Reconnaissance Investigation of Water Quality, Bottom ... ¢â‚¬› wri ¢â‚¬› 1991 ¢â‚¬› 4085 ¢â‚¬› ¢  Malheur-Harney

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  • Reconnaissance Investigation of Water Quality, Bottom Sediment, and Biota Associated with Irrigation Drainage in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, Harney County, Oregon, 1988-89

    By Frank A. Rinella and Carol A. Schuler U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

    U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Water-Resources Investigations Report 91 -4085

    Prepared in cooperation with U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE and U.S. BUREAU OF RECLAMATION

    Portland, Oregon 1992

  • DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR MANUEL LUJAN, JR., Secretary

    U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY Dallas L. Peck, Director

    For additional information Copies of this report can write to: be purchased from:

    District Chief U.S. Geological Survey U.S. Geological Survey Books and Open-File Reports Section 10615 S.E. Cherry Blossom Drive Box 25425, Federal Center Portland, Oregon 97216 Denver, CO 80225

    11

  • CONTENTS Page

    Abstract -------------------------------------------------------- 1 Introduction ---------------------------------------------------- 2

    Background ------------------------------------------------- 3 Purpose and scope ------------------------------------------ 3 Acknowledgments -------------------------------------------- 4

    General description of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ----- 4 Description of the basin ----------------------------------- 4 Climate ---------------------------------------------------- 7 Geohydrology ----------------------------------------------- 7 Soils ------------------------------------------------------ 8 Agricultural practices ------------------------------------- 10 Fish and wildlife resources -------------------------------- 10

    Hydrologic setting ---------------------------------------------- 14 Previous studies ------------------------------------------------ 16

    Water and bottom sediment ---------------------------------- 16 Biota ------------------------------------------------------ 18

    Sample collection and analysis ---------------------------------- 21 Site selection --------------------------------------------- 21 Types of samples analyzed ---------------------------------- 21 Field collection and analytical techniques ----------------- 28

    Water ------------------------------------------------- 28 Bottom sediment --------------------------------------- 29 Biota ------------------------------------------------- 30

    Discussion of analytical results -------------------------------- 32 Field water-quality measurements -------------------------- 32 Major dissolved inorganic constituents -------------------- 34 Dissolved nutrients --------------------------------------- 38 Isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen --------------------------- 39 Trace elements -------------------------------------------- 41

    Arsenic ----------------------------------------------- 41 Water and bottom sediment ------------------------- 41 Biota --------------------------------------------- 43

    Boron ------------------------------------------------- 46 Water and bottom sediment ------------------------- 46 Biota --------------------------------------------- 48

    Mercury ----------------------------------------------- 49 Water and bottom sediment ------------------------- 49 Biota --------------------------------------------- 51

    Selenium ---------------------------------------------- 53 Water and bottom sediment ------------------------- 53 Biota --------------------------------------------- 55

    Other elements ---------------------------------------- 59 Water --------------------------------------------- 59 Bottom sediment ----------------------------------- 60 Biota --------------------------------------------- 61

    Organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls --- 65 Water and bottom sediment ----------------------------- 65 Biota ------------------------------------------------- 67

    Biological observations ----------------------------------- 69 Declining lake levels ------------------------------------- 70

    Summary and conclusions ----------------------------------------- 71 References cited ------------------------------------------------ 78 Supplemental data tables ---------------------------------------- 89

    iii

  • ILLUSTRATIONS

    Page

    Figure 1. Map showing location of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge ----------------------------------- 5

    2. Diagram of water movement through the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge -------------------------- 6

    3. Graphs showing estimated number of nesting pairs of waterfowl and colonial birds using the Malheur- Harney Lakes area from 1980 to 1988 --------------- 13

    4. Graph showing daily mean streamflow of the Silvies and the Donner und Blitzen Rivers, 1988 water year ---- 14

    5. Graph showing Malheur Lake annual peak elevation, 1972-90 water years ------------------------------- 15

    6. Map showing location of water and bottom-sediment sampling sites in the Malheur-Harney Lakes area, 1988 ---------------------------------------------- 23

    7. Map showing location of biological sampling areas at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 -------- 24

    8. Graph showing specific conductance values in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge water, 1988 -------------- 33

    9. Trilinear diagram showing major ions in water from streams, springs, and lakes in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ----------------------------- 35

    10. Graph showing ratio of element concentrations in Malheur Lake to flow-weighted element concentrations of inflowing streams, 1988 ------------------------ 36

    11. Graph showing ratio of element concentrations in Harney Lake to element concentrations in Malheur Lake, 1988 ---------------------------------------- 36

    12. Graph showing sodium adsorption ratios in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge water, 1988 -------------- 37

    13. Graph showing isotopic composition of meteoric and Malheur National Wildlife Refuge water, 1988 ------ 40

    14. Graph showing arsenic concentrations in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge water, 1988 -------------- 42

    15. Graphs showing geometric mean and minimum and maximum concentrations (micrograms per gram dry weight) of selected minor elements in fish from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge (1988) compared with concentrations in fish collected for the National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program ----------------- 45

    16. Graph showing boron concentrations in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge water, 1988 ----------------------- 47

    17. Graph showing concentrations of selenium in aquatic-bird eggs and livers collected from the 59 Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------------ 59

    18. Graph showing dry-weight concentrations of dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and metabolites in Malheur National Wildlife Refuge bottom sediment, 1988------------------------------ 66

    IV

  • TABLES

    Page

    Table 1. Concentration range of elements found in two soil samples collected at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge compared to the expected 95-percent confidence range for element concentrations in soils from the Western United States ----------------------------- 9

    2. Concentrations of selected trace elements in fish from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and Malheur River, 1985-86, compared to concentrations in fish collected for the National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program -------- 19

    3. Concentrations of selected elements in livers of aquatic birds from Harney Lake at Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1985 ------------------------------------------ 20

    4. Sampling locations and site descriptions for collection of water and bottom sediment from the Malheur-Harney Lakes basin, 1988 ---------------------- 22

    5. Analytical reporting limits for selected elements in water, bottom sediment, and biota ------------------ 25

    6. Analytical reporting limits for selected organic compounds in water, bottom sediment, and biota -------- 26

    7. Common and scientific names of organisms collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------------ 27

    8. Selected field water-quality measurements from different sources at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------------------------------------------ 33

    9. Minimum, median, and maximum concentrations of selected elements at different locations in the Malheur National Wildlife 1988 -------------------------------- 42

    10. Concentrations of arsenic in aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, fish, and bird livers collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------------ 43

    11. Concentrations of arsenic in aquatic-bird eggs collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ...-..----------.-.------------------------------- 46

    12. Concentrations of boron in aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, fish, and bird livers collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------------ 48

    13. Concentrations of boron in aquatic-bird eggs collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 -------------------------------------------------- 50

    14. Concentrations of mercury in aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, fish, and bird livers collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------------ 52

    15. Concentrations of mercury in aquatic-bird eggs collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 -------------------------------------------------- 54

    16. Concentrations of selenium in aquatic plants, aquatic invertebrates, fish, and bird livers collected from the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, 1988 ------