Articles | Volume 375
Proc. IAHS, 375, 11–17, 2017
Proc. IAHS, 375, 11–17, 2017

  03 Mar 2017

03 Mar 2017

The use of bed sediments in water quality studies and monitoring programs

Arthur J. Horowitz1,2,* and Kent A. Elrick1,* Arthur J. Horowitz and Kent A. Elrick
  • 1U.S. Geological Survey, Norcross, Georgia, 30093, USA
  • 2Dept. of Geosciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia, 30303, USA
  • *retired

Abstract. In most water quality monitoring programs, either filtered water (dissolved) or suspended sediment (either whole water or separated suspended sediment) are the traditional sample media of choice. This results both from regulatory requirements and a desire to maintain consistency with long-standing data collection procedures. Despite the fact that both bed sediments and/or flood plain deposits have been used to identify substantial water quality issues, they rarely are used in traditional water quality monitoring programs. The usual rationale is that bed sediment chemistry does not provide the temporal immediacy that can be obtained using more traditional sample media (e.g., suspended sediment, water). However, despite the issue of temporal immediacy, bed sediments can be used to address/identify certain types of water quality problems and could be employed more frequently for that purpose. Examples where bed sediments could be used include: (1) identifying potential long-term monitoring sites/water quality hot spots, (2) establishing a water quality/geochemical history for a particular site/area, and (3) as a surrogate for establishing mean/median chemical values for suspended sediment.

Short summary
Bed sediment chemical data are not normally used in traditional water quality monitoring studies/programs. However, they can be quite useful for reconnaissance purposes to identify potential long term monitoring sites and or water quality hotspots as well as to reconstruct long term water quality chemical levels. The paper provides three examples where bed sediments have been used successfully for those purposes.