Organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations and annual organic carbon load of six selected rivers of the United States

Water Supply Paper 1817- F
By:  and 



The organic carbon load during 1969-70 of each of the six rivers in this study is substantial. The 3.4-billion-kilogram (3.7-million-ton) and 47-million-kilogram (52-thousandton) annual organic carbon loads of the Mississippi River and the Brazos River (Tex.), respectively, were approximately equally distributed between dissolved and suspended phases, whereas the 725-million-kilogram (79.8-million-ton) organic load of the Missouri River was primarily in the suspended phase. The major portion of the 6.4-million-kilogram (7.3 thousand-ton) and the 19-million-kilogram (21-thousand-ton) organic carbon loads of the Sopchoppy River (Fla.) and the Neuse River (N.C.), respectively, was in the dissolved phase. DOC (dissolved organic carbon) concentrations in most rivers were usually less than 8 milligrams per litre. SOC (suspended organic carbon) concentrations fluctuated markedly with discharge, ranging between 1 and 14 percent, by weight, in sediment of most rivers. DOC concentrations were found to be independent of discharge, whereas SOC and SIC (suspended inorganic carbon) concentrations were positively correlated with discharge. Seasonal fluctuations in DOC and SOC were exhibited by the Missouri, Neuse, Ohio, and Brazos Rivers, but both SOC and DOC concentrations were relatively constant throughout the year in the Mississippi and Sopchoppy Rivers. The carbon-nitrogen ratio in the sediment phase of all river waters averaged less than 8 1 as compared with 12:1 or greater for most soils. This high nitrogen content shows a nitrogen enrichment of the stream sediment over that in adjacent soils, which suggests that different decomposition and humification processes are operating in streams than in the soils. The abundance of organic material in the dissolved and suspended phase of all river waters in this study indicate a large capacity factor for various types of organic reactivity within all streams and the quantitative importance of organic constituents in relation to the water quality of rivers and streams.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations and annual organic carbon load of six selected rivers of the United States
Series title Water Supply Paper
Series number 1817
Chapter F
DOI 10.3133/wsp1817F
Edition -
Year Published 1976
Language ENGLISH
Publisher for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off.,
Description iv, 21 p. ;23 cm. --
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