Water Resources of North Dakota

Water-Quality Characteristics of Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota

By W.R. Berkas

Abstract: Proceedings, North Dakota Water Quality Symposium, Bismarck, North Dakota, March 20-21 1996



Water-quality data were collected from Lake Sakakawea, North Dakota, from July 1992 to the present (January 1996). The data were collected by the U.S. Geological Survey and the North Dakota Department of Health in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Three Affiliated Tribes to determine physical and chemical characteristics of the lake. Lake Sakakawea receives most of its water from the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers. The average annual volume of water that enters the lake is 16.6 million acre-feet, and the average annual volume of the lake is about 18.5 million acre-feet. On the basis of these averages, it takes slightly more than 1 year for the water to pass through the lake. Temperature data indicate that Lake Sakakawea typically stratifies during summer and winter and turns over during spring and fall each year. Dissolved-oxygen profiles indicate that dissolved-oxygen concentrations can be less than 5 milligrams per liter when the lake becomes stratified. Seasonal and annual variability of nutrient concentrations is greatest in the upstream part of the lake, reflecting the variability of nutrients in water entering the lake. Temporal variability of nutrient concentrations is less in the downstream part of the lake, partly because the lake mixes during spring turnover and during fall turnover. Specific-conductance profiles indicate that water from the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers flows along the lake surface in spring and summer and does not mix with the lake until fall turnover and that water from the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers flows along the lake bottom in winter and does not mix with the lake until spring turnover.

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