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Characterization of Water Quality in Unmonitored Streams in the Mississippi Alluvial Plain, Northwestern Mississippi, May-June 2006

October 24, 2007

The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is required to develop restoration and remediation plans for water bodies not meeting their designated uses, as stated in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Water Act section 303(d). The majority of streams in northwestern Mississippi are on the 303(d) list of water-quality limited waters. Agricultural effects on streams in northwestern Mississippi have reduced the number of unimpaired streams (reference streams) for water-quality comparisons. As part of an effort to develop an index to assess impairment, the U.S. Geological Survey collected water samples from 52 stream sites on the 303(d) list during May-June 2006, and analyzed the samples for nutrients and chlorophyll.

The data were analyzed by trophic group as determined by total nitrogen concentrations. Seven constituents (nitrite plus nitrate, total Kjeldhal nitrogen, total phosphorus, orthophosphorus, total organic carbon, chlorophyll a, and pheophytina) and four physical property measurements (specific conductance, pH, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen) were determined to be significantly different (p < 0.05) between trophic groups. Total Kjeldhal nitrogen, turbidity, and dissolved oxygen were used as indicators of stream productivity with which to infer stream health. Streams having high total Kjeldhal nitrogen values and high turbidity values along with low dissolved oxygen concentrations were typically eutrophic abundant in nutrients), whereas streams having low total Kjeldhal nitrogen values and low turbidity values along with high dissolved oxygen concentrations were typically oligotrophic (deficient in nutrients).

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