Water Quality Monitoring to Inform Conservation Management, Fishing Creek, Clinton County, Pennsylvania

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USGS conducted synoptic sampling of major-ion chemistry and the nitrogen and oxygen isotopic composition of nitrate in Fishing Creek during base flow to evaluate the occurrence and distribution of nutrients and to characterize biogeochemical processes.

Photograph of technician measuring streamflow in a stream with a covered bridge

USGS Hydrologist Hilary Abraham measuring stream discharge during sampling, to allow calculation of loads, in Fishing Creek, Pennsylvania. (John Clune, USGS. Public domain.)

Water-resource managers need detailed watershed information to guide conservation efforts aimed at improving water quality of local groundwater, streams and the Chesapeake Bay. In Fishing Creek, USGS performed synoptic sampling of major-ion chemistry and the nitrogen and oxygen isotopic composition of nitrate in stream water during base flow to evaluate the occurrence and distribution of nutrients and to describe biogeochemical processes affecting concentrations.

Synoptic sampling of the Fishing Creek watershed was completed during high (spring) and low (summer/fall) base-flow conditions of 2019.  Reaches of Fishing Creek and its tributaries lose flow to groundwater, and are often dry. Samples were collected at 12 perennial stream sites and field parameters were measured at 14 additional intermittent stream sites throughout the watershed (schematic below). 

Field parameters measured at all sites (red and yellow dots):

  • temperature
  • specific conductance
  • pH
  • dissolved oxygen
  • nitrate

Samples collected at perennial sites (red dots):

  • isotopes (nitrogen and oxygen) of nitrate
  • major ions
  • nutrients

Results will be published in a peer-reviewed publication. 

Schematic of Fishing Creek, Pennsylvania with sample locations

Schematic of Fishing Creek showing perennial (red dots) and intermittent (yellow dots) sampling locations. Dashed blue lines represent losing stream reaches that are often dry.