Surface-water quality in the Lake Erie/Niagara River Basin of New York State

Science Center Objects

Problem The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) intends to develop a Nine-Element Watershed Plan (http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/103264.html) for the Lake Erie/Niagara Basin. To develop the Nine-Element Plan, NYSDEC needs a high quality, quality assured, nutrient-loading dataset to serve as a baseline against which future change can be measured and to identify area...

Problem

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) intends to develop a Nine-Element Watershed Plan (http://www.dec.ny.gov/chemical/103264.html) for the Lake Erie/Niagara Basin.  To develop the Nine-Element Plan, NYSDEC needs a high quality, quality assured, nutrient-loading dataset to serve as a baseline against which future change can be measured and to identify areas in greatest need of water quality improvement.

Objective and Scope

The objective of this project is to collect baseline nutrient water-quality data that can be used to 1) build a watershed model that will help focus future water quality improvement efforts in the basin, and 2) aid in future regional target-setting efforts for nutrient reduction.  In addition, this effort will be the first in an overall strategic approach to pollutant source trackdown for contaminants such as nutrients, pathogens, and toxics.

Nineteen surface-water sites selected with input from NYSDEC and the Lake Erie Watershed Protection Alliance will be sampled over the course of 24 months.   The 19 sites represent a wide range in watershed area and land-use adequate to characterize the watershed as a whole.  Sample collection will take place over a range of streamflows to adequately characterize the range in constituent concentrations and loads.

Quality assured concentration and instantaneous load data will be made publicly available and archived through the National Water Information System (NWIS) Database.  A peer-reviewed publication documenting the sampled concentrations and computed loads will be produced at the conclusion of sampling. 

Approach

This project will assess the quality of surface water in the Erie/Niagara Basin within New York by collecting and analyzing water samples for nutrients, suspended sediment, chlorophyll, and chloride.  To allow calculations of instantaneous loads, stream discharge will be measured.  Samples will be collected and analyzed using standard USGS protocols (U.S. Geological Survey, variously dated).  Stream gages will be co-located with 13 of the 19 sampling locations to allow the estimation of annual constituent loads across the watershed.

Network Design and Sites 

Nineteen sites will be sampled throughout the Erie/Niagara Basin within New York.  Site locations are shown in Figure 1 and a table of site locations with basin characteristics is shown in Table 1.  The sites are divided into two categories to address two distinct goals: 1) Regular sites will be sampled to assess watershed loading and develop a calibration dataset for a watershed water-quality model; 2) Trackdown sites will be sampled to identify parts of the Cattaraugus Watershed that may be contributing disproportionately to nutrient and sediment loading.

References

Turnipseed, D.P., and Sauer, V.B., 2010, Discharge measurements at gaging stations: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques and Methods book 3, chap. A8, 87 p, available online at http://pubs.usgs.gov/tm/tm3-a8/.

 U.S. Geological Survey, variously dated, National field manual for the collection of water-quality data: U.S. Geological Survey Techniques of Water-Resources Investigations, book 9, chaps. A1-A10, available online at http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/twri9A.

Project
Location by County

Erie County, NY, Niagara County, NY, Wyoming County, NY


Figure 1. Map of sampling locations in the Lake Erie BasinFigure 1. Map of sampling locations in the Lake Erie Basin
Table 1. Sampling locationsTable 1. Sampling locations