Archived project

Monitoring water quality in Southeast Alaska national parks

Goal: We track the status and trends of specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, pH, water temperature and turbidity in the Salmon River (Gustavus), Taiya River (Skagway), and Indian River (Sitka) by measuring these parameters hourly from April through November. Data have been collected since 2010 and are publicly available for download at:

http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/FQ_main.aspx

Additionally, we have leveraged these data in peer-reviewed articles providing guidance on long-term water quality monitoring.

Date: 30 March 2010 - 28 August 2018

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Project log

Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
In this article, I describe some recent salmon research in Southeast Alaska and touch on future issues of concern in the region’s three national parks: Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Sitka National Historical Park.
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
Freshwater water quality is an indicator of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem health and one of the priority Vital Signs in the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Network (SEAN), which includes Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Sitka National Historical Park. Data collected under this program inform several management-relevant topics: • Monitoring the frequency and magnitude of low dissolved oxygen events (hypoxia) in the Indian River in Sitka • Measuring the natural quality of wilderness lands in Glacier Bay • Describing effects of a changing climate on the physical and chemical properties of park waters • Assessing whether state and federal water quality standards are met This eighth annual report is intended to be a concise data summary and regular product for park staff, managers, superintendents, and other interested parties. All annual reports and data products are publicly available at the SEAN website (http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/FQ_Main.aspx), but website structure of NPS Inventory and Monitoring Programs will be changing over the next year and data products will be shifting to the NPS Data Store (https://irma.nps.gov/DataStore/Reference/Profile/2182282). In 2017, hourly water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH data were collected in the Salmon River (Glacier Bay) from April 28 through November 1, and in the Indian River (Sitka) from April 21 through November 14. The same parameters plus turbidity were collected in the Taiya River (Klondike Gold Rush) from April 12 through November 9. No observations signaled a change to the fundamental water quality patterns of the three rivers. Daily mean temperature for the Salmon River ranged from 4.0 to 11.0°C (peaking on August 14), while the Indian River ranged from 4.5 to 10.2°C (peaking on August 14, as well). Daily mean temperature for the glacially influenced Taiya River ranged from -0.1 to 6.9°C and peaked on August 18. Taiya River hourly turbidity measurements ranged from 1.0 to 1,045 NTU and were synchronized with high flow events. Patterns in the medians and distributions of specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH were generally similar to previously observed ranges for all three rivers. The critically low dissolved oxygen levels in the Indian River observed during summer 2013 have not been observed in subsequent years.
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
From 7 September 2007 through 1 April 2016, the Southeast Alaska Inventory and Monitoring Network (SEAN), in collaboration with the City and Borough of Sitka (CBS), Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), Alaska Department of Natural Resources (ADNR), and National Weather Service (NWS), collected stage and water temperature data in the Indian River at river mile 0.6 (referred to in some previous documentation as the “lower” gage site). Beginning April 2016, SEAN partnered with the City and Borough of Sitka and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to fund a USGS-led streamgaging operation at this site (USGS 15087700 INDIAN RIVER AT SITKA AK). These current and historical data are available at: http://waterdata.usgs.gov/ak/nwis/uv?site_no=15087700 This report describes all available data and supporting documentation preceding the current monitoring effort by USGS. These products are stored within the National Park Service Data Store and publicly available for download. While no long-term monitoring protocol was created, the stage and water temperature data collected during the 2007-2016 period can inform many future research questions related to topics such as thermal regime variability, riverine habitat quality, flood timing and frequency, and correlations between water quality variability and river stage.
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a research item
Freshwater water quality is an indicator of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem health and one of twelve priority Vital Signs in the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Network (SEAN), which includes Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Sitka National Historical Park. Data collected under this program inform several management-relevant topics: • Monitoring the frequency and magnitude of hypoxic events in the Indian River in Sitka • Measuring the natural quality of wilderness lands in Glacier Bay • Describing effects of a changing climate on the physical and chemical properties of park waters • Assessing whether state and federal water quality standards are met This seventh annual report is intended to be a concise data summary and regular product for park staff, managers, superintendents, and other interested parties. All annual reports and data products are publicly available at the SEAN website: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/FQ_Main.aspx In 2016, hourly water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH data were collected in the Salmon River (Glacier Bay) from April 20 through November 21, and in the Indian River (Sitka) from June 6 through November 21. The same parameters plus turbidity were collected in the Taiya River (Klondike Gold Rush) from April 8 through November 9. No observations signaled obvious point source pollution or a change to the fundamental water quality of the three rivers. Daily mean temperature for the Salmon River ranged from 1.8 to 12.3°C (peaking on July 24), while the Indian River ranged from 4.1 to 11.1°C (peaking on July 18). Daily mean temperature for the glacially influenced Taiya River ranged from 1.3 to 7.1°C and peaked on July 11. Taiya River hourly turbidity measurements ranged from 2.8 to 1,035 NTU and were synchronized with high flow events. Patterns in the medians and distributions of specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH were generally similar to previously observed ranges for all three rivers. The critically low dissolved oxygen levels in the Indian River observed during summer 2013 were not observed in 2016. For the second year in a row during mid-September, the Taiya River sonde recorded a pH spike of 8.3 that persisted for several hours before dropping to more typical levels (long-term median = 7.4). Supporting data and environmental conditions during these periods were reviewed closely, and it is believed that the data are accurate, but the specific cause of the spike is unknown at this time and deserves closer consideration in future analyses.
Christopher J. Sergeant
added an update
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added a project goal
We track the status and trends of specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, pH, water temperature and turbidity in the Salmon River (Gustavus), Taiya River (Skagway), and Indian River (Sitka) by measuring these parameters hourly from April through November. Data have been collected since 2010 and are publicly available for download at:
Additionally, we have leveraged these data in peer-reviewed articles providing guidance on long-term water quality monitoring.
 
Christopher J. Sergeant
added 17 research items
Freshwater water quality is an indicator of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem health and one of twelve priority Vital Signs in the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Network (SEAN), which includes Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, and Sitka National Historical Park. Data collected under this program inform several management-relevant topics: • Assessing whether state and federal water quality standards are met • Measuring the natural quality of wilderness lands in Glacier Bay • Describing effects of a changing climate on the physical and chemical properties of park waters (For example, how do changes in glacial watershed coverage, wetland water filling patterns, or forest cover affect long-term water quality patterns?) This sixth annual report is intended to be a concise data summary and regular product for park staff, managers, superintendents, and other interested parties. All annual reports and data products are publicly available at the SEAN website: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/FQ_Main.aspx In 2015, hourly water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH data were collected in the Salmon River (Glacier Bay) from April 23 through December 2, and in the Indian River (Sitka) from April 27 through November 19. The same parameters plus turbidity were collected in the Taiya River (Klondike Gold Rush) from April 6 through November 19. No observations signaled obvious point source pollution or a change to the fundamental water quality of the three rivers. Water temperatures collected in 2015 from April through July were generally warmer than previous monitoring years 2010 through 2014, but not of concern. Daily mean temperature for the Salmon River ranged from 2.6 to 12.2°C, while the Indian River ranged from 5.1 to 11.2°C. Both rivers peaked in temperature on August 18. Daily mean temperature for the glacially influenced Taiya River ranged from 0.7 to 7.3°C and peaked on June 14 and August 18. Taiya River hourly turbidity measurements ranged from 0 to greater than 1,000 NTU and were synchronized with high flow events. Patterns in the medians and distributions of specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH were generally similar to previously observed ranges for all three rivers. The critically low dissolved oxygen conditions of the Indian River observed during summer 2013 were not observed in 2015. On September 10, the Taiya River sonde recorded a pH spike of 8.8 (increase of 1.4 units) that persisted for several hours before dropping to more typical levels. Supporting data and environmental conditions during this period were reviewed closely, and it is believed that the data are accurate, but the specific cause of the spike is unknown at this time.
Freshwater water quality is an indicator of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystem health and one of twelve priority Vital Signs monitored in the National Park Service’s Southeast Alaska Network (SEAN). In 2012, hourly water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH data were collected in the Salmon River (Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve) from April 25 through October 31, and in the Indian River (Sitka National Historical Park) from April 30 through November 2. The same parameters plus turbidity were collected in the Taiya River (Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park) from April 16 through November 19. Annual reports are concise data summaries that establish a regular and timely product for park staff, managers, superintendents, and other interested parties. This third annual water quality report from the SEAN represents the continuation of a long-term, high resolution water quality dataset in Southeast Alaska National Parks. All annual reports and data products are available at the SEAN freshwater water quality website: http://science.nature.nps.gov/im/units/sean/FQ_Main.aspx The Salmon and Indian Rivers demonstrated seasonal temperature trends generally similar to 2010 and 2011. 2012 daily mean water temperature in the Salmon River ranged from 2.0 to 9.8°C, peaking on August 7, while daily mean water temperature in the Indian River ranged from 2.5 to 8.7°C and peaked on August 23. Summer daily mean water temperatures in both rivers were slightly cooler than in previous years. Patterns in the medians and distributions of specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH for each river were similar to previous years for each river. Due to the strong influence of glacial meltwater, the Taiya River had a lower median temperature than the mostly ground- and surface-water influenced Salmon and Indian Rivers. In 2012, daily mean water temperature ranged from 0.0 to 6.4°C, peaking on July 27. The ranges of seasonal values for specific conductance, dissolved oxygen, and pH were generally small. Turbidity ranged from 0 to 194 NTU and appeared synchronized with high flow events caused by heavy rain and glacial melt. No observed values or trends signaled point source pollution or a change to the fundamental water quality of the Salmon, Taiya, or Indian Rivers. Throughout the monitoring period, all three rivers exhibited water quality conditions within expected natural ranges.