Estimating sediment and nutrient loads in four western lake superior streams

Elaine M Ruzycki, Richard P Axler, George E Host, Jerald R. Henneck, Norman R. Will

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Total suspended solids (TSS) and total phosphorus (TP) have been shown to be strongly correlated with turbidity in watersheds. High-frequency in situ turbidity can provide estimates of these potential pollutants over a wide range of hydrologic conditions. Concentrations and loads were estimated in four western Lake Superior trout streams from 2005 to 2010 using regression models relating continuous turbidity data to grab sample measures of TSS and TP during differing flow regimes. TSS loads estimated using the turbidity surrogate were compared with those made using FLUX software, a standard assessment technique based on discharge and grab sampling for TSS. More traditional rating curve methodology was not suitable because of the high variability in the particulates vs. discharge relationship. Stream-specific turbidity and TSS data were strongly correlated (r2 = 0.5 to 0.8; p < 0.05) and less so for TP (r2 = 0.3 to 0.7; p < 0.05). Near-continuous turbidity monitoring (every 15 min) provided a good method for estimating both TSS and TP concentration, providing information when manual sample collection was unlikely, and allowing for detailed analyses of short-term responses of flashy Lake Superior tributaries to highly variable weather and hydrologic conditions while the FLUX model typically resulted in load estimates greater than those determined using the turbidity surrogate, with 17/23 stream years having greater FLUX estimates for TSS and 18/23 for TP.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1138-1154
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Water Resources Association.


  • Continuous monitoring
  • Nonpoint source pollution
  • Surrogate
  • Suspended sediments
  • Turbidity

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