Highlights of Water Quality Results
Waterfowl resting at the Quivira
National Wildlife Refuge, May 2001
(photo by T. Bennett, USGS, Wichita, Kansas)
From December 1998 through June 2001, quarterly and runoff-event samples were
collected manually from Rattlesnake Creek near Zenith, Kansas throughout a range of
streamflow conditions. Two quality-assurance samples were collected, which indicated
an average percent difference of about 2 percent among all constituents analyzed.
Of the 125 constituents analyzed, 10 exceeded existing or proposed water-quality
standards in at least one sample. These were pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, dissolved solids, sodium, chloride,
phosphorus, total coliform bacteria, E. Coli
bacteria, and fecal coliform bacteria. Some of these standards apply only to drinking water and are thus not directly applicable.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has established a Secondary Drinking
Water Regulation (SDWR) for pH of 6.5 to 8.5 standard units. The State of Kansas also
has established Aquatic Life Support criteria of the same range. The pH range for
Rattlesnake Creek near Zenith during the study period was 7.3 to 8.8 standard units.
Turbidities ranged from 5.0 to 480 nephelometric turbidity units (NTU), exceeding the
maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 0.5 to 1.0 NTU. Although no numeric Kansas Aquatic
Life Support criteria exist for turbidity, the USEPA has proposed a level of 9.9 NTU
for Ecoregion VI in northeast Kansas. The Quivira Refuge is part of Ecoregion V,
which has a similar landscape but no established criteria.
Dissolved oxygen is necessary for the survival of fish and other aquatic life, and
therefore, the State of Kansas has established an aquatic life (minimum) criteria of
5.0 mg/L. One sample, with a dissolved oxygen concentration of 3.1, did not meet this
Dissolved solids ranged from 264 to 5,460
milligrams per liter (mg/L).
Sodium concentrations from Rattlesnake Creek near Zenith
ranged from 50 to 1,880 mg/L.
The range in chloride concentrations at Rattlesnake Creek near Zenith was 67 to
3,000 mg/L. Because Quivera NWR is designated to be a brackish wetland, no pertinent sodium, cloride,
or dissolved solids standards or criteria apply
Total phosphorus concentrations ranged from <0.05 to 0.76 mg/L. Although the State of
Kansas has no water-quality standards for total phosphorus, one sample did exceed the
EPA's proposed Ecoregion VI nutrient criteria of 0.076 mg/L.
Total coliform bacteria densities ranged from 105 to 43,900 col/100mL (colonies per
100 milliliters of water). The USEPA has established a Maximum Contaminent Level Goal
(MCLG) of 0 col/100mL for drinking water.
E. Coli bacteria ranged from 13 to 1,830 col/100mL. Five of 17 samples
exceeded the USEPA Contact Recreational Criteria of 256 col/100mL.
Fecal coliform bacteria has a summer Primary Contact Recreation criteria of 256
col/100 mL established by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The range
for fecal coliform bacteria was 7-20,000 col/100 mL.
standards are established by the State of Kansas with the approval of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (USEPA). Water-quality standards represent water-quality goals to support
designated uses of streams, lakes, and wetlands. Segments of Rattlesnake Creek are
designated for Special Aquatic Life Support, Primary Contact Recreation, Domestic Water
Supply, Food Procurement, Ground Water Recharge, Industrial Water Supply Use, Irrigation Use,
and Livestock Watering Use. The Little and Big Salt Marshes in Quivira National Wildlife
Refuge are designated for Secondary Contact Recreation, Special Aquatic Life Support, and
Food Procurement. More information on designated uses can be found on the Kansas Department
of Health and Environment website at
For some constituents, enforceable standards for the designated use do not exist. Therefore,
current water-quality conditions were compared to proposed criteria or criteria for an
alternate use (drinking water, for example).
Data-collection platform (DCP) at
near Zenith, March, 1999 (photo by V. Christensen,
at Rattlesnake Creek near
Zenith, March 1999 (photo by T. Bennett, USGS,
For additional information, please contact:
U.S. Geological Survey
4821 Quail Crest Place
Lawrence, KS 66049-3839
Telephone: (785) 832-3539
Fax: (785) 832-3500