News Archive - 2014

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Basin-Scale Simulation of Current and Potential Climate Changed Hydrologic Conditions in the Lake Michigan Basin, United States

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is the largest public investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. A task force of 11 Federal agencies developed an action plan to implement the initiative. The U.S. Department of the Interior was one of the 11 agencies that entered into an interagency agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as part of the GLRI to complete scientific projects throughoutthe Great Lakes basin. The U.S. Geological Survey, a bureau within the Department of the Interior, is involved in the GLRI to provide scientific support to management decisions as well as measure progress of the Great Lakes basin restoration efforts. This report presents basin-scale simulated current and forecast climatic and hydrologic conditions in the Lake Michigan Basin. The forecasts were obtained by constructing and calibrating a Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System (PRMS) model of the Lake Michigan Basin; the PRMS model was calibrated using the parameter estimation and uncertainty analysis (PEST) software suite. The calibrated model was used to evaluate potential responses to climate change by using four simulated carbon emission scenarios from eight general circulation models released by the World Climate Research Programme.s Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3. Statistically downscaled datasets of these scenarios were used to project hydrologic response for the Lake Michigan Basin.

In general, most of the observation sites in the Lake Michigan Basin indicated slight increases in annual streamflow in response to future climate change scenarios. Monthly streamflows indicated a general shift from the current (2014) winter-storage/snowmelt-pulse system to a system with a more equally distributed hydrograph throughout the year. Simulated soil moisture within the basin illustrates that conditions within the basin are also expected to change on a monthly timescale. One effect of increasing air temperature as a result of the changing climate was the appreciable increase in the length of the growing season in the Lake Michigan Basin. The increase in growing season will cause an increase in evapotranspiration across the Lake Michigan Basin, which will directly affect soil moisture and late growing season streamflows. Output from the Lake Michigan Basin PRMS model is available through an online dynamic web mapping service available at (

The map service includes layers for the each of the 8 global climate models and 4 carbon emission scenarios combinations for 12 hydrologic model state vari-ables. The layers are pre-rendered maps of annual hydrologic response from 1977 through 2099 that provide an easily accessible online method to examine climate change effects across the Lake Michigan Basin.


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Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2010

Here are some key facts from the report:
  • Total estimated water withdrawals in 2010 in the U.S. were 355 billion gallons per day, or about 13% less than total estimated withdrawals in 2005. National water use is at the lowest levels since before 1970;
  • In 2010, more than 50 percent of the total withdrawals in the United States were accounted for by 12 states in order of withdrawal amounts: California, Texas, Idaho, Florida, Illinois, North Carolina, Arkansas, Colorado, Michigan, New York, Alabama and Ohio;
  • Florida had the largest saline withdrawals, accounting for 18 percent of the total in the country, mostly saline surface-water withdrawals for thermoelectric power;
  • Oklahoma and Texas accounted for about 70 percent of the total saline groundwater withdrawals in the United States, mostly for mining
  • Withdrawals for all of these uses declined in 2010:
  • Thermoelectric power declined 20% and represented the largest percent decline and the largest water use;
  • Irrigation withdrawals (all freshwater) declined 9%, public-supply withdrawals declined 5%, and self-supplied industrial withdrawals declined 12%;
  • Mining and aquaculture were the only major sectors that reported increases in total withdrawals in 2010. Mining increased 40% and aquaculture increased 7 percent.


USGS and Canada Reach Confluence in Monitoring Streamflow

In a joint effort, the U.S. Geological Survey and the Water Survey of Canada (WSC) have produced the North America WaterWatch (NAWW), an online website that displays streamflow conditions throughout much of North America.

The site provides a fast, easy-to-use, cartographically-based, central web interface for users to access real-time streamflow conditions for both Canada and the United States. NAWW can be accessed online in both English and French.

"North America WaterWatch delivers easily understandable maps and graphics of streamflow conditions and, simultaneously, provides access to real-time and past streamflow data at thousands of streamgages in both nations, said Jerad Bales, USGS Chief Scientist for Water. The portal demonstrates the value of free exchange of water-data through interoperable web services, which is a major strategic focus of the USGS through open-water data activities."

The international collaboration was announced at the American Water Resources Association annual conference in Tysons Corner, Va.

The NAWW site is arranged similarly to USGS Water Watch. Real-time instantaneous flow data are compared against historical daily streamflow percentiles at hydrometric monitoring stations. The stations are then color coded on the map to indicate current flow conditions in relation to normal conditions based on statistical thresholds (i.e. much below normal, below normal, normal, above normal, much above normal, and high). The timely availability of these streamflow indicators is vital to water managers and the general public, as the easily-recognized indicators constitute a direct link between hydrological field information and the assessment of risks.

NAWW displays streamflow conditions in Canada for about 1000 real-time flow stations with more than 20 years of continuous streamflow records selected from three different data sources: the Water Survey of Canada (~ 850), Centre d'expertise hydrique du Qu\351bec (~ 100), and Alberta Environment (~ 60). Streamflow conditions in the United States are shown for roughly 8000 real-time flow stations. The data on the website are updated hourly; daily statistics are updated quarterly.

The publishing of the NAWW website marks another milestone achieved through the cooperation between USGS and WSC.


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The Effects of Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System Operations on 2011 Flooding Using a Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System Model

In 2011 the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System (Reservoir System) experienced the largest volume of flood waters since the initiation of record-keeping in the nineteenth century. The high levels of runoff from both snowpack and rainfall stressed the Reservoir System.s capacity to control flood waters and caused massive damage and disruption along the river. The flooding and resulting damage along the Missouri River brought increased public attention to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) operation of the Reservoir System. To help understand the effects of Reservoir System operation on the 2011 Missouri River flood flows, the U.S. Geological Survey Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System was used to construct a model of the Missouri River Basin to simulate flows at streamgages and dam locations with the effects of Reservoir System operation (regulation) on flow removed. Statistical tests indicate that the Missouri River Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System model is a good fit for high-flow monthly and annual stream flow estimation. A comparison of simulated unregulated flows and measured regulated flows show that regulation greatly reduced spring peak flow events, consolidated two summer peak flow events to one with a markedly decreased magnitude, and maintained higher than normal base flow beyond the end of water year 2011. Further comparison of results indicate that without regulation, flows greater than those measured would have occurred and been sustained for much longer, frequently in excess of 30 da ys, and flooding associated with high-flow events would have been more severe.


Chemicals Found in Treated Wastewater are Transported from Streams to Groundwater

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists studying a midwestern stream conclude that pharmaceuticals and other contaminants in treated wastewater effluent discharged to the stream are transported into adjacent shallow groundwater. Other mobile chemicals found in wastewater are expected to have similar fates. The study was conducted at Fourmile Creek, a wastewater-dominated stream near Des Moines, Iowa, during two sampling periods, October and December 2012. Wastewater effluent contributed approximately 99 and 71 percent of the flow in Fourmile Creek during these sampling periods, respectively. Persistent dry conditions predominated in the watershed through the study period.


Contaminants of emerging concern in fresh leachate from landfills in the conterminous United States

Landfill leachate contains a variety of chemicals that reflect our daily activities, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists concluded as a result of a nationwide study. Landfills are a common disposal mechanism for our Nation's solid waste from residential, commercial, and industrial sources. The scientists found that pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, and other contaminants of emerging concern are widespread in water that has passed through landfills, known as leachate. This study is the first national assessment of these chemicals in landfill waste in the United States. The USGS Headline and corresponding Technical Announcement for this paper can be found here.


Widespread occurrence of neonicotinoid insecticides in streams in a high corn and soybean producing region, USA


  • Neonicotinoids prevalent in streams in a corn and soybean region during growing season.
  • Observed temporal patterns suggest seed treatment use contributing to stream concentrations.
  • Frequency of detection: clothianidin (75%) > thiamethoxam (47%) > imidacloprid (23%).
  • Chemical use and precipitation are important driving factors for off-field transport to streams.
  • Concentrations may frequently exceed chronic aquatic toxicity values during growing season.


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Summary of U.S. Geological Survey Reports Documenting Flood Profiles of Streams in Iowa, 1963-2012

This report summarizes 47 U.S. Geological Survey flood-profile reports that were published for streams in Iowa during a 50-year period from 1963 to 2012. Flood events profiled in the reports range from 1903 to 2010. The report summarizes flood-profile measurements, changes in flood-profile report content throughout the years, streams that were profiled in the reports, the occurrence of flood events profiled, and annual exceedance-probability estimates of observed flood events. A total of 94 stream reaches have been profiled in U.S. Geological Survey flood-profile reports. Floods were profiled for June flood events for 18 different years, followed by July flood events for 13 years, May flood events for 11 years, and April flood events for 9 years. Multiple large flood events exceeding the 2-percent annual exceedance-probability discharge estimate occurred at 37 of 98 selected streamgages during 1960-2012. Five large flood events were recorded at two streamgages in Ames during 1990-2010 and four large flood events were recorded at four other streamgages during 1973-2010. Results of Kendall's tau trend-analysis tests for 35 of 37 selected streamgages indicate that a statistically significant trend is not evident for the 1963-2012 period of record; nor is an overall clear positive or negative trend evident for the 37 streamgages.


Contaminants of Emerging Concern: New Environmental Challenges

The presentations from the Iowa Groundwater and Public Health Symposium (March 11, 2014, Des Moines, IA) are now available on the web. Dana Kolpin from the USGS Iowa Water Science Center gave the presentation "Contaminants of Emerging Concern: New Environmental Challenges" at this conference.


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Decadal surface water quality trends under variable climate, land use, and hydrogeochemical setting in Iowa, USA,

In the midwestern United States, expansion of corn cropping for ethanol production during the last decade, led to increasing N application rates in the 2000ís during a period of extreme variability of annual precipitation. The analysis of several decades of nitrate concentration and flow data from 10 major Iowa Rivers indicated that flow-normalized concentrations of nitrate+nitrite-N decreased from 2000 to 2012 in all basins. The recent declining concentration trends can be attributed to both very high and very low discharge in the 2000s and to the long (e.g., 8 year) subsurface residence times in some basins. Dilution of N and depletion of stored N occurs in years with high discharge. Reduced N transport and increased N storage occurs in low-discharge years. Central Iowa basins had the greatest reduction in flow-normalized concentrations, likely because of smaller storage volumes and shorter residence times. Effects of land-use changes on the water quality of major Iowa Rivers may not be noticeable for years or decades in peripheral basins of Iowa, and may be obscured in the central basins where extreme flows strongly affect annual concentration trends.


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