Modeled Summer Background Concentration of Nutrients and Suspended Sediment in the Mid-Continent (USA) Great Rivers

Ted R. Angradi, David W. Bolgrien, Matt A. Starry, Brian H. Hill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used regression models to predict summer background concentration of total nitrogen (N), total phosphorus (P), and total suspended solids (TSS), in the mid-continent great rivers: the Upper Mississippi, the Lower Missouri, and the Ohio. From multiple linear regressions of water quality indicators with land use and other stressor variables, we determined the concentration of the indicators when the predictor variables were all set to zero - the y-intercept. Except for total P on the Upper Mississippi River, we could predict background concentration using regression models. Predicted background concentration of total N was about the same on the Upper Mississippi and Lower Missouri Rivers (430μgl -1), which was lower than percentile-based values, but was similar to concentrations derived from the response of sestonic chlorophyll a to great river total N concentration. Background concentration of total P on the Lower Missouri (65μgl -1) was also lower than published and percentile-based concentrations. Background TSS concentration was higher on the Lower Missouri (40mgl -1) than the other rivers. Background TSS concentration on the Upper Mississippi (16mgl -1) was below a threshold (30mgl -1) designed to protect aquatic vegetation. Our model-predicted concentrations for the great rivers are an attempt to estimate background concentrations for water quality indicators independent from thresholds based on percentiles or derived from stressor-response relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1054-1070
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2012


  • Chlorophyll a, criteria
  • Land use
  • Mississippi River
  • Missouri River
  • Nutrients
  • Ohio River
  • Reference condition
  • Total nitrogen
  • Total phosphorus
  • Total suspended solids


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