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The importance of small urbanized watersheds to pollutant loading in a large oligotrophic subalpine lake of the western USA

Authors
  • Rios, David T.1,
  • Chandra, Sudeep1
  • Heyvaert, Alan C.2
  • 1 University of Nevada-Reno, Aquatic Ecosystems Analysis Laboratory, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Science, 1664 N. Virginia Street, Reno, NV, 89512, USA , Reno (United States)
  • 2 Desert Research Institute, Division of Hydrologic Sciences, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV, 89512, USA , Reno (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Aug 09, 2014
Volume
186
Issue
11
Pages
7893–7907
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s10661-014-3975-3
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
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Abstract

Urban land use has been implicated as a major contributor of nonpoint source pollution in aquatic systems. Through increased nonpoint delivery of pollutants, including constituents found in stormwater, Lake Tahoe is undergoing a marked decline in its transparency, primarily due to increasing production of algae from enhanced nutrient loading and delivery of fine particles to the lake from the watershed. In response to these findings, a regional restoration effort is underway to improve basin watersheds and the water quality in Lake Tahoe. In this study, stormwater autosamplers were used to collect flow-weighted composite samples that characterized event mean concentrations for event and nonevent conditions within a small, urbanized watershed in the Tahoe basin. An event-specified constant-concentration water quality model was then applied to the event mean concentration and continuous streamflow data to estimate pollutant loads for nitrate, nitrite, ammonia, orthophosphate, and suspended sediment. These data were compared with previously reported load estimates from 10 primary monitored streams in larger watersheds of the Tahoe basin. Results from a linear regression analysis demonstrate strong and significant relationships between watershed impervious area and pollutant loadings from Lake Tahoe watersheds. These small, urbanized watersheds and intervening zones, which only comprise 10 % of the total Lake Tahoe drainage area, include a significant portion of the total Lake Tahoe impervious area. The findings of this study suggest that small, urbanized watersheds and intervening zones are disproportionately important contributors of nonpoint source pollution, including nutrients and suspended particles.

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