U.S. Department of Defense


Date of this Version



River Research and Applications 30, 2014


U.S. Government work


Complex socioeconomic and ecological issues, ranging from impaired streams to Gulf of Mexico hypoxia, have made nutrient management an increasingly important issue across the USA. High flows during 2010 and 2011 provided a unique opportunity to investigate trends in discharge, total nitrogen, nitrate/nitrite, total phosphorus, orthophosphorus, suspended sediment and total suspended solids during two distinct high-flow years on the Missouri River. We compared collections taken during 2010 and 2011 at 12 lower Missouri River locations (river kilometers 1212 to 71) and 22 Missouri River tributary locations. During 2011, average concentrations for all sampled parameters were significantly lower, despite significantly higher total discharge, than 2010 concentrations. Differences in water chemistry between years are likely attributed to the primary source of water. Tributary inflow created high flows during 2010, whereas record releases from Gavin’s Point Dam created high flows during 2011. Analysis of flow estimated the contribution of these releases at each site and revealed strong positive relationships between the percentage of estimated tributary flow at each site and the concentrations of total nitrogen, total phosphorus and total suspended solids. These monitoring efforts underline the contrasting impacts that tributary streams and reservoir releases have on nutrient export of the Missouri River during high-flow events and reveal a larger trend of increased nutrient concentrations as the proportion of Missouri River tributary flow increased.