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Occurrence of cyanobacteria, microcystin, and taste-and-odor compounds in Cheney Reservoir, Kansas, 2001-16

March 31, 2017

Cheney Reservoir, located in south-central Kansas, is one of the primary drinking-water supplies for the city of Wichita and an important recreational resource. Since 1990, cyanobacterial blooms have been present occasionally in Cheney Reservoir, resulting in increased treatment costs and decreased recreational use. Cyanobacteria, the cyanotoxin microcystin, and the taste-and-odor compounds geosmin and 2-methylisoborneol have been measured in Cheney Reservoir by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the city of Wichita, for about 16 years. The purpose of this report is to describe the occurrence of cyanobacteria, microcystin, and taste-and-odor compounds in Cheney Reservoir during May 2001 through June 2016 and to update previously published logistic regression models that used continuous water-quality data to estimate the probability of microcystin and geosmin occurrence above relevant thresholds.

Cyanobacteria, microcystin, and geosmin were detected in about 84, 52, and 31 percent of samples collected in Cheney Reservoir during May 2001 through June 2016, respectively. 2-methylisoborneol was less common, detected in only 3 percent of samples. Microcystin and geosmin concentrations exceeded advisory values of concern more frequently than cyanobacterial abundance; therefore, cyanobacteria are not a good indicator of the presence of these taste-and-odor compounds in Cheney Reservoir. Broad seasonal patterns in cyanobacteria and microcystin were evident, though abundance and concentration varied by orders of magnitude across years. Cyanobacterial abundances generally peaked in late summer or early fall (August through October), and smaller peaks were observed in winter (January through February). In a typical year, microcystin was first detected in June or July, increased to its seasonal maxima in the summer (July through September), and then decreased. Seasonal patterns in geosmin were less consistent than cyanobacteria and microcystin, but geosmin typically had a small peak during winter (January through March) during most years and a large peak during summer (July through September) during some years. Though the relation between cyanobacterial abundance and microcystin and geosmin concentrations was positive, overall correlations were weak, likely because production is strain-specific and cyanobacterial strain composition may vary substantially over time. Microcystin often was present without taste-and-odor compounds. By comparison, where taste-and-odor compounds were present, microcystin frequently was detected. Taste-and-odor compounds, therefore, may be used as indicators that microcystin may be present; however, microcystin was present without taste-and-odor compounds, so taste or odor alone does not provide sufficient warning to ensure human-health protection.

Logistic regression models that estimate the probability of microcystin occurrence at concentrations greater than or equal to 0.1 micrograms per liter and geosmin occurrence at concentrations greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per liter were developed. Models were developed using the complete dataset (January 2003 through June 2016 for microcystin [14-year dataset]; May 2001 through June 2016 for geosmin [16-year dataset]) and an abbreviated 4-year dataset (January 2013 through June 2016 for microcystin and geosmin). Performance of the newly developed models was compared with previously published models that were developed using data collected during May 2001 through December 2009. A seasonal component and chlorophyll fluorescence (a surrogate for algal biomass) were the explanatory variables for microcystin occurrence at concentrations greater than or equal to 0.1 micrograms per liter in all models. All models were relatively robust, though the previously published and 14-year models performed better over time; however, as a tool to estimate microcystin occurrence at concentrations greater than or equal to 0.1 micrograms per liter in a real-time notification system near the Cheney Dam, the 4-year model is most representative of recent (2013 through 2016) conditions. All models for geosmin occurrence at concentrations greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per liter had different explanatory variables and model forms. The previously published and 16-year models were not robust over time, likely because of changing environmental conditions and seasonal patterns in geosmin occurrence. By comparison, the abbreviated 4-year model may be a useful tool to estimate geosmin occurrence at concentrations greater than or equal to 5 nanograms per liter in a real-time notification system near the Cheney Dam. The better performance of the abbreviated 4-year geosmin model during 2013 through 2016 relative to the previously published and 16-year models demonstrates the need for continuous reevaluation of models estimating the probability of occurrence.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Occurrence of cyanobacteria, microcystin, and taste-and-odor compounds in Cheney Reservoir, Kansas, 2001-16
DOI 10.3133/sir20175016
Authors Jennifer L. Graham, Guy M. Foster, Thomas J. Williams, Ariele R. Kramer, Theodore D. Harris
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5016
Index ID sir20175016
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Kansas Water Science Center