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Continuous turbidity data used to compute constituent concentrations in the South Loup River, Nebraska, 2017–18

December 1, 2021

The South Loup River in central Nebraska has been impaired by bacteria since at least 2004, which has resulted in the river not meeting its intended use as a recreational waterway. As part of a strategy for reducing the bacterial load in the river, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Lower Loup Natural Resources District, made continuous estimates of Escherichia coli (E. coli) and nutrient concentrations during seasonal monitoring at the South Loup River at Saint Michael, Nebraska, during 2017–18. Continuous turbidity data were collected from mid-April through October in 2017 and 2018 and were paired with 35 co-occurring discrete water samples that were analyzed for E. coli, nutrients, and suspended solids. Surrogate models relating the discrete concentrations to the continuous turbidity data were developed using ordinary-least-squares regression and were evaluated for model performance and uncertainty. Although the model assumptions were met for E. coli, the imprecision of the E. coli model was considerably higher than the other constituents, probably because of measurement imprecision and greater sensitivity to environmental factors. Once the models were developed, the turbidity data were used to predict continuous constituent concentrations and corresponding prediction intervals, which were made available online as part of the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System database. It is expected that results from these models will provide stakeholders with an understanding of constituent concentrations during the 2017–18 monitoring period and the results will also provide a good reference point for any future comparisons.

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