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Evaluation and application of regional turbidity-sediment regression models in Virginia

April 23, 2015

Conventional thinking has long held that turbidity-sediment surrogate-regression equations are site specific and that regression equations developed at a single monitoring station should not be applied to another station; however, few studies have evaluated this issue in a rigorous manner. If robust regional turbidity-sediment models can be developed successfully, their applications could greatly expand the usage of these methods. Suspended sediment load estimation could occur as soon as flow and turbidity monitoring commence at a site, suspended sediment sampling frequencies for various projects potentially could be reduced, and special-project applications (sediment monitoring following dam removal, for example) could be significantly enhanced. The objective of this effort was to investigate the turbidity-suspended sediment concentration (SSC) relations at all available USGS monitoring sites within Virginia to determine whether meaningful turbidity-sediment regression models can be developed by combining the data from multiple monitoring stations into a single model, known as a “regional” model. Following the development of the regional model, additional objectives included a comparison of predicted SSCs between the regional model and commonly used site-specific models, as well as an evaluation of why specific monitoring stations did not fit the regional model.