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Annual trace-metal load estimates and flow-weighted concentrations of cadmium, lead, and zinc, in the Spokane River basin, Idaho and Washington, 1999-2004

September 16, 2006

Streamflow and trace-metal concentration data collected at 10 locations in the Spokane River basin of northern Idaho and eastern Washington during 1999-2004 were used as input for the U.S. Geological Survey software, LOADEST, to estimate annual loads and mean flow-weighted concentrations of total and dissolved cadmium, lead, and zinc.

Cadmium composed less than 1 percent of the total metal load at all stations; lead constituted from 6 to 42 percent of the total load at stations upstream from Coeur d’Alene Lake and from 2 to 4 percent at stations downstream of the lake. Zinc composed more than 90 percent of the total metal load at 6 of the 10 stations examined in this study.

Trace-metal loads were lowest at the station on Pine Creek below Amy Gulch, where the mean annual total cadmium load for 1999–2004 was 39 kilograms per year (kg/yr), the mean estimated total lead load was about 1,700 kg/yr, and the mean annual total zinc load was 14,000 kg/yr. The trace-metal loads at stations on North Fork Coeur d’Alene River at Enaville, Ninemile Creek, and Canyon Creek also were relatively low.

Trace-metal loads were highest at the station at Coeur d’Alene River near Harrison. The mean annual total cadmium load was 3,400 kg/yr, the mean total lead load was 240,000 kg/yr, and the mean total zinc load was 510,000 kg/yr for 1999–2004. Trace-metal loads at the station at South Fork Coeur d’Alene River near Pinehurst and the three stations on the Spokane River downstream of Coeur d’Alene Lake also were relatively high. Differences in metal loads, particularly lead, between stations upstream and downstream of Coeur d’Alene Lake likely are due to trapping and retention of metals in lakebed sediments.

LOADEST software was used to estimate loads for water years 1999–2001 for many of the same sites discussed in this report. Overall, results from this study and those from a previous study are in good agreement. Observed differences between the two studies are attributable to streamflow differences in the two regression models, 1999–2001 and 1999-2004.

Flow-weighted concentrations (FWCs) calculated from the estimated loads for 1999–2004 were examined to aid interpretation of metal load estimates, which were influenced by large spatial and temporal variations in streamflow. FWCs of total cadmium ranged from 0.04 micrograms per liter (µg/L) at Enaville to 14 µg/L at Ninemile Creek. Total lead FWCs were lowest at Long Lake (1.3 µg/L) and highest at Ninemile Creek (120 µg/L). Elevated total lead FWCs at Harrison confirmed that the high total lead loads at this station were not simply due to higher streamflow. Conversely, relatively low total lead loads combined with high total lead FWCs at Ninemile and Canyon Creeks reflected low streamflow but high concentrations of total lead. Very low total lead FWCs (1.3 to 2.7 µg/L) at the stations downstream of Coeur d’Alene Lake are a result both of deposition of lead-laden sediments in the lake and dilution by additional streamflow. Total zinc FWCs also demonstrated the effect of streamflow on load calculations, and highlighted source areas for zinc in the basin. Total zinc FWCs at Canyon and Ninemile Creeks, 1,600 µg/L and 2,200 µg/L, respectively, were by far the highest in the basin but contributed among the lowest total zinc loads due to their relatively low streamflow. Total zinc FWCs ranged from 38 to 67 µg/L at stations downstream of Coeur d’Alene Lake, but total zinc load estimates at these stations were relatively high because of high mean streamflow compared to other stations in the basin.

Long-term regression models for 1991 to 2003 or 2004 were developed and annual trace-metal loads and FWCs were estimated for Pinehurst, Enaville, Harrison, and Post Falls to better understand the variability of metal loading with time. Long-term load estimates are similar to the results for 1999‑2004 in terms of spatial distribution of metal loads throughout the basin.

LOADEST results for 1991-2004 indicated that statistically significant downward temporal trends for dissolved and total cadmium, dissolved zinc, and total lead were occurring at Pinehurst, Enaville, Harrison, and Post Falls. Additionally, data for Enaville and Post Falls showed significant downward trends for dissolved lead and total zinc loads; Harrison total zinc loads also decreased with time. The Mann-Kendall trend test results agreed with the LOADEST trend results in most cases, but gave contradictory results for total zinc at Pinehurst and at Post Falls.

Long- and short-term load and flow-weighted concentration estimates yielded valuable information about metal storage and transport processes, and demonstrated that water quality data are a great aid in understanding these processes.

Publication Year 2006
Title Annual trace-metal load estimates and flow-weighted concentrations of cadmium, lead, and zinc, in the Spokane River basin, Idaho and Washington, 1999-2004
DOI 10.3133/sir20065188
Authors Mary M. Donato
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2006-5188
Index ID sir20065188
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Idaho Water Science Center