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Water quality in Indiana: trends in concentrations of selected nutrients, metals, and ions in streams, 2000-10

December 10, 2014

Water quality in Indiana streams generally improved during the 2000–10 study period, based on trends in selected nutrients, metals, and ions. This study combined water-quality data from the Indiana Fixed Station Monitoring Program (FSMP) with streamflow data from nearby U.S. Geological Survey streamgages. A parametric time-series model, QWTREND, was used to develop streamflow-adjusted constituent concentrations, to adjust for seasonal variance and serial correlation, and to identify trends independent of streamflow-related variability. This study examined 7,345 water samples from 57 FSMP sites for 11 years. Concentration trends were analyzed for 12 constituents—the nutrients nitrate, organic nitrogen, and phosphorus; suspended solids; the metals copper, iron, lead, and zinc; the ions chloride, and sulfate together with hardness as a measure of the calcium carbonate ion; and dissolved solids.


Nutrient concentrations in this study generally were too high relative to standards and criteria. The national recommended criteria for the three ecoregions in Indiana were exceeded by more than one-half of the nitrate and most of the phosphorus concentrations. Copper, lead, zinc, chloride, sulfate, and dissolved solids concentrations were in acceptable ranges relative to standards and criteria in more than 97 percent of samples. The two Lake Michigan Basin sites had the highest concentrations and were in a unique statistical group for 10 of the 12 constituents, with concentrations many times higher than the statewide median and higher than the medians of most other basins. The two Ohio River Basin sites had the lowest concentrations and were in a unique statistical group for 6 of the 12 constituents.


Statistically significant trends were identified that included 167 downward trends and 83 upward trends. The Kankakee River Basin had the most significant upward trends while the most significant downward trends were in the Whitewater River Basin, the Lake Michigan Basin, and the Patoka River Basin. For most constituents, a majority of sites had significant downward trends. Two streams in the Lake Michigan Basin have shown substantial decreases in most constituents. The West Fork White River near Indianapolis, Indiana, showed increases in nitrate and phosphorus and the Kankakee River Basin showed increases in copper, zinc, chloride, sulfate, and hardness. Upward trends in nutrients were identified at a few sites, but most nutrient trends were downward. Upward trends in metals corresponded with relatively small concentration increases while downward trends involved considerably larger concentration changes. Downward trends in chloride, sulfate, and suspended solids were observed statewide, but upward trends in hardness were observed in the northern half of Indiana.

Publication Year 2014
Title Water quality in Indiana: trends in concentrations of selected nutrients, metals, and ions in streams, 2000-10
DOI 10.3133/sir20145205
Authors Martin R. Risch, Aubrey R. Bunch, Aldo V. Vecchia, Jeffrey D. Martin, Nancy T. Baker
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5205
Index ID sir20145205
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Indiana Water Science Center