WRIR 97-4101

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Grubbs, J.W., and Pittman, J.R., 1997, Application of acoustical methods for estimating water Flow and Constituent Loads in Perdido Bay, Florida: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 97-4101, 24 p.


Water flow and quality data were collected from December 1994 to September 1995 to evaluate variations in discharge, water quality, and chemical fluxes (loads) through Perdido Bay, Florida. Data were collected at a cross section parallel to the U.S. Highway 98 bridge. Discharges measured with an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and computed from stage-area and velocity ratings varied roughly between + or - 10,000 cubic feet per second during a typical tidal cycle. Large reversals in flow direction occurred rapidly (less than 1 hour), and complete reversals (resulting in near peak net-upstream or downstream discharges) occurred within a few hours of slack water. Observations of simultaneous upstream and downstream flow (bidirectional flow) were quite common in the ADCP measurements, with opposing directions of flow occurring predominantly in vertical layers.

Continuous (every 15 minutes) discharge data were computed for the period from August 18, 1995, to September 28, 1995, and filtered daily mean discharge values were computed for the period from August 19 to September 26, 1995. Data were not computed prior to August 18, 1995, either because of missing data or because the velocity rating was poorly defined (because of insufficient data) for the period prior to landfall of hurricane Erin (August 3, 1995). The results of the study indicate that acoustical techniques can yield useful estimates of continuous (instantaneous) discharge in Perdido Bay. Useful estimates of average daily net flow rates can also be obtained, but the accuracy of these estimates will be limited by small rating shifts that introduce bias into the instantaneous values that are used to compute the net flows.

Instantaneous loads of total nitrogen ranged from -180 to 220 grams per second for the samples collected during the study, and instantaneous loads of total phosphorous ranged from -10 to 11 grams per second (negative loads indicate net upstream transport). The chloride concentrations from the water samples collected from Perdido Bay indicated a significant amount of mixing of saltwater and freshwater. Mixing effects could greatly reduce the accuracy of estimates of net loads of nutrients or other substances. The study results indicate that acoustical techniques can yield acceptable estimates of instantaneous loads in Perdido Bay. However, estimates of net loads should be interpreted with great caution and may have unacceptably large errors, especially when saltwater and freshwater concentrations differ greatly.

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