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Spatial and Temporal Variability of Dissolved Sulfate in Devils Lake, North Dakota, 1998

U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet FS-096-99
March 1999

 

By B. A. Sether, A. V. Vecchia, and W. R. Berkas


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Introduction

The Devils Lake Basin is a 3,810-square-mile subbasin in the Red River of the North Basin.  About 3,320 square miles of the total 3,810 square miles is tributary to Devils Lake.  The Devils Lake Basin contributes to the Red River of the North Basin when the level of Devils Lake is greater than 1,459 feet above sea level.

 

Lake levels of Devils Lake were recorded sporadically from 1867 to 1890.  In 1901, the U.S. Geological Survey established a gaging station on Devils Lake.  From 1867 through 1998, the lake level has fluctuated between a minimum of 1,400.9 feet above sea level in 1940 and a maximum of 1,444.7 feet above sea level in 1998.  The maximum, which occurred on July 7, 1998, was 22.1 feet higher than the level recorded in February 1993.

 

The rapid rise in the lake level of Devils Lake since 1993 is in response to above-normal precipitation and below-normal evaporation from the summer of 1993 through 1998.  Because of the rising lake level, more than 50,000 acres of land and many roads around the lake have been flooded.  In addition, the water quality of Devils Lake changed substantially in 1993 because of the summer flooding (Williams-Sether and others, 1996).  In response to the flooding, the Devils Lake Basin Interagency Task Force, comprised of many State and Federal agencies, was formed in 1995 to find and propose intermediate (5 years or less) flood mitigation options.  Current and accurate hydrologic and water-quality information is needed to assess the effectiveness of the flood mitigation options, which include managing and storing water in the Devils Lake Basin, continuing infrastructure protection, and providing an outlet to the Sheyenne River  (Wiche, 1998). 

 

As part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Devils Lake emergency outlet feasibility study, the U.S. Geological Survey is modeling lake levels and sulfate concentrations in Devils Lake to simulate operation of an emergency outlet.  Accurate simulation of sulfate concentrations in Devils Lake is required to determine potential effects of the outlet on downstream water quality.  Historical sulfate concentrations are used to calibrate and verify the model.  Most of the Devils Lake water-quality data available before 1998 were obtained from samples collected from the water column about three to four times a year.  The samples were collected at one location in each of the Devils Lake major bays (West Bay, Main Bay, East Bay, and East Devils Lake).  However, sample collection from only one location in a bay may not give an adequate representation of the water quality of the bay because of factors such as wind, precipitation, temperature, surface- and ground-water inflow, and possible bed-sediment interactions.  Thus, spatial variability (the variability within each bay) and temporal variability (the variability with time) of dissolved sulfate need to be determined to evaluate the accuracy of the estimates obtained from the model.

 

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Contents

Introduction

Water-Quality Sampling

Spatial Variability of Dissolved Sulfate

Temporal Variability of Dissolved Sulfate

References

 

Figures

 

1.  Location of the Devils Lake Basin.

2. Historical water level for Devils Lake, 1867-1998, and sample collection times in 1998.

3. Locations of sample sites in Devils Lake.

4. Dissolved-sulfate concentrations at spatial sample site in Devils Lake.

5. Dissolved-sulfate concentrations at selected temporal sample sites in West Bay, Main Bay, East Bay, and East Devils Lake.

 

Tables

 

1. Constituents for which water samples were analyzed at the North Dakota Department of Health Laboratory.


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