Flat Creek, a tributary to the Snake River in northwestern Wyoming, is an important source of irrigation water, fish and wildlife habitat, and local recreation. Since 1996, a section of Flat Creek within the town of Jackson has failed to meet Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality’s surface-water-quality standards for total suspended solids and turbidity required by its State water-use classification. Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality water-quality standards prohibit increases of greater than 10 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU) because of human activities in streambodies of Wyoming. Sediment loading from urban stormwater runoff is hypothesized in previous publications to be the primary cause of impairment, but the relative fine sediment contributions from various sources have not been quantified.
In cooperation with the Teton Conservation District, the U.S. Geological Survey began a pilot study in the Flat Creek drainage basin to investigate the use of continuous turbidity measurements to predict suspended-sediment concentrations, loads, and sources through the town of Jackson, Wyoming. The predictions were based on turbidity measurements collected every 15 minutes during parts of water years 2019 and 2020. Analysis of differences in the more than 15,000 turbidity measurements coincident between upstream and downstream streamgages indicated that differences of 10 formazin nephelometric units (FNU) or greater composed about 1 percent of the total accepted measurements during the 2019 and 2020 measurement periods. The median difference in measured turbidity between coincident records at the upstream and downstream streamgages in 2019 was 0.20 FNU and the median difference in 2020 was 0.0 FNU.
Calculations of mean total sediment loads in Flat Creek during 2019 and 2020 indicate substantially more suspended-sediment was in Flat Creek below the town of Jackson than above town. Mean total calculated suspended-sediment loads at the upstream streamgage were 26 percent in 2019 and 21 percent in 2020 of the mean total suspended-sediment loads at the downstream streamgage. For measurements occurring at the same time (coincident), mean calculated suspended-sediment loads entering the town of Jackson from Flat Creek were 39 percent in 2019 and 35 percent in 2020 of those loads exiting town in Flat Creek. Incorporating statistical model uncertainty, mean differences between predicted suspended-sediment loads could potentially be zero. The annual period of operations of the South Park Supply Ditch, which diverts water into Flat Creek from the Gros Ventre River, constituted between 91 and 90 percent of the total calculated suspended-sediment load at the upstream streamgage, and between 88 and 87 percent of the loads at the downstream streamgage for coincident periods of record in 2019 and 2020, respectively. However, in the absence of simultaneous continuous monitoring and resulting measurements at the outlet of the South Park Supply Ditch, no robust method was available to quantify suspended-sediment loads from the ditch.
A moving average filter was used to identify and isolate short-duration (minutes to hours) spikes in turbidity at the downstream streamgage that were likely caused by overland flow and urban runoff. Suspended-sediment loads during urban runoff constituted about 8 and 10 percent of the total calculated suspended-sediment loads at the downstream streamgage (Flat Creek below Cache Creek, near Jackson, Wyoming; U.S. Geological Survey streamgage 13018350), and 6 and 4 percent of the loads calculated for the record coincident with the upstream streamgage in 2019 and 2020, respectively. Estimated suspended-sediment loads at the upstream streamgage during urban runoff events for the coincident period of record constitute 32 and 40 percent of the total estimated suspended-sediment loads at the downstream streamgage in 2019 and 2020, respectively, indicating sediment loads from urban runoff may contribute less than 10 percent, even as little as 5 percent, of the total sediment load exiting the town of Jackson on Flat Creek. Estimation of the proportion of suspended-sediment loads at the upstream site that originate from the South Park Supply Ditch or Cache Creek can only be done with assumptions but have the potential to be equivalent to or greater than calculated suspended-sediment loads associated with urban runoff.
|Title||Using continuous measurements of turbidity to predict suspended-sediment concentrations, loads, and sources in Flat Creek through the town of Jackson, Wyoming, 2019−20 — A pilot study|
|Authors||Jason S. Alexander, Carlin Girard, James Campbell, Chris Ellison, Elyce Gosselin, Emily Smith|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Open-File Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center|