinance of the Lower Colorado River Authority; and (2) to determine whether water-quality constituents at any of the sampling sites are statistically redundant with other sites and, thus, can be discontinued without loss of information. The data were grouped into two periods—the thermally stratified period (May through November) and the mixed period (December through April).

Lake Travis is a biologically unproductive reservoir with acceptable water quality for virtually all current water uses. Nutrient (nitrogen, phosphorus) concentrations tend to be small in the reservoir throughout the year, indicating nutrient limitation of maximum phytoplankton biomass. On the basis of traditional limnological properties, Lake Travis exhibits small biological productivity and exceptional water transparency. However, dissolved oxygen concentrations for bottom samples often decrease to less than 5 milligrams per liter throughout the reservoir, especially during the thermally stratified period.

Statistical comparisons were made between data collected at the surface and at the bottom at each sampling site to determine statistical similarities. The available data were insufficient to perform the comparisons for nitrite nitrogen and dissolved orthophosphate phosphorus. In addition, no bottom data were available at the most upstream site because the shallow bottom was commonly above the thermocline.

The multiple-comparison tests indicate that, for some constituents, a single sampling site for a constituent or property might adequately characterize the water quality of Lake Travis for that constituent or property. However, multiple sampling sites are required to provide information of sufficient temporal and spatial resolution to accurately evaluate other water-quality constituents for the reservoir. For example, the water-quality data from surface samples and from bottom samples indicate that nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) might require additional sampling sites for a more accurate characterization of their in-lake dynamics.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Evaluation of water-quality data and monitoring program for Lake Travis, near Austin, Texas
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Austin, TX
Contributing office(s):
Texas Water Science Center
iv, 33 p.
United States
Other Geospatial:
Lake Travis
Online Only (Y/N):
Additional Online Files (Y/N):