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Water quality and ecological condition of urban streams in Independence, Missouri, June 2005 through December 2008

August 31, 2010

To identify the sources of selected constituents in urban streams and better understand processes affecting water quality and their effects on the ecological condition of urban streams and the Little Blue River in Independence, Missouri the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with the City of Independence Water Pollution Control Department initiated a study in June 2005 to characterize water quality and evaluate the ecological condition of streams within Independence. Base-flow and stormflow samples collected from five sites within Independence, from June 2005 to December 2008, were used to characterize the physical, chemical, and biologic effects of storm runoff on the water quality in Independence streams and the Little Blue River. The streams draining Independence-Rock Creek, Sugar Creek, Mill Creek, Fire Prairie Creek, and the Little Blue River-drain to the north and the Missouri River. Two small predominantly urban streams, Crackerneck Creek [12.9-square kilometer (km2) basin] and Spring Branch Creek (25.4-km2 basin), were monitored that enter into the Little Blue River between upstream and downstream monitoring sites. The Little Blue River above the upstream site is regulated by several reservoirs, but streamflow is largely uncontrolled. The Little Blue River Basin encompasses 585 km2 with about 168 km2 or 29 percent of the basin lying within the city limits of Independence. Water-quality samples also were collected for Rock Creek (24.1-km2 basin) that drains the western part of Independence.

Data collection included streamflow, physical properties, dissolved oxygen, chloride, metals, nutrients, common organic micro-constituents, and fecal indicator bacteria. Benthic macroinvertebrate community surveys and habitat assessments were conducted to establish a baseline for evaluating the ecological condition and health of streams within Independence. Additional dry-weather screenings during base flow of all streams draining Independence were conducted to identify point-source discharges and other sources of potential contamination. Regression models were used to estimate continuous and annual flow-weighted concentrations, loadings, and yields for chloride, total nitrogen, total phosphorus, suspended sediment, and Escherichia coli bacteria densities.

Base-flow and stormflow water-quality samples were collected at five sites within Independence. Base-flow samples for Rock Creek and two tributary streams to the Little Blue River exceeded recommended U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for the protection of aquatic life for total nitrogen and total phosphorus in about 90 percent of samples, whereas samples collected at two Little Blue River sites exceeded both the total nitrogen and total phosphorus standards less often, about 30 percent of the time. Dry-weather screening identified a relatively small number (14.0 percent of all analyses) of potential point-source discharges for total chlorine, phenols, and anionic surfactants.

Stormflow had larger median measured concentrations of total common organic micro-constituents than base flow. The four categories of common organic micro-constituents with the most total detections in stormflow were pesticides (100 percent), polyaromatic hydrocarbons and combustion by-products (99 percent), plastics (93 percent), and stimulants (91 percent). Most detections of common organic micro-constituents were less than 2 micrograms per liter. Median instantaneous Escherichia coli densities for stormflow samples showed a 21 percent increase measured at the downstream site on the Little Blue River from the sampled upstream site. Using microbial source-tracking methods, less than 30 percent of Escherichia coli bacteria in samples were identified as having human sources.

Base-flow and stormflow data were used to develop regression equations with streamflow and continuous water-quality data to estimate daily concentrations, loads, and yields of various water-quality contaminants.

Publication Year 2010
Title Water quality and ecological condition of urban streams in Independence, Missouri, June 2005 through December 2008
DOI 10.3133/sir20105074
Authors D. Christensen, Thomas E. Harris, Shelley L. Niesen
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2010-5074
Index ID sir20105074
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Missouri Water Science Center