Wyoming-Montana Water Science Center
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Water Resources of Wyoming and Montana
Wyoming and Montana Water Data and Information
Water, bed sediment, and biota were sampled in selected streams from Butte to near Missoula, Montana, as part of a monitoring program in the upper Clark Fork Basin of western Montana. The sampling program was led by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to characterize aquatic resources in the Clark Fork Basin, with emphasis on trace elements associated with historic mining and smelting activities. Sampling sites were located on the Clark Fork and selected tributaries. Water samples were collected periodically at 20 sites from October 2014 through September 2015. Bed-sediment and biota samples were collected once at 13 sites during August 2015. Statistical summaries of water-quality, bed-sediment, and biological data for sites in the upper Clark Fork Basin are provided for the period of record since 1985.
Nitrogen and phosphorus are essential nutrients for plant and animal growth, but the overabundance of bioavailable nitrogen and phosphorus in water can cause adverse health and ecological effects. Recent studies of the Fish Creek watershed in west-central Wyoming have indicated a greater biovolume of aquatic plants than is typically observed in streams of similar size in Wyoming, and data indicate it is likely because of increased nitrogen and phosphorus inputs into the watershed. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Teton Conservation District, recently identified and quantified the sources and inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Fish Creek watershed. The east-southeastern part of the watershed has the greatest input of nitrogen and phosphorus, which corresponds with the human activities that add additional nutrients to the watershed. The largest inputs for a 10-acre cell generally are associated with sewage treatment plant injection sites, livestock waste, and distributed land use where septic systems and fertilized lawns are located.
Effects of Flow Regime on Metal Concentrations and the Attainment of Water Quality Standards in a Remediated Stream Reach, Butte, Montana
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.