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  WMIC Publications

No. 3, June 1996


In This Issue

    Surface Water Quality Study
    Liaison Meeting
    Home Page

Factors That Affect Surface-Water Quality

To improve the understanding of how environmental factors affect water quality, the Western Lake Michigan Drainages study unit was divided into areas with similar environmental characteristics (referred to as relatively homogeneous units, RHU's). These areas are dominated by specific combinations of three environmental factors that are thought to be most important in affecting water quality: land use/land cover, surficial deposits, and bedrock. Eight fixed sites in specific RHU's were sampled for two and a half years to describe the streamflow characteristics and the concentrations and loads of nutrients, major ions, and suspended sediment in selected streams in the RHU's. To determine how well the water quality (phosphorus, nitrogen, and suspended sediment) at the fixed sites represents that in the streams throughout the study unit during summer baseflow, 84 additional sites, either in the RHU's with fixed sites or in the other RHU's, were sampled as part of a regional synoptic study.

Total phosphorus concentrations (one constituent examined in this study) throughout the study unit are shown in figure 1. In this figure, the drainage basins upstream of the 92 sites sampled during the synoptic survey are shaded based on their respective total phosphorus concentrations, and the 8 fixed sites are highlighted with black borders. In general, streams with the highest phosphorus concentrations were found in basins with agricultural land-use practices and fine-grained surficial deposits (especially north of Lake Winnebago) and streams with the lowest concentrations were found in the forested northern areas and the areas with very permeable deposits on the western side of the study unit. However, the areas with streams that had the highest total phosphorus concentrations also had the lowest streamflow; therefore, the yields from the basins during summer baseflow periods had no relation to land use-practices in the basin.

Western Lake Michigan Drainages Basins

Figure 1. Western lake Michigan Drainages study unit.
Drainage basins of each site are shaded on the basis
of constituent concentration measured.

The results of this study indicate that, in general, the water-quality samples collected at the 8 fixed sites (highlighted in figure 1) are representative of the environmental conditions in the RHU's from which they were chosen and reflect the range in water quality that exists throughout the study unit during baseflow. This study confirmed what was found from the fixed sites: land use is the most important factor, and the type of surficial deposits is the second most important factor influencing nutrient and suspended sediment concentrations in the study unit.

Annual Liaison Meeting Held

The sixth annual Western Lake Michigan Drainages Liaison Committee Meeting was held at the Pointe Hotel in Minocqua, Wisconsin on February 28, 1996. The meeting took place at the end of the high-intensity phase of sampling and at the beginning of the reports preparation and low-intensity sampling phase. The meeting was a roundtable discussion organized around a "state of the project" description of the surface-water, ground-water, and biological studies. In addition, geographic information system and database-management issues and the upcoming low-intensity phase were discussed. A complete set of overhead transparency graphics that were used to lead those discussions is available upon request. Following the liaison meeting the Western Lake Michigan Drainages NAWQA staff presented five papers on various aspects of the study at the annual American Water Resources Association (AWRA) Wisconsin Section meeting, held at the Pointe on February 29th and March 1st.

World Wide Web Home Page

The World Wide Web is part of a computer information network, the "Information Superhighway," that can provide public access to a wide array of information. The "Web" has grown tremendously in recent years and has become an important mode of information-sharing throughout the world. This information is commonly accessed or disseminated by means of information "Home Pages."

The Western Lake Michigan Drainages NAWQA team has developed a Home Page on the Wisconsin District Web Server that is accessible to outside users with a Web browser. The page is undergoing continuous evolution as the potential of the medium is further explored. Currently, the Home Page contains links to online publications including periodic newsletters, significant findings from published NAWQA reports, digitized maps of the study area, personnel information, liaison committee information, and data archives information. In addition, there are links to other USGS Home Pages, including the Wisconsin District, other NAWQA study units, NAWQA national synthesis, and the USGS Water Resources Division Home Page.

The URL for the Western Lake Michigan Drainages NAWQA Home Page is:

Currently, efforts are underway to develop an online data base to be publicly available to inspect and download any or all data collected by the Western Lake Michigan Drainages NAWQA project. These databases will support some level of query and will be indexed, so that data may be retrieved for specific purposes.

This newsletter was prepared by the Western Lake Michigan Drainages study unit team. The purpose of the newsletter is to help keep the state and local water-resources community informed of our activities. The newsletter represents the views of the WMIC NAWQA team and is intended for informational purposes. It is not intended for redistribution or republication. If you would like your name added to or removed from the mailing list for this newsletter, or if you have any comments regarding this newsletter or our workplans, call Charlie Peters at (608) 276-3810, or write to: WMIC NAWQA, U.S. Geological Survey, 6417 Normandy Lane, Madison, Wisconsin 53719 or send e-mail to: capeters@usgs.gov

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