Water-quality characteristics of the Red River of the North and tributaries in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, North Dakota, 2019–22
The Flood Risk Management Project was initiated in 2008 in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area to reduce flood risk, flood damages, and flood protection costs in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area. In cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Geological Survey initiated a water-quality monitoring study to describe the water-quality characteristics of the Red River of the North and its tributaries in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area during the preconstruction period of the Flood Risk Management Project from October 1, 2019, to October 1, 2022. The monitoring study included the collection of discrete and continuous water-quality data and streamflow monitoring at selected sites that integrated and enhanced existing monitoring programs within the study area.
Discrete samples collected at 10 sites in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area were analyzed for major ions, trace elements, nutrients, suspended sediment, pesticides, and fecal indicator bacteria. In general, major ion concentrations were higher at sites on the tributaries (Wild Rice, Sheyenne, and Maple Rivers) compared to sites on the Red River of the North. In general, bicarbonate, calcium, magnesium, and sulfate represented most of the dissolved ions measured in samples collected at the 10 sites. Calcium, chloride, fluoride, potassium, silica, and sodium were also measured in samples, but they represented a smaller portion of the total dissolved ions. Sulfate was the most dominant dissolved ion that had the highest concentrations among the major ions measured in samples.
A total of 18 trace elements were analyzed in discrete samples. Several of the trace elements had concentrations below the laboratory reporting level in all of the samples, including antimony, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, silver, and thallium. Sites on the Wild Rice River generally had the highest concentrations of arsenic, barium, boron, manganese, and nickel compared to the other sites.
Nutrients analyzed in discrete samples included filtered and unfiltered concentrations of ammonia, nitrate plus nitrite, phosphorus, and organic carbon. The median filtered ammonia concentration at most sites was less than the laboratory reporting level of 0.03 milligram per liter as nitrogen except for the Sheyenne River at Harwood, North Dakota (U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] station 05060400), and Red River of the North near Georgetown, Minnesota (USGS station 05062130). The lowest median unfiltered nitrate plus nitrite concentration was measured at sites on the Red River of the North upstream from the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area and the highest median was at sites on the Red River of the North downstream from the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area compared to all other sites. The increase in nitrate plus nitrite concentrations could reflect the effect of the wastewater-treatment plant discharge that enters the Red River of the North upstream from the site located downstream from the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area and from urban runoff. Phosphorus (unfiltered) concentrations were generally higher at sites on the Maple and Sheyenne Rivers compared to the other sites and were higher at sites on the Red River of the North downstream from the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area compared to sites upstream on the Red River of the North.
Suspended-sediment concentrations were generally highest at sites in the Sheyenne River and lowest in the upstream Red River of the North sites. Suspended-sediment concentration was highly variable in samples collected at the 10 sites, mostly influenced by the occurrence of snowmelt and rainfall-runoff events. The Sheyenne River near Kindred, N. Dak. (USGS station 05059000) had the largest range in sediment concentrations in samples collected at the 10 sites. For all sites other than the Sheyenne River near Kindred, N. Dak., 95 percent or more of the suspended sediment had particle diameter sizes less than 0.0625 millimeter in 50 percent of the samples (median).
Of the 102 pesticides and pesticide degradates analyzed, 45 constituents had no detectable concentrations in any of the 17 samples collected at five sites. The remaining 57 pesticides had at least one detection in the samples collected at the five sites. The sites on the Wild Rice River (near Abercrombie, N. Dak., USGS station 05053000, and near St. Benedict, N. Dak., USGS station 05053500) and Sheyenne River near Kindred, N. Dak., had fewer pesticide detections compared to the Maple River below Mapleton, N.Dak. (USGS station 05060100) and the Red River of the North at Fargo, N. Dak (USGS station 05054000) and near Georgetown, Minn.
Patterns in annual loads generally followed the same pattern as streamflow at the 10 sites for water years 2020–22. A water year is the 12-month period from October 1 to September 30 and is designated by the calendar year in which it ends. The greatest loads for all constituents were delivered at the two downstream sites on the Red River of the North; sites that also had the highest annual streamflows among the sites and the greatest loads were delivered in water year 2020 when the highest streamflows occurred at the sites. Likewise, the least loads for most constituents were at the Maple River and were least in 2021 compared to the other years because of low-streamflow conditions.
Water-quality measurements continuously recorded at the Red River of the North at Hickson, N. Dak. (USGS station 05051522); Red River of the North at Fargo, N. Dak.; and Red River of the North near Georgetown, Minn. included water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, pH, and turbidity. Specific conductance values were similar for the Red River of the North near Hickson, N. Dak., and Red River of the North at Fargo, N. Dak., when compared to the Red River of the North near Georgetown, Minn. that had higher values than the other two sites. Dissolved oxygen concentrations and pH were similar among the three sites on the Red River. The patterns in turbidity were mostly related to streamflow conditions and were similar among the three sites on the Red River of the North.
|Water-quality characteristics of the Red River of the North and tributaries in the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, North Dakota, 2019–22
|Joel M. Galloway, Rochelle A. Nustad, Spencer L. Wheeling
|USGS Numbered Series
|Scientific Investigations Report
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Dakota Water Science Center