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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Effects of Flooding and Drought on Water Quality in Gulf Coastal Plain Streams in Georgia


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 31 No. 4, p. 1266-1272
    Received: June 25, 2001

    * Corresponding author(s): sgollada@jonesctr.org
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  1. Stephen W. Golladay * and
  2. Juliann Battle
  1. J.W. Jones Ecological Research Center, Rte 2, Box 2324, Newton, GA, 31770


Since 1994, water-quality constituents have been measured monthly in three adjacent Coastal Plain watersheds in southwestern Georgia. During 1994, rainfall was 650 mm above annual average and the highest flows on record were observed. From November 1998 through November 2000, 19 months had below average rainfall. Lowest flows on record were observed during the summer of 2000. The watersheds are human-dominated with row-crop agriculture and managed forestlands being the major land uses. However, one watershed (Chickasawhatchee Creek) had 10 to 13% less agriculture and greater wetland area, especially along the stream. Suspended particles, dissolved organic carbon, NH4–N, and soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations were greater during wet and flood periods compared with dry and drought periods for each stream. Regional hydrologic conditions had little effect on NO3–N or dissolved inorganic carbon. Chickasawhatchee Creek had significantly lower suspended sediment and NO3–N concentrations and greater organic and inorganic carbon concentrations, reflecting greater wetland area and stronger connection to a regional aquifer system. Even though substantial human land use occurred within all watersheds, water quality was generally good and can be attributed to low stream drainage density and relatively intact floodplain forests. Low drainage density minimizes surface runoff into streams. Floodplain forests reduce nonpoint-source pollutants through biological and physical absorption. In addition to preserving water quality, floodplain forests provide important ecological functions through the export of nutrients and organic carbon to streams. Extreme low flows may be disruptive to aquatic life due to both the lack of water and to the scarcity of biologically important materials originating from floodplain forests.

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Copyright © 2002. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science SocietyPublished in J. Environ. Qual.31:1266–1272.