Monitoring in the Upper White and Upper Illinois River Watersheds

Follow our research on flickr!

Follow

Funding Agency: Arkansas Natural Resources Commission

Project timeline: 2009-2018

We have been collecting water samples at several sites in the Upper Illinois River Watershed (UIRW) and Upper White River Basin (UWRB) for many years, allowing us to create a long-term water-quality database.

The goal is to measure how water quality might be changing over time and to estimate constituent loads (how much sediment, nutrients, or ions are transported) through these streams and rivers.

Water chemistry can greatly influence the quality of surface waters and affect the ability for streams and rivers to meet their designated uses. The Arkansas Natural Resources Commission identified the UWRB (HUC 11010001) and the UIRW (HUC 11110103), in northwest Arkansas as priority watersheds. Nonpoint source (NPS) pollution is a concern in these watersheds, such as excess nutrients from agriculture and sediment from changes in land uses. Several NPS pollution projects have been funded by ANRC, including streambank restoration on Sager Creek and best management practices (BMP) to control urban sediment in Fayetteville. The purpose of this project was to collect water samples at many sites in the UWRB and UIRW to estimate constituent loads and understand how water quality has been changing in these priority watersheds over time.

Sampling sites represent a range of land use characteristics and include important tributaries to the Illinois and White Rivers. Most sites are at existing U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) stream gaging stations. We collected samples from each site almost weekly, for a total of about 700 samples every year! We also targeted sample collection during storm events in addition to the many base-flow (non-surface runoff) samples. At our State-certified laboratory, we analyzed samples for nutrients, sediments, and ions like chloride and sulfate.

Long-term water-quality monitoring data are often needed to identify changes in water quality because of the lag time between the implementation of BMPs or landscape disturbances and the water-quality response. Data from this project can be used to evaluate the effectiveness of NPS projects aimed at reducing nutrient and sediment loads and to help calibrate and validate models that can be used for future planning. This information also can provide insight into where additional resources should be targeted, or identify potential emerging water-quality problems.

All of our past project reports and the water-quality data reports are available to everyone on our website. Visit the MSC Publications page to read past project reports and the Water-Data Reports page to download a Microsoft Excel file containing the complete water-quality data.

Click the sites below for specific water-quality information!

The Ballard Creek watershed at this site is 57 km2, draining 28% forested lands, 64% pasture and grasslands, and 8% urban development in the Upper Illinois River Watershed. Ballard Creek is an important site in the Illinois River Watershed because of it's large percentage of pasture land use. We stopped monitoring this site in summer 2015.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.
  • All other parameters were neither increasing or decreasing.

See the report for more information.

The Baron Fork watershed at this site is 106 km2, draining 46% forested lands, 50% pasture and grasslands, and 4% urban development in the Illinois River Watershed. Baron Fork is a large tributary to the Illinois River and flows into the Illinois just upstream of Lake Tenkiller in Oklahoma.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • SRP and TP were decreasing.
  • Total suspended solids was decreasing.
  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.

See the report for more information.

Baron Fork at Dutch Mills Arkansas in the Upper Illinois River Watershed site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on Baron Fork during a storm in 2015 in the Upper Illinois River Watershed.

The Flint Creek watershed at this site is 39 km2, draining 25% forested lands, 69% pasture and grasslands, and 6% urban development in the Upper Illinois River Watershed. Flint Creek is a major tributary to the Illinois River. We stopped monitoring this site in summer 2015.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate and TN were increasing.
  • SRP and TP were increasing.
  • Sulfate was increasing.

See the report for more information.

The Flint Creek watershed at this site is 146 km2, draining 27% forested lands, 62% pasture and grasslands, and 10% urban development. Flint Creek is a major tributary to the Illinois River within the Upper Illinois River Watershed.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate and TN were increasing.
  • Total suspended solids was decreasing.
  • Sulfate was decreasing.

See the report for more information.

The Illinois River watershed at this site is 435 km2, draining 37% forested lands, 54% pasture and grasslands, and 8% urban development. This site is the most upstream site sampled on the Illinois River.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate and TN were decreasing.
  • SRP was decreasing.
  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.

See the report for more information.

Illinois River at Savoy Arkansas in the Illinois River watershed site, water quality monitoring
A look downstream from the bridge on the Illinois River at Savoy where we sampled during a storm in April 2017.

The Illinois River watershed at this site is 1,473 km2, draining 29% forested lands, 52% pasture and grasslands, and 19% urban development. The Illinois River at this site is important because its watershed has been the focus of past management activities aiming to reduce phosphorus in the water.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate was decreasing.
  • SRP was decreasing.
  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.

See the report for more information.

The Illinois River watershed at this site is 1,634 km2, draining 29% forested lands, 53% pasture and grasslands, and 18% urban development. This site is important because the Illinois River is a focal point for phosphorus management. The site at Watts is just downstream of a small impoundment called Lake Francis, which can affect water quality.

What were the trends between 2011-2015?

  • Nitrate was decreasing slightly.
  • SRP was decreasing.
  • Sulfate was increasing.

See the report for more information.

We started sampling this site in October 2015. This site drains mostly urban land use, including much of north and east Fayetteville.

Stay tuned for water-quality trends coming later in 2018.

The Niokaska Creek watershed at this site is 3.1 km2, draining 15% forested lands and 84% urban development. Niokaska Creek is unique because although it is small, it is almost entirely urban land use, and is in the Upper Illinois River Watershed. We stopped monitoring this site in summer 2015.

What were the trends between 2011-2015?

  • Chloride was increasing.
  • All other parameters were neither increasing or decreasing.

See the report for more information.

We started sampling this site in October 2015. This site is almost 11 km upstream from our other sampling site on Osage Creek, and allows us understand water quality from upstream to downstream of where Spring Creek enters Osage Creek.

Stay tuned for water-quality trends coming later in 2018.

The Osage Creek watershed is 337 km2, draining 12% forested lands, 51% pasture and grasslands, and 37% urban development in the Upper Illinois River Watershed. Osage Creek upstream from this site receives waste water effluent from three different treatment plants including the City of Rogers, City of Springdale, and the Northwest Arkansas Conservation Authority.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate was decreasing slightly.
  • SRP was decreasing slightly.
  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.

See the report for more information.

Osage Creek near Elm Springs Arkansas in the Upper White River Basin site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on Osage Creek in the Upper Illinois River Watershed, Arkansas.

The Sager Creek watershed at this site is 35 km2, draining 4% forested lands, 58% pasture and grasslands, and 38% urban development in the Upper Illinois River Watershed. Sager is a unique site because it has a fairly large urban influence and the City of Siloam Springs has done a lot to improve water quality in Sager Creek.

What were the trends between 2011-2015?

  • TN was decreasing.
  • Total suspended solids was decreasing.
  • Chloride was increasing.

See the report for more information.

The Spring Creek watershed at this site is 92 km2, draining 12% forested lands, 43% pasture and grasslands, and 45% urban development. Spring Creek receives wastewater effluent from Springdale's treatment plant before flowing into Osage Creek in the Upper Illinois River Watershed.

What were the trends between 2011-2015?

  • Nitrate and TN were decreasing.
  • SRP and TP were decreasing.

See the report for more information.

Spring Creek at highway 112 near Springdale Arkansas in the Upper Illinois River Watershed site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on Spring Creek on highway 112 after a storm in April 2017.

The College Branch watershed is a small urban watershed of 2.3 km2, where 93% is urban development, and less than 7% is forested land in the Upper White River Basin. We stopped monitoring at this site in summer 2015.

What were the trends between 2011-2015?

  • Nitrate was decreasing.
  • TP was increasing.
  • Total suspended solids was increasing.
  • Chloride was increasing.

See the report for more information.

The Kings River watershed is 1370 km2, draining 67% forested lands, 28% pasture and grasslands, and 4% urban development. The Kings River is a tributary to the White River within the Upper White River Basin, flowing into Table Rock Lake.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate and TN were increasing.
  • SRP and TP were decreasing.
  • Total suspended solids was decreasing.
  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.

See the report for more information.

Kings River near Berryville Arkansas in the Upper White River Basin site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on Kings River in the Upper White River Basin, Arkansas.

We started sampling this site in October 2015 instead of at highway 45 near Goshen. This site is about 8 km upstream from the site on highway 45 and is in the Upper White River Basin.

Stay tuned for water-quality trends coming later in 2018.

Richland Creek on Tuttle Road near Goshen Arkansas in the Upper White River Basin site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on Richland Creek in the Upper White River Basin, Arkansas.

The Richland Creek watershed at this site is 362 km2, draining 58% forested lands, 38% pasture and grasslands, and 4% urban development. Richland Creek is one of the three main tributaries to Beaver Lake (i.e. impoundment of the White River) and is in the Upper White River Basin. We no longer sample Richland Creek at this location, but we do about 8 km upstream.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate and TN were increasing.
  • SRP and TP were decreasing.
  • Total suspended solids was decreasing.
  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.

See the report for more information.

We started sampling this site in October 2015. This site is just 0.5 km upstream from where Town Branch flows into the West Fork of the White River.

Stay tuned for water-quality trends coming later in 2018.

Town Branch on Armstrong Road at Fayetteville Arkansas in the Upper White River Basin site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on Town Branch in the Upper White River Basin, Arkansas.

The watershed for this unnamed urban tributary of Town Branch is just 3.3 km2, draining 86% urban development, 13% forested land, and less that 1% is pasture or grassland in the Upper White River Basin. We stopped monitoring at this site in summer 2015.

What were the trends between 2011-2015?

  • Chloride and sulfate were increasing.
  • All other parameters were neither increasing or decreasing.

See the report for more information.

The War Eagle Creek watershed is 690 km2, draining 57% forested lands, 38% pasture and grasslands, and 5% urban development. War Eagle Creek receives the treated wastewater effluent from the city of Huntsville, Arkansas before it flows into Beaver Lake (i.e. impoundment of the White River). War Eagle Creek is part of the Upper White River Basin.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • Nitrate and TSS were decreasing.
  • SRP and chloride were decreasing slightly.
  • Sulfate was increasing.

See the report for more information.

War Eagle Creek near Hindsville Arkansas in the Upper White River Basin site, water quality monitoring
Monitoring site on War Eagle Creek near Hindsville in the Upper White River Basin, Arkansas.

THIS PAGE IS UNDER CONSTRUCTION.

The West Fork of the White River (WFWR) watershed at this site is 317 km2, draining 60% forested lands, 26% pasture and grasslands, and 13% urban development. The WFWR flows into the White River just downstream of Lake Sequoyah in the Upper White River Basin.

What were the trends between 2009-2018?

West Fork White River water-quality data visualization for trends and average concentrations across all study sites
blue horizontal arrow = no change; green down arrow = decreasing trend; red up arrow = increasing trend

What were the average concentrations between 2009-2018?

West Fork White River water-quality concentrations relative to other sites in the study
Plot of average water-quality concentrations during the entire study period for all sites. The horizontal markers represent the sites studied during this project and the purple circle represents the average concentrations at the West Fork of the White River. For more detailed information, view the final report for NWA Monitoring.

The White River watershed at this site is 1032 km2, draining 69% forested lands, 23% pasture and grasslands, and 7% urban development. This site is just upstream of the wastewater effluent discharge from the Paul Noland Treatment Facility east of Fayetteville. The White River forms Beaver Lake, the drinking water supply for northwest Arkansas.

What were the trends between 2009-2015?

  • TN was increasing.
  • All other parameters were neither increasing or decreasing.

See the report for more information.

White River at Wyman Road Arkansas in the Upper White River Basin site, water quality monitoring
Collecting a water sample from the White River at Wyman Road during a flood in April 2017.