Water Resources of North Dakota

Nutrient Budget for Devils Lake, North Dakota

By S. K. Sando

Abstract:  Paper, Proceedings of the North Dakota Water Quality Symposium, Bismarck, North Dakota, March 25-26, 1992, p. 152-166



Devils Lake in northeastern North Dakota is a closed-basin lake characterized by large fluctuations in water level and in concentrations of dissolved constituents. A study was conducted to determine the nutrient budget of the lake, to provide a general description of water-quality and plankton relations in the lake, and to provide information to aid in evaluating lake-management proposals. Samples were obtained from seven sites on Devils Lake and from two tributary sites from September 1988 through October 1990. The mass of nitrogen in Devils Lake during the study ranged from 1,100 tons on September 12, 1990, to 3,300 tons on August 15, 1989. External sources of nitrogen were minor relative to changes in nitrogen mass between sampling periods. Precipitation was the greatest external source of nitrogen but generally accounted for less than 10 percent of increases in nitrogen mass between sampling periods. The mass of phosphorus in Devils Lake ranged from 54.1 tons on October 25, 1990, to 278 tons on August 15, 1989. External sources of phosphorus were minor relative to changes in phosphorus mass between sampling periods. Discharge of storm water and treated sewage from the city of Devils Lake was the greatest external source of phosphorus during the study period but generally accounted for less than 5 percent of increases in phosphorus mass between sampling periods. Nutrient budgets indicated that internal loading and sedimentation processes generally accounted for variability in masses of nutrients in the lake.

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