Sediment and Stream Health - Pennsylvania

Science Center Objects

Sediment in streams, from land surface erosion in watersheds, is an important factor in determining the quality of Pennsylvania's surface waters and of downstream water bodies such as the Delaware Estuary and Chesapeake Bay. The USGS has a long-standing tradition of measuring suspended-sediment concentrations and estimating loads. Recent technological advances allow real-time estimates of suspended sediment in streams, which can be used for managing water quality and drinking-water withdrawals.

USGS collects data and conducts studies related to the production of sediment in Pennsylvania watersheds, transport processes controlling the rate of erosion, both in and out of the stream, and subsequent deposition in streams and reserviors. Many water quality constituents are partly bound to sediments, and sediment suspended in the water column has a major impact on aquatic life. Erosion of streambanks, scour at bridges, and deposition of sediments in reservoirs are some of the topics of USGS studies related to Pennsylvania's infrastructure. 

Photograph showing the high suspended-sediment concentrations caused by a large storm, Hurricane Ivan

Sediment transport in the Susquehanna River and Conowingo Reservoir after Hurricane Ivan (Public domain)