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Data for a regional approach to the development of an effects-based nutrient criterion for wadable streams

May 5, 2007

States are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to establish nutrient criteria (concentrations of nutrients above which water quality is deteriorated) as part of their water-quality regulations. A study of wadable streams in the Mid-Atlantic Region was undertaken by the U.S. Geological Survey, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Maryland Department of the Environment, with assistance from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, to help define current concentrations of nutrients in streams with the goal of associating different nutrient-concentration levels with their effects on water quality. During the summers of 2004 and 2005, diel concentrations of dissolved oxygen, nutrient concentrations, concentrations of chlorophyll a in attached algae, and algal-community structure were measured at 46 stream sites in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. Data from this work can be used by individual state agencies to define nutrient criteria.

Quality-control measures for the study included submitting blank samples, duplicate samples, and reference samples for analysis of nutrients, total organic carbon, chlorophyll a, and algal biomass. Duplicate and split samples were submitted for periphyton identifications. Three periphyton split samples were sent to an independent lab for a check on periphyton identifications.

Neither total organic carbon nor nutrients were detected in blank samples. Concentrations of nutrients and total organic carbon were similar for most duplicate sample pairs, with the exception of a duplicate pair from Western Run.

Concentrations of ammonia plus organic nitrogen for this duplicate pair differed by as much as 34 percent. Total organic carbon for the duplicate pair from Western Run differed by 102 percent.

The U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Laboratory performance on the only valid reference sample submitted was excellent; the relative percent difference values were no larger than 5 percent for any constituent analyzed. For periphyton identifications, duplicate samples had Jaccard Coefficient of Community values slightly greater than 0.5. This indicates the periphyton sampling protocol used provided a sample that was only moderately reproducible.

Jaccard Coefficients for three periphyton samples split between two independent labs were 0.2, 0.11, and 0.08. These very low values suggest a poor concurrence on species identifications performed by the two labs. As a result of these quality-control samples, the slides prepared for diatom identifications were sent to the Academy of Natural Sciences for re-identification. Caution is urged when interpreting periphyton-community information from this study.

This report and the raw data from the study are available online at

Publication Year 2007
Title Data for a regional approach to the development of an effects-based nutrient criterion for wadable streams
DOI 10.3133/ds257
Authors J. Kent Crawford, Connie A. Loper, Joseph R. Beaman, Anna G. Soehl, Will S. Brown
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Data Series
Series Number 257
Index ID ds257
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pennsylvania Water Science Center