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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Water Quality Trends and Hydrograph Separation at the Buffalo National River, Arkansas, 1991-2001.

Authors
item White, Kati - UNIV OF ARKANSAS
item Haggard, Brian
item Chaubey, Indrajeet - UNIV OF ARKANSAS
item Green, W. - U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY
item Petersen, James - U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASAE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: December 1, 2003
Publication Date: December 19, 2003
Citation: White, K.L., Haggard, B.E., Chaubey, I., Green, W.R., Petersen, J.C. 2003. Water quality trends and hydrograph separation at the Buffalo National River, Arkansas, 1991-2001. Transactions of the ASAE. 47(2):407-417.

Interpretive Summary: The Buffalo National River (BNR) is a relatively unpolluted, free-flowing river with riffle-pool geomorphology, located in north-central Arkansas. We wanted to investigate changes in water quality, land use and animal production during the last decade from 1991 to 2001. Analysis of land use from 1992 and 1999 indicated that land use for the 348,000-ha catchment had not changed substantially over this period. Hog production decreased in the BNR over the study period, while cattle production experienced minimal change. Poultry production in the state of Arkansas as a whole has increased in the last decade. Water quality trends were evaluated during base flow and surface runoff conditions; surface runoff conditions came after significant rainfall events in the catchment. We found that nitrogen, sediment and bacteria concentrations have increased from 1991 to 2001, particularly during stream flow conditions following rainfall events. Nutrient concentrations and yields at the BNR were greater than half of other streams draining relatively undeveloped basins, but much less than nutrient concentrations and yields observed in agriculturally developed basins close by. Attention should focus on mitigating sources of nutrients lost in surface runoff from precipitation events and careful resource management to sustain the unique conditions of the BNR.

Technical Abstract: The Buffalo National River (BNR) is a relatively unpolluted, free-flowing river with riffle-pool geomorphology, located in north-central Arkansas. Land use changes, animal agricultural production, and water quality trends for the BNR from 1991 to 2001 were assessed. Analysis of land use from 1992 (National GAP data) and 1999 (Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies land use and land cover data) indicated that land use for the 348,000-ha catchment had not changed substantially over this period. Hog production decreased in the BNR over the study period, while cattle production experienced minimal change. Water-quality trends were evaluated (a = 0.1) as a function of all data (water-quality samples from base flow and surface runoff conditions) and independently for base flow and surface runoff data. Trend analyses suggested that only nitrogen, sediment, and E. coli concentrations increased between 1991-2001 in the BNR, particularly during surface runoff events. Flow-weighted nutrient concentrations and yields were greater at the BNR compared to median values for relatively undeveloped basins across the USA. Nutrient concentrations and yields at BNR were only slightly greater than or equal to the values representing the 75th percentile of reference streams. However, nutrient concentrations and yields at the BNR were less than relatively developed basins within the same ecoregion. Attention should focus on mitigating sources of nutrients lost in surface runoff from precipitation events and careful resource management to sustain the unique conditions of the BNR.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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