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Summary of extreme water-quality conditions in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2005–19

December 2, 2022

This study used the complete set of continuous water-quality (WQ) data and discrete measurements of total ammonia collected by the U.S. Geological Survey from 2005 to 2019 at the four core sites in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, to examine relations between variables and extreme conditions that may be harmful for endemic Lost River suckers (Deltistes luxatus) and shortnose suckers (Chasmistes brevirostris). Several graphical and tabular approaches were used to compare variables, sites, and years to better understand the factors contributing to and timing of extreme WQ in the lake. Extreme WQ thresholds were defined as the 1st or 99th percentiles of the daily average dataset of water temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration, and the weekly estimated un-ionized ammonia (NH3) from 2005 to 2019. Extreme WQ days were defined as those when at least 12 hours of measurements exceeded the extreme WQ threshold. The core site at Mid-Trench, which was also the deepest measurement site with a full-pool depth of 15 meters and at which water-quality sondes were deployed at the top and bottom of the water column, had the most extreme conditions of high water temperature, low DO, and high NH3. The upper sonde at Mid-Trench represented 40 percent of all days of extremely high water temperature (days with at least 12 hours exceeding 24.38 degrees Celsius) in the lake and 71 percent of all weekly estimates of extremely high NH3 (greater than 264 micrograms per liter) in the lake. The lower sonde at Mid-Trench represented 85 percent of all days of extremely low DO (days with at least 12 hours of DO concentrations less than 1.76 milligrams per liter) in the lake. In each of the study years, poor water quality at Mid-Trench, as represented by several metrics, lasted for multiple days. The shallowest site at the Williamson River outlet represented 54 percent of all days of extremely high pH (days with at least 12 hours of pH measurements exceeding 10.04) in the lake. The seasonality of extreme WQ during the summer sampling period (limited to June through September) was evaluated and most days of extremely high water temperature (83 percent) and extremely high pH (54 percent) occurred in July, whereas most days of extremely low DO (57 percent) and extremely high NH3 (57 percent) occurred in August. The years with the most days of extreme WQ accumulated for all variables (high water temperature, low DO, high pH, and high NH3) were 2012–15 and 2017, which all occurred in the latter half of the study period. The years with the fewest accumulated days of extreme WQ were 2010 and 2011.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2022
Title Summary of extreme water-quality conditions in Upper Klamath Lake, Oregon, 2005–19
DOI 10.3133/ofr20221080
Authors Susan A. Wherry
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2022-1080
Index ID ofr20221080
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center