Estimation of Suspended-Sediment Concentration From Total Suspended Solids and Turbidity Data for Kentucky, 1978-1995

Authors

  • Tanja N. Williamson,

    1. Respectively, Research Hydrologist, Kentucky Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, 9818 Bluegrass Parkway, Louisville, Kentucky 40299
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  • Charles G. Crawford

    1. National Water Quality Assessment Program Surface Water Status and Trends and National Stream Quality Accounting Network Coordinator, Indiana Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Indianapolis, Indiana 46278
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  • Paper No. JAWRA-09-0179-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

(E-Mail/Williamson: tnwillia@usgs.gov).

Abstract

Williamson, Tanja N. and Charles G. Crawford, 2011. Estimation of Suspended-Sediment Concentration From Total Suspended Solids and Turbidity Data for Kentucky, 1978-1995. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 47(4):739-749. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00538.x

Abstract:  Suspended sediment is a constituent of water quality that is monitored because of concerns about accelerated erosion, nonpoint contamination of water resources, and degradation of aquatic environments. In order to quantify the relationship among different sediment parameters for Kentucky streams, long-term records were obtained from the National Water Information System of the U.S. Geological Survey. Suspended-sediment concentration (SSC), the parameter traditionally measured and reported by the U.S. Geological Survey, was statistically compared to turbidity and total suspended solids (TSS), two parameters that are considered surrogate data. A linear regression of log-transformed observations was used to estimate SSC from TSS; 72% of TSS observations were less than coincident SSC observations; however, the estimated SSC values were almost as likely to be overestimated as underestimated. The SSC-turbidity relationship also used log-transformed observations, but required a nonlinear, breakpoint regression that separated turbidity observations ≤6 nephelometric turbidity units. The slope for these low turbidity values was not significantly different than zero, indicating that low turbidity observations provide no real information about SSC; in the case of the Kentucky sediment record, this accounts for 30% of the turbidity observations.

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