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General water-quality conditions, long-term trends, and network analysis at selected sites within the Ambient Water-Quality Monitoring Network in Missouri, water years 1993–2017

August 17, 2021

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, collects data pertaining to the surface-water resources of Missouri. Established in 1964, the Ambient Water-Quality Monitoring Network (AWQMN) consisted of 69 sites in 2017. Two additional sites from the National Water-Quality Program are included with the AWQMN sites for the analyses in this report. The sites are sampled typically from 2 to 12 times per year for physical properties, total suspended solids, nutrients, fecal indicator bacteria, and trace elements.

The period of analysis for this study was from 1993 through 2017 and data analysis included 71 sites and 15 water-quality constituents plus discharge. Data analysis involved retrieving the data, conditioning the data for analysis, analyzing the data for trends, and analyzing the monitoring network to determine if potential data gaps or data redundancies exist in the network. Results from these analyses can be used to help manage the monitoring network into the future.

Water-quality data were analyzed using several software packages to provide graphical and statistical information for interpretation of trends in the data at selected sites. Discharge data at selected sites were analyzed to determine the general trends during the analysis period and how the water-quality samples represented the range of daily mean discharges at each site. Water-quality data also were analyzed at selected sites to determine the relative sensitivity of selected sites and constituents to changes in data collection frequency. Trend analysis at selected sites using a simulated reduction in sampling frequency was completed to compare to trends obtained using monthly data to determine the potential degradation in the ability of determining trends from a reduced sampling frequency. The viability of using estimated discharge to evaluate long-term trends for sites with no continuous discharge was investigated. Data from sites were statistically compared in groups to determine the relative similarity (or difference) between sites for each water-quality constituent to identify potentially redundant sites in the monitoring network.

Discharge-weighted long-term trends during 1993 through 2017 were analyzed for 15 water-quality constituents at 58 sites and results indicated there were significant single- or two-period trends in about 17 percent of the analyses. Some trends indicated improvement and some trends indicated deterioration of the general water quality at some sites in the AWQMN. No trend was indicated in about 31 percent of the analyses. The constituents pH, specific conductance, and total phosphorus showed the most frequent significant trends, and each of the 15 constituents examined had a significant trend at one or more sites. A total of 42 sites indicated at least 1 constituent with a significant single- or two-period trend, and 10 sites indicated 6 or more significant trends.

Potential data gaps identified for computing discharge-weighted long-term trends in the monitoring network included the lack of collection of continuous discharge at 23 sites, insufficient sampling frequency for some constituents (dissolved chloride and total and dissolved lead and zinc) at some sites, insufficient temporal sample distribution (lack of at least one sample in each season per year) at some sites, and insufficient sampling frequency for some highly censored constituents (nutrients and total and dissolved lead and zinc) at some sites. Potential data gaps based on site spatial distribution were identified in 7 basins greater than 800 square miles.

Potential site redundancies were identified in 4 basins that had an area greater than 500 square miles with a site density greater than 2 sites per 1,000 square miles. Potential site redundancies also were identified for nine site pairs by observing statistical similarities in the constituent data distributions. Sampling frequency was investigated to determine if reducing the sampling frequency of select constituents could provide a statistically similar data distribution. At 28 of 71 sites, 11 constituents had sufficient data collection frequency (approximately monthly) to allow for the creation of simulated datasets of various reduced data collection frequency. For the selected monitoring network sites analyzed, the data distribution of a simulated sampling frequency of four times per year or greater, roughly evenly distributed over the year, was not significantly different than the data distribution of the original monthly sampling frequency. Sites analyzed using varying simulated sampling frequencies tended to be more sensitive to sampling frequency changes if they were in basins classified as large or very large size and tended to be least sensitive in basins classified as small and medium size in the Ozark Plateaus Province. Simulated reduced frequency sampling analysis indicated that the constituents and measurements most sensitive to changes in sampling frequencies were water temperature, dissolved oxygen, discharge, and dissolved nitrate, and least sensitive were pH, total suspended solids, dissolved phosphorus, and total phosphorus. Discharge-weighted long-term trend analysis was repeated at 22 sites for 11 constituents using a simulated quarterly sampling frequency, and matched about 46 percent of the significant single-period trends identified using monthly data and about 65 percent of the analyses that indicated no trend using the monthly data.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2021
Title General water-quality conditions, long-term trends, and network analysis at selected sites within the Ambient Water-Quality Monitoring Network in Missouri, water years 1993–2017
DOI 10.3133/sir20215079
Authors Joseph M. Richards, Miya N. Barr
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2021-5079
Index ID sir20215079
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Missouri Water Science Center