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Effects of urbanization on stream water quality in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, USA

January 1, 2009

A long-term stream water quality monitoring network was established in the city of Atlanta, Georgia during 2003 to assess baseline water quality conditions and the effects of urbanization on stream water quality. Routine hydrologically based manual stream sampling, including several concurrent manual point and equal width increment sampling, was conducted ???12 times annually at 21 stations, with drainage areas ranging from 3.7 to 232 km2. Eleven of the stations are real-time (RT) stations having continuous measures of stream stage/ discharge, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, water temperature and turbidity, and automatic samplers for stormwater collection. Samples were analyzed for field parameters, and a broad suite of water quality and sediment-related constituents. Field parameters and concentrations of major ions, metals, nutrient species and coliform bacteria among stations were evaluated and with respect to watershed characteristics and plausible sources from 2003 through September 2007. Most constituent concentrations are much higher than nearby reference streams. Concentrations are statistically different among stations for several constituents, despite high variability both within and among stations. Routine manual sampling, automatic sampling during stormflows and RT water quality monitoring provided sufficient information about urban stream water quality variability to evaluate causes of water quality differences among streams. Fecal coliform bacteria concentrations of most samples exceeded Georgia's water quality standard for any water-usage class. High chloride concentrations occur at three stations and are hypothesized to be associated with discharges of chlorinated combined sewer overflows, drainage of swimming pool(s) and dissolution and transport during rainstorms of CaCl2, a deicing salt applied to roads during winter storms. One stream was affected by dissolution and transport of ammonium alum [NH4Al(SO4)2] from an alum-manufacturing plant; streamwater has low pH (<5), low alkalinity and high metals concentrations. Several trace metals exceed acute and chronic water quality standards and high concentrations are attributed to washoff from impervious surfaces.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2009
Title Effects of urbanization on stream water quality in the city of Atlanta, Georgia, USA
DOI 10.1002/hyp.7373
Authors N.E. Peters
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Hydrological Processes
Index ID 70036824
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse