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Hydrologic conditions and quality of rainfall and storm runoff in agricultural and rangeland areas in San Patricio County, Texas, 2000-2001

October 1, 2002

During 2000–2001, rainfall and runoff were monitored in one mixed agricultural watershed and two rangeland watersheds in San Patricio County, located in the Coastal Bend area of South Texas. During this period, five rainfall samples were collected and analyzed for selected nutrients. Ten runoff samples from nine runoff events were collected at the three watershed monitoring stations. Runoff samples were analyzed for selected nutrients, major ions, trace elements, pesticides, and bacteria.

Study area rainfall during 2000 and 2001 was 33.27 and 28.20 inches, respectively, less than the long-term average annual of 36.31 inches. Total runoff from the study area watersheds during 2000–2001 was 2.46 inches; the regional average is about 2 inches per year. Rainfall and runoff during the study period was typical of historical patterns, with periods of below average rainfall interspersed with extreme events. Three individual storm events accounted for about 29 percent of the total rainfall and 86 percent of the total runoff during 2000– 2001.

Runoff concentrations of nutrients, major ions, and trace elements generally were larger in the mixed agricultural watershed than runoff concentrations in the rangeland watersheds. Pesticides were detected in two of eight runoff samples. Three pesticides (atrazine, deethylatrazine, and trifluralin) were detected in very small concentrations; only deethylatrazine was detected in a concentration greater than the laboratory minimum reporting level.

Bacteria in agricultural and rangeland runoff is a potential water-quality concern as all fecal coliform and E. coli densities in the runoff samples exceeded Texas Surface Water Quality Standards for receiving waters. However, runoff and relatively large bacteria densities represent very brief and infrequent conditions, and the effect on downstream water is not known.

Rainfall deposition is a major source of nitrogen delivered to the study area. Rainfall nitrogen (mostly ammonia and nitrate) exceeded the runoff yield. The average annual rainfall deposition of total nitrogen on the study area watersheds was 1.3 pounds per acre. In contrast, an average annual yield of 0.57 and 0.21 pound per acre of total nitrogen in runoff exited the mixed agricultural watershed and the rangeland watersheds, respectively.

Publication Year 2002
Title Hydrologic conditions and quality of rainfall and storm runoff in agricultural and rangeland areas in San Patricio County, Texas, 2000-2001
DOI 10.3133/ofr02291
Authors Darwin J. Ockerman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2002-291
Index ID ofr02291
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Texas Water Science Center