Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center
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Sampling during low-flow conditions is the most common approach for characterizing water quality in streams affected by mining. While this type of sampling is an invaluable part of site characterization, investigations which focus solely on low-flow conditions may yield incomplete and sometimes misleading results. A recently completed study, which involved sampling before and during a rainstorm, demonstrated this point. During the low-flow period prior to the rainstorm, concentrations of most constituents met aquatic standards. However, sampling during higher flow, which had been augmented by rainfall runoff, showed that metal concentrations were 2–23 times higher than the concentrations observed during low-flow sampling. The possible mechanisms responsible for the increase in metal concentrations as well as other findings from the study are described.
Changes in streamflow associated with long-term climate change may render some streams in the Northern Great Plains uninhabitable for current fish species. To better understand future hydrology of these prairie streams, the Precipitation-Runoff Modeling System model and RegCM3 Regional Climate model were used to simulate streamflow for seven watersheds in eastern and central Montana, for a baseline period and three future periods.
The Northern Patagonia Icefield (NPI) is the primary glaciated terrain worldwide at its latitude (46.5–47.5°S), and constraining its glacial history provides unique information for reconstructing Southern Hemisphere paleoclimate. The Colonia Glacier is the largest outlet glacier draining the eastern NPI. Ages were determined using dendrochronology, lichenometry, radiocarbon, cosmogenic 10Be and optically stimulated luminescence.
During the extended history of mining in the upper Clark Fork Basin in Montana, large amounts of waste materials enriched with metallic contaminants (cadmium, copper, lead, and zinc) and the metalloid trace element arsenic were generated from mining operations near Butte and milling and smelting operations near Anaconda. The USGS, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, completed a study to analyze trends on specific conductance, selected trace elements (arsenic, copper, and zinc), and suspended sediment for seven sampling sites in the Milltown Reservoir/Clark Fork River Superfund Site for water years 1996–2015.
StreamStats is a Web-based geographic information system application that was created by the USGS to provide users with access to an assortment of analytical tools that are useful for water-resource planning and management. StreamStats allows users to easily obtain streamflow and basin characteristics for USGS streamflow-gaging stations and user-selected locations on ungaged streams. The USGS, in cooperation with Montana Department of Transportation, Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, completed a study to develop a StreamStats application for Montana, compute streamflow characteristics at streamflow-gaging stations, and develop regional regression equations to estimate streamflow characteristics at ungaged sites.