WRIR 99-4094


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Lietz, A.C., 1999, Methodology for estimating nutrient loads discharged from the east coast Canals to Biscayne Bay, Miami-Dade County, Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 99-4094, 36 p.

ABSTRACT:

Biscayne Bay is an oligotrophic, subtropical estuary located along the southeastern coast of Florida that provides habitat for a variety of plant and animal life. Concern has arisen with regard to the ecological health of Biscayne Bay because of the presence of nutrient-laden discharges from the east coast canals that drain into the bay. This concern, as well as planned diversion of discharges for ecosystem restoration from the urban and agricultural corridors of Miami-Dade County to Everglades National Park, served as the impetus for a study conducted during the 1996 and 1997 water years to estimate nutrient loads discharged from the east coast canals into Biscayne Bay.

Analytical results indicated that the highest concentration of any individual nutrient sampled for in the study was 4.38 mg/L (milligrams per liter) for nitrate at one site, and the lowest concentrations determined were below the detection limits for orthophosphate at six sites and nitrite at four sites. Median concentrations for all the sites were 0.75 mg/L for total organic nitrogen, 0.10 mg/L for ammonia, 0.02 mg/L for nitrite, 0.18 mg/L for nitrate, 0.20 mg/L for nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen, 0.02 mg/L for total phosphorus, and 0.005 mg/L for orthophosphate. The maximum total phosphorus concentration of 0.31 mg/L was the only nutrient concentration to exceed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (1986) water-quality criteria. High concentrations of total phosphorus usually reflect contamination as a result of human activities. Five sites exceeded the fresh-water quality standard of 0.5 mg/L for ammonia concentration as determined by the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management. Median total organic nitrogen concentrations were higher in urban and forested/wetland areas than in agricultural areas; median concentrations of nitrite, nitrate, and nitrite plus nitrate nitrogen were higher in agricultural areas than in urban and forested/wetland areas; and ammonia, total phosphorus, and orthophosphate concentrations were higher in urban areas than in agricultural and forested/wetland areas. These results coincide with expected differences in nutrient concentrations based on knowledge of point and nonpoint source influences and nutrient cycling.

The Wilcoxon signed ranks test (WSRT) was used to compare differences between point (grab) samples and depth-integrated samples for total nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations at 12 east coast canal sites. Statistically significant differences (alpha level of 0.025) in total phosphorus concentrations between point (grab) samples collected 1.0 meter deep and depth-integrated samples were detected at three sites. One site also showed statistically significant differences in total phosphorus concentrations between point (grab) samples collected 0.5 meter deep and depth-integrated samples. There were no statistically significant differences in total nitrogen and total phosphorus concentrations between point (grab) samples collected 0.5 meter deep and 1.0 meter deep for all the sites. Results of the line of organic correlation, a fitting procedure used to compare point (grab) and depth-integrated samples where statistically significant differences exist as defined by the WSRT, indicated that point (grab) samples underestimate total phosphorus concentrations when compared to depth-integrated samples. This underestimation probably can be attributed to the reduced suspended-sediment concentrations near the surface during periods of flow as compared to those near the streambed.

Predictive models were developed to estimate total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads by means of an ordinary least-squares regression technique. Instantaneous discharge was used as the independent variable, and total phosphorus load or total nitrogen load represented the dependent variable. A software program called Estimator was used to develop the regression models and to compute total nitrogen and total phosphorus loads at site S-26 along Miami Canal. The coefficients of determination (R2) were adjusted to conform with the number of degrees of freedom in the model. The adjusted R2 for total nitrogen load models ranged from 0.69 to 0.99, and the adjusted R2 for total phosphorus load models ranged from 0.23 to 0.99. The average adjusted R2 for total nitrogen load models and the average adjusted R2 for total phosphorus load models were 0.87 and 0.76, respectively. All but two of the models were statistically significant at an alpha level of 0.05. One total phosphorus load model was statistically significant at an alpha level of 0.10 (site G-58), and the other total phosphorus load model was not statistically significant at either 0.05 or 0.10 (site S-21A).