Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Streamflow and estimated loads of phosphorus and dissolved and suspended solids from selected tributaries to Lake Ontario, New York, water years 2012–14

September 10, 2021

This report presents results of the evaluation and interpretation of hydrologic and water-quality data collected as part of a cooperative program between the U.S. Geological Survey and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Streamflow, phosphorus, and solids dissolved and suspended in stream water were the focus of monitoring by the U.S. Geological Survey at 10 sites on 9 selected tributaries to Lake Ontario during the period from October 2011 through September 2014. Streamflow yields (flow per unit area) were the highest from the Salmon River Basin due to sustained yields from the Tug Hill aquifer. The Eighteenmile Creek streamflow yields also were high as a result of sustained base flow contributions from a dam just upstream of the U.S. Geological Survey monitoring station at Burt. The lowest streamflow yields were measured in the Honeoye Creek Basin, which reflects a decrease in flow because of withdrawals from Canadice and Hemlock Lakes for the water supply of the City of Rochester. The Eighteenmile Creek and Oak Orchard Creek Basins had relatively high yields due in part to groundwater contributions from the Niagara Escarpment and seasonal releases from the New York State Barge Canal.

Annual constituent yields (load per unit area) of suspended solids, phosphorus, orthophosphate, and dissolved solids were computed to assess the relative contributions and allow direct comparison of loads among the monitored basins. High yields of total suspended solids were attributed to agricultural land use in highly erodible soils at all sites. The Genesee River, Irondequoit Creek, and Honeoye Creek had the highest concentrations and largest mean yields of total suspended solids (165 short tons per square mile [t/mi2], 184 t/mi2, and 89.7 t/mi2, respectively) of the study sites.

Samples from Eighteenmile Creek, Oak Orchard Creek at Kenyonville, and Irondequoit Creek had the highest concentrations and largest mean yields of phosphorus (0.27 t/mi2, 0.26 t/mi2, and 0.20 t/mi2, respectively) and orthophosphate (0.17 t/mi2, 0.13 t/mi2, and 0.04 t/mi2, respectively) of the study sites. These results were attributed to a combination of sources, including discharges from wastewater treatment plants, diversions from the New York State Barge Canal, and manure and fertilizers applied to agricultural land. Yields of phosphorus also were high in the Genesee River Basin (0.17 t/mi2) and were presumably associated with nutrient and sediment transport from agricultural land and from streambank erosion. The Salmon and Black Rivers, which drain a substantial amount of forested land and are influenced by large groundwater discharges, had the lowest concentrations and yields of phosphorus and orthophosphate of the study sites.

Mean annual yields of dissolved solids were the highest in Irondequoit Creek due to a high percentage of urbanized area in the basin and in Oak Orchard Creek at Kenyonville and in Eighteenmile Creek due to groundwater contributions from the Niagara Escarpment. High yields of dissolved solids of 840 t/mi2, 829 t/mi2, and 715 t/mi2, respectively, from these basins can be attributed to seasonal chloride yields associated with use of road deicing salts. The Niagara Escarpment can produce large amounts of dissolved solids from the dissolution of minerals (a continual process reflected in base flow samples). Groundwater inflows in the Salmon River have very low concentrations of dissolved solids due to minimal bedrock interaction along the Tug Hill Plateau and discharge from the Tug Hill sand and gravel aquifer, which has minimal mineralization.

Related Content