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Longitudinal water-temperature profiles in Mill Creek, Mason County, Washington

August 2, 2022

In streams supporting Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) within the southern Puget Lowland, high water temperatures during late summer are a primary water-quality concern. The metabolic rates of fish and other ectothermic (in other words, cold-blooded) species are regulated by water temperature; salmon and other cold-water fish have specific thermal tolerances outside of which they are susceptible to infection, disease, increased predation, and decreased reproductive success. Mill and Gosnell Creeks, which collectively drain a 30-square mile area of the Puget Lowland in Mason County, Washington, support several species of anadromous salmonids. Whereas previous studies documented relatively cool water temperatures in Gosnell Creek, which drains the watershed upstream from Lake Isabella, water temperatures in Mill Creek, which heads at the outlet of Lake Isabella, regularly exceed thermal tolerances for cold-water fish. The occurrence and distribution of cold-water anomalies in less-than-ambient water temperatures in Mill Creek, however, have not been assessed. In this report, we present spatially and temporally continuous measurements of near-streambed water temperature measured using fiber-optic distributed temperature sensing for three reaches of Mill Creek during August–September 2020 when the water temperatures of streams in western Washington were near their annual maximum. Water temperature was collected every hour and averaged spatially over 1.015-meter sections of the fiber-optic cable deployed at the streambed of Mill Creek. The lengths of the fiber-optic cables deployed in Reaches A, B, and C were 883, 270, and 1,014 meters, respectively. Daily maximum water temperature and daily temperature variability, as measured by standard deviation of water temperature during the deployment, progressively decreased downstream as distance from Lake Isabella increased. However, no abrupt decreases in daily maximum or standard deviation of water temperature were detected in longitudinal temperature profiles of any of the three reaches. Collectively, these results suggest that warm water discharged from Lake Isabella was progressively buffered downstream as it equilibrated with downstream heat fluxes mediated by physical processes including riparian shading and diffuse groundwater input. Although parts of the surveyed reaches associated with deep pools were cooler than other locations, no large (less than 2 °C) water-temperature anomalies characteristic of discrete sources of cold groundwater or surface-water inputs were measured in any of the three surveyed reaches.

Publication Year 2022
Title Longitudinal water-temperature profiles in Mill Creek, Mason County, Washington
DOI 10.3133/sir20225063
Authors Andrew S. Gendaszek, Richard W. Sheibley, Erica Marbet, Joe Puhn, Catherine Seguin
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2022-5063
Index ID sir20225063
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Washington Water Science Center