Great Bend Region Spring 2014 Sample Results

Volunteers sampled 231 stream sites on Friday,  April 11 between 2 and 5 p.m. Results of their efforts are presented below. 

Temperature - Samplers measured temperature in the field directly from the stream at the time of sample collection. Temperature is an important parameter as it is the regulator for aquatic communities - all plankton, bug, and fish species have a preferred temperature. Temperature also controls the amount of dissolved oxygen present in the water - cooler water temperatures hold more dissolved oxygen. Finally, temperature controls the rate at which chemical reactions occur, such as the conversion of nitrate-nitrogen to ammonia-nitrogen. Higher temperatures are shown in red and cooler temperatures are shown in blue. Several factors affect temperature including riparian buffers or shading, watershed inputs, and surrounding land uses. Compared to Spring 2013, the water is much cooler throughout the entire watershed due to this year’s especially cold winter.
pH - Samplers measured pH from water samples at the staging location. Water pH is a measure of the amount of hydrogen ion available in the water. Water pH determines the solubility and biological availability of chemicals, including nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, and metals, like copper or lead. Typical pH levels in streams measure between 6.5 and 8.5. pH levels are indicative of the geological materials in the drainage area. Additionally, the amount of photosynthesis occurring in the stream can affect pH levels. Higher pH levels are shown in red, while lower pH levels are displayed in yellow and ideal pH levels are shown in green. Compared to Spring 2013, pH levels have stayed fairly stable throughout the subwatershed, with some improvement in the northern section.


Ammonia - Ammonia is present in streams as a dissolved form of nitrogen that is readily available for use by algae. At a high temperature and pH, higher concentrations of ammonia are present and can become toxic to stream biota. Similar to nitrogen and phosphorus, excessive amounts of ammonia can cause algae blooms and eventually deplete the water’s dissolved oxygen content causing hypoxia. Sources of ammonia in streams can be attributed to a variety of inputs, including: fertilizers, mammal waste, and industrial manufacturing runoff. Ammonia is not a nutrient that can easily be tested for in the field, so ammonia testing is done at the water quality lab. Spring 2014 provided mostly “good” concentrations of ammonia, as the majority of the watershed was measured at less than 0.5 ppm for the nutrient. These low concentrations can be attributed to the "ideal" water pH and cooler water temperatures that the harsh winter provided.


Transparency - Samplers measured water transparency using transparency tubes. Water transparency in streams reflects the distance downstream that you can see through the water. Tubes measured 114 centimeters, so any values greater than 114 centimeters exceed our ability to detect a change in water transparency. Low numbers (10 cm) indicate poor transparency while those in the 70 centimeter (2 foot) range indicate good transparency. Compared to Spring 2013, transparency in the subwatershed has decreased. This decrease is due to a rain event that occured just days before the Blitz took place.



Orthophosphate - Phosphorus is typically the nutrient which limits the productivity in aquatic communities. Phosphorus can be measured in many forms including orthophosphate or soluble reactive phosphorus. This form of phosphorus is the soluble, organic, readily available form of phosphorus. Higher phosphorus concentrations typically lead to higher levels of productivity. Increased productivity can result in increased concentrations of algae or plants, which can result in decreased dissolved oxygen concentrations, taste and odor problems, and create poor habitat for aquatic communities. These results are from field test strips; while these strips are useful for in the field measurements they do not always provide accurate results. Once orthophosphate lab measurements are complete, another map will be added to show a more detailed description of the nutrient levels in the watershed. Field measurements of orthophosphate are lower compared to Spring 2013 results. This could be attributed to the delay of farm field tilling, as the soil has been too saturated for farmers to till fields on their normal schedule of early April.
Nitrate/Nitrite - Nitrate-nitrogen and nitrite-nitrogen, like orthophosphate, represent the available nitrogen in an aquatic system. Nitrogen is also available in the atmosphere and can move from the air into the water by nitrogen-fixers. Nitrogen can readily convert between different forms, especially nitrate and nitrite. Conversion to and from ammonia also occurs when dissolved oxygen is available in the system. Nitrate and nitrite concentrations are displayed below with red representing higher concentrations. Nitrate-nitrogen concentrations measuring higher than 2 ppm can inhibit aquatic communities. Concentrations higher than 10 ppm violate the state water quality standards. Levels of nitrite/nitrate are lower compared to Spring 2013 results. This could be attributed to the delay of farm field tilling, as the soil has been too saturated for farmers to till fields on their normal schedule of early April.


E. coli - E. coli is an indicator organism used to monitor pathogen concentrations with surface waters. E. coli is present in the intestines of all warm-blooded mammals and can survive and reproduce outside of the body. Untreated sewage, combined sewer overflows, polluted discharges, input from animals, and source populations can all contribute E. coli to surface waters. In Indiana, concentrations measuring greater than 235 colonies/100 mL are deemed non-supporting of their designated use. Those watersheds which do not meet water quality standards are shown in red. Compared to Spring 2013, E. coli concentrations have decreased.


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