Water Resources of North Dakota

Effects of Flooding on Surface-Water Quantity and Quality in Devils Lake Basin, 1993

By R.M. Lent, G.J. Wiche, and Tara Williams-Sether

Abstract: Proceedings, North Dakota Water Quality Symposium, Fargo, North Dakota, March 30-31 1994

Greater-than-normal summer precipitation in 1993 affected the hydrologic response in the Devils Lake Basin and the surface-water quality of Devils Lake and East Devils Lake. Some of the largest precipitation amounts and most severe flooding in North Dakota occurred in the Devils Lake Basin. Precipitation during April through September ranged from 16 inches in the upper reaches of the Mauvais Coulee subbasin to 24 inches in the Edmore Coulee subbasin. Runoff from the summer precipitation caused Devils Lake to rise from 1,423.0 feet above sea level in early June to 1,427.8 feet above sea level on December 31. About 1.3 feet of the lake-level rise occurred as a result of direct precipitation on the lake during July and early August. Direct precipitation on Devils Lake and East Devils Lake during July generally diluted dissolved-solids concentrations. The amount of dilution in the individual bays was related to the surface area and initial volume of the bay and the location of the bay relative to Channel A and Big Coulee. The relative decreases in dissolved-solids concentrations from May to early August ranged from 80 percent in Sixmile Bay of Devils Lake to 9 percent in East Devils Lake. However, during the same period, dissolved-solids concentrations increased about 7 percent in East Bay of Devils Lake. Because the decrease in dissolved-solids concentrations was the result of dilution, the mass of dissolved solids in the lake did not change substantially from May to early August. Surface-water runoff during August, September, and October resulted in additional decreases in dissolved-solids concentrations in West Bay, Sixmile Bay, and Main Bay of Devils Lake but not in East Bay of Devils Lake and East Devils Lake.

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