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Characterizing At-Risk Reaches and Water Quality in the Middle Course of a Low-Order Ouachita Stream with Geomorphic Surveys and Total Suspended Solids

Authors: Matthew H Connolly*, University of Central Arkansas, Madison Srebalus, University of Central Arkansas, Joshua Nilz, Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality, Isabel Armstrong, University of Central Arkansas, Alexander Russell, University of Central Arkansas
Topics: Geomorphology, Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Science
Keywords: fluvial geomorphology, low-order streams, streambank vulnerability, suspended solids, Ouachita Mountains
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Sediment pollution costs the United States $16 billion in environmental damage every year. Sediments in shallow, polymictic lakes tend to lack stratification due to continuous mixing throughout the water column. Lake Maumelle is a shallow lake in the Central Arkansas foothills of the Ouachita Mountains that provides drinking water for over 450,000 customers. Raw water near Lake Maumelle’s distribution intake already experiences suspended sediment challenges, making additional sediment inputs potentially important. Previous studies suggest streambanks may substantially contribute to instream sediment loads. Despite Lake Maumelle’s importance as a Central Arkansas drinking water source, little is known about Reece Creek, the lake’s second largest tributary. We selected three reaches in the middle-course of Reece Creek: two meanders and one straight reach. Reach selection was intentionally biased towards locations expected to have a high frequency of “at-risk” banks. In addition to a fluvial geomorphological survey of these three reaches, we collected Total Suspended Solids (TSS) samples at each cross-section in the survey. Results suggest that steeper banks within Reece Creek contribute more sediment to the water column and reaches with higher “at-risk” bank frequencies contain higher TSS levels. This study generated baseline geomorphological and TSS measurements for Reece Creek to help Central Arkansas Water (CAW) monitor Lake Maumelle’s fine sediment inputs, and provided insights into the potential influence of streambank vulnerability on suspended sediment loads in low-order Ouachita streams.

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