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An extrapolation method for estimating loads from unmonitored areas using watershed model load ratios

November 26, 2022

It is important to routinely estimate loads from an entire watershed to describe current conditions and evaluate how watershed-wide management efforts have affected the nutrient and sediment export that affect downstream water quality. However, monitoring in most areas, including the Great Lakes watershed, consists of sampling at a limited number of sites that are only periodically used to estimate total watershed loading. Here, we describe a technique to extrapolate loads measured at a limited number of reference sites to the total load from a large watershed using load ratios between monitored sites and unmonitored areas obtained from a watershed model (i.e., model load ratio, MLR, approach). In this study, modeled nonpoint-source load ratios between monitored tributaries (reference sites) and nearby unmonitored areas and point-source delivery factors for all areas were obtained from a Spatially Referenced Regression On Watershed attributes (SPARROW) model and used to extrapolate the measured loads from an ongoing monitoring program (Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Tributary monitoring program) to the entire Great Lakes watershed. The MLR approach incorporates spatial variability in nonpoint- and point-source delivery, watershed characteristics, and hydrology that are often not considered when estimating loads from unmonitored areas, such as using the unit area load (UAL) extrapolation approach. The MLR approach provided smaller watershed loads than the UAL approach because yields from monitored sites, in general, were larger than from unmonitored areas. When both approaches were used to estimate loads at adjacent monitored sites, the MLR approach provided more accurate estimates than the UAL approach.

Publication Year 2022
Title An extrapolation method for estimating loads from unmonitored areas using watershed model load ratios
DOI 10.1016/j.jglr.2022.09.002
Authors Dale M. Robertson, David A. Saad, Greg F. Koltun
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Great Lakes Research
Index ID 70240922
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Upper Midwest Water Science Center