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Phosphorus and suspended sediment load estimates for the Lower Boise River, Idaho, 1994-2002

January 1, 2004

The U.S. Geological Survey used LOADEST, newly developed load estimation software, to develop regression equations and estimate loads of total phosphorus (TP), dissolved orthophosphorus (OP), and suspended sediment (SS) from January 1994 through September 2002 at four sites on the lower Boise River: Boise River below Diversion Dam near Boise, Boise River at Glenwood Bridge at Boise, Boise River near Middleton, and Boise River near Parma. The objective was to help the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality develop and implement total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) by providing spatial and temporal resolution for phosphorus and sediment loads and enabling load estimates made by mass balance calculations to be refined and validated.

Regression models for TP and OP generally were well fit on the basis of regression coefficients of determination (R2), but results varied in quality from site to site. The TP and OP results for Glenwood probably were affected by the upstream wastewater-treatment plant outlet, which provides a variable phosphorus input that is unrelated to river discharge. Regression models for SS generally were statistically well fit. Regression models for Middleton for all constituents, although statistically acceptable, were of limited usefulness because sparse and intermittent discharge data at that site caused many gaps in the resulting estimates.

Although the models successfully simulated measured loads under predominant flow conditions, errors in TP and SS estimates at Middleton and in TP estimates at Parma were larger during high- and low-flow conditions. This shortcoming might be improved if additional concentration data for a wider range of flow conditions were available for calibrating the model.

The average estimated daily TP load ranged from less than 250 pounds per day (lb/d) at Diversion to nearly 2,200 lb/d at Parma. Estimated TP loads at all four sites displayed cyclical variations coinciding with seasonal fluctuations in discharge. Estimated annual loads of TP ranged from less than 8 tons at Diversion to 570 tons at Parma. Annual loads of dissolved OP peaked in 1997 at all sites and were consistently higher at Parma than at the other sites.

The ratio of OP to TP varied considerably throughout the year at all sites. Peaks in the OP:TP ratio occurred primarily when flows were at their lowest annual stages; estimated seasonal OP:TP ratios were highest in autumn at all sites. Conversely, when flows were high, the ratio was low, reflecting increased TP associated with particulate matter during high flows. Parma exhibited the highest OP:TP ratio during all seasons, at least 0.60 in spring and nearly 0.90 in autumn. Similar OP:TP ratios were estimated at Glenwood. Whereas the OP:TP ratio for Parma and Glenwood peaked in November or December, decreased from January through May, and increased again after June, estimates for Diversion showed nearly the opposite pattern ? ratios were highest in July and lowest in January and February. This difference might reflect complex biological and geochemical processes involving nutrient cycling in Lucky Peak Lake, but further data are needed to substantiate this hypothesis.

Estimated monthly average SS loads were highest at Diversion, about 400 tons per day (ton/d). Average annual loads from 1994 through 2002 were 144,000 tons at Diversion, 33,000 tons at Glenwood, and 88,000 tons at Parma. Estimated SS loads peaked in the spring at all sites, coinciding with high flows.

Increases in TP in the reach from Diversion to Glenwood ranged from 200 to 350 lb/d. Decreases in TP were small in this reach only during high flows in January and February 1997. Decreases in SS, were large during high-flow conditions indicating sediment deposition in the reach. Intermittent data at Middleton indicated that increases and decreases in TP in the reach from Glenwood to Middleton were during low- and high-flow conditions, respectively. All constituents increased in the r

Publication Year 2004
Title Phosphorus and suspended sediment load estimates for the Lower Boise River, Idaho, 1994-2002
DOI 10.3133/sir20045235
Authors Mary M. Donato, Dorene E. MacCoy
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2004-5235
Index ID sir20045235
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse