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Temporal and spatial monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms at Willow Creek Reservoir, North-Central Oregon

July 11, 2018

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) investigated the spatial and temporal dynamics of cyanobacterial (blue-green algal) blooms in Willow Creek Reservoir in north-central Oregon in 2015–16. A combination of cameras and water-quality monitoring equipment was used to assess the frequency and duration of blooms and their effects on water quality. A surveillance camera captured color images every 15 minutes during daylight hours of the northwestern corner of Willow Creek Reservoir, where surface blooms tend to accumulate due to the prevailing summer winds. In 2015, a water-quality instrument was deployed in the northwestern corner of the reservoir to continuously measure water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, turbidity, total chlorophyll, and the blue-green algae pigment phycocyanin. In 2016, a water-quality instrument was used to collect measurements along transects throughout the reservoir to create spatial maps of water quality. The spatially integrated mapping process was repeated on three different days under varying algal conditions. Also in 2016, a telemetry connection was established allowing resource managers to view the reservoir images in near-real time.

Results from 2015 indicate that surface accumulations of cyanobacteria can form and dissipate within minutes in the reservoir, and that blooms can cause substantial changes to water quality. A persistent cyanobacterial bloom in August and September 2015 resulted in pH values of 9.5 standard units, 220 percent oxygen saturation, and pronounced increases in turbidity and total chlorophyll. The stationary water-quality instrument collected data during periods with and without blooms, increasing our understanding of the effects of blooms on water quality and revealing potential restoration benchmarks for the freshwater reservoir. The spatially integrated mapping data showed the variation in water quality across the reservoir that occurs during blooms and baseline conditions and indicated regions of the reservoir to focus restoration efforts. Additional spatial data collection can be timed to collect daily extremes.

The camera deployment in 2016 demonstrated that telemetering images from remote sites is possible and provides valuable and timely information. Monitoring with a surveillance camera is inexpensive and supplies data regarding surface-bloom presence or absence. The use of a camera can help target site visits to periods when blooms are observed, which may increase the accuracy of beginning and ending dates for water body closures.

Monitoring cyanobacterial blooms in Willow Creek Reservoir with multiple devices provided a more comprehensive dataset than any one monitoring method. The camera images showed when a surface bloom initiated and dissipated while the water-quality instrument revealed the magnitude, or potential severity, of the effects on water quality.  

Citation Information

Publication Year 2018
Title Temporal and spatial monitoring of cyanobacterial blooms at Willow Creek Reservoir, North-Central Oregon
DOI 10.3133/sir20185083
Authors Cassandra D. Smith
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2018-5083
Index ID sir20185083
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Oregon Water Science Center