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Journal of Environmental Quality Abstract - Surface Water Quality

Nutrient and Sediment Concentrations and Corresponding Loads during the Historic June 2008 Flooding in Eastern Iowa


This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 40 No. 1, p. 166-175
    unlockOPEN ACCESS
    Received: June 8, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): lhubbard@usgs.gov
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  1. L. Hubbard *a,
  2. D. W. Kolpina,
  3. S. J. Kalkhoffa and
  4. D. M. Robertsonb
  1. a U.S. Geological Survey, 400 S. Clinton St., Rm. 269, Iowa City, IA 52240
    b U.S. Geological Survey, 8505 Research Way, Middleton, WI 53562. Assigned to Associate Editor Phil Haygarth


A combination of above-normal precipitation during the winter and spring of 2007–2008 and extensive rainfall during June 2008 led to severe flooding in many parts of the midwestern United States. This resulted in transport of substantial amounts of nutrients and sediment from Iowa basins into the Mississippi River. Water samples were collected from 31 sites on six large Iowa tributaries to the Mississippi River to characterize water quality and to quantify nutrient and sediment loads during this extreme discharge event. Each sample was analyzed for total nitrogen, dissolved nitrate plus nitrite nitrogen, dissolved ammonia as nitrogen, total phosphorus, orthophosphate, and suspended sediment. Concentrations measured near peak flow in June 2008 were compared with the corresponding mean concentrations from June 1979 to 2007 using a paired t test. While there was no consistent pattern in concentrations between historical samples and those from the 2008 flood, increased flow during the flood resulted in near-peak June 2008 flood daily loads that were statistically greater (p < 0.05) than the median June 1979 to 2007 daily loads for all constituents. Estimates of loads for the 16-d period during the flood were calculated for four major tributaries and totaled 4.95 × 107 kg of nitrogen (N) and 2.9 × 106 kg of phosphorus (P) leaving Iowa, which accounted for about 22 and 46% of the total average annual nutrient yield, respectively. This study demonstrates the importance of large flood events to the total annual nutrient load in both small streams and large rivers.

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