Water-Quality Flood Plan

In Reply Refer To:
Mail Stop 412                                        October 24, 1995

OFFICE OF WATER QUALITY TECHNICAL MEMORANDUM NO. 96.01

Subject:  Water-Quality Flood Plan

This memorandum transmits guidelines for developing a water-
quality component for District flood plans. The 1993 Mississippi River 
Basin floods illustrated the paucity of historical information to 
document water quality during wide-spread flooding. Data were collected 
during that flood and in a subsequent flood in Georgia to begin filling 
this information gap; however, much work remains.

The U.S. Geological Survey is uniquely qualified to collect flood 
water-quality data because of its dispersed District structure and cadre 
of skilled water-quality personnel. Each District has a plan for 
measuring stage and discharge during floods. Each District is now asked 
to develop a complementary plan for measuring water quality during 
floods. The goal is to develop a culture and a means to do "whatever is 
necessary" to document water-quality conditions during a flood and to 
share the information with agencies involved in public health, public 
safety, and resource decision making.

The purpose of the attached guidance document is to assist Districts in 
preparing plans for collecting water-quality data during floods and for 
quickly disseminating the results. Districts should develop this plan in 
coordination with other Federal, state, and local agencies to define 
their data-collection needs, coordinate sample collection, and determine 
how quickly the results will be needed. 

Funding is an obstacle to collecting water-quality data during floods. 
Districts which have active National Water Quality Assessment (NAWQA) 
Projects and/or National Stream Quality Accounting Network (NASQAN) II 
stations already receive funds to collect high-flow samples. These 
Districts should collect sample sets during floods at the stations 
designated by the NAWQA and/or NASQAN programs. For other stations, 
Districts should develop flood-sampling plans around the core of NAWQA 
and NASQAN stations in coordination with city, county, State, and other 
Federal agencies and attempt to interest other agencies in paying for the 
additional work. Districts that do not have NAWQA or NASQAN stations 
should work with cooperators to develop a flood water-quality monitoring 
plan. In some cases, funding for the plan may be available from other 
agencies and within the Federal-State Cooperative Program. In other 
cases, full cost recovery may not be available. When a flood is imminent, 
Districts can use their plans to discuss potential, unmet funding needs 
with the Regional office, which will work with the Office of Water 
Quality (OWQ) to determine if partial funding can be made available. 
During fiscal year 1996, the Division will be reviewing the use and 
allocation of Federal Collection of Basic Records (CBR) funding. As part 
of this process, the OWQ will evaluate the pros and cons of allocating an 
annual percentage of water-quality CBR funds to flood-sampling work.

The OWQ would like to receive feedback and comments as the guidance 
document is used to develop water-quality flood plans. Please provide 
comments to Steve Blanchard by geomail (sfblanch) or by phone 
(217/344-0037 x3003).

Attachment

Keywords:       Floods, water quality
Distribution:   A, B, S, FO, PO
                District Water-Quality Specialists
                Regional Water-Quality Specialists



                      U.S. GEOLOGICAL SURVEY (USGS)
              WATER-QUALITY GUIDELINES FOR DISTRICT FLOOD PLANS


In recent years, water-quality data-collection efforts during wide-spread 
floods in the upper Mississippi River Basin, and in Georgia, provided 
valuable information on the quality of the flood waters. However, these 
efforts also illustrated the paucity of historical information for 
documenting flood-water quality.

This guidance document was developed to assist Districts in preparing a 
plan for water-quality sampling during floods, and for disseminating 
results quickly. Information provided herein should be used to develop a 
formal water-quality component for the District Flood Plan. The goal is 
to develop a culture, structure, and means to do "whatever is necessary" 
to document water-quality conditions during floods. The objectives of 
USGS flood-water-quality sampling are to: (a) provide information on 
critical aspects of water quality, particularly relating to health 
concerns, to a broad audience in a timely manner, and (b) document the 
quality of important waters under various flood conditions.

                            DATA OBJECTIVES

The objective and scope of USGS water-quality data-collection 
activities during a flood will vary depending on factors such as the 
geographic location and areal extent of flooding, type of flooding, 
land-use of the flooded area, data-collection activities conducted by 
other agencies, and funding level and source(s). Flood data-collection 
activities will be aimed at complementing available water-quality data 
and current water-quality data-collection programs to spatially and 
temporarily describe constituent concentrations and transport during 
floods. Flood data-collection activities in cooperation with state, 
local, and other Federal agencies will be aimed at accomplishing the 
shared objectives of the agencies involved and may, at times, be very 
specific (i.e., documenting constituent concentrations near the intake of 
major public water supply).

Three primary reasons for collecting water-quality information during 
flooding are:

1. Public Health Issues. Public-health issues are a common concern 
associated with flooding, especially drinking-water safety. Information 
on fecal coliform bacteria counts, and concentrations of trace metals, 
and synthetic organic compounds is needed. State regulatory agencies can 
provide information for developing a priority list of constituents that 
relate to public health concerns. In addition to in-stream public health 
issues, contamination of public supply wells and rural drinking-water 
wells in areas inundated by floods is often a concern.

2. Characterization of Constituent Concentration During Floods. Data on 
the spatial and temporal variation of constituent concentrations are 
needed to address issues such as: 

·       The effects of dilution on the concentration of various 
          constituents; 
·       Whether resuspension is a cause of water-quality degradation;
·       Whether water-quality changes over a hydrograph in a large basin 
          are similar to those that occur in small basins; and
·       Whether high constituent concentrations persist during sustained 
          flooding.

3. Quantification of Constituent Transport. Most of the transport of 
constituents -- particularly sediments, and sediment associated 
contaminants -- occurs during floods. To understand constituent transport 
in most riverine systems, one must understand constituent-transport 
characteristics at high flows. Data from samples collected frequently 
over a hydrograph can be used with stream-discharge data to determine 
constituent transport. If funding is limited, a composite of several 
samples collected over the hydrograph can be used to determine 
constituent load for an entire flood period. 

                               FUNDING

Funding is the biggest obstacle hindering Districts from collecting 
water-quality data during floods. Ideally, Headquarters would 
disburse funds to collect data at other stations during floods, such as 
we periodically do for surface-water measurements. At present, 
Headquarters lacks specified funding to cover water-quality sampling 
during floods. During fiscal year 1996, the Division will be reviewing 
the use and allocation of Federal Collection of Basic Records (CBR) 
funding. As part of this process, the OWQ will evaluate the pros and cons 
of allocating an annual percentage of water-quality CBR funds to 
flood-sampling work.

In the meantime, Districts which have active National Water Quality 
Assessment (NAWQA) Projects and/or National Stream Quality Accounting 
Network (NASQAN) II stations already receive funds to collect high-flow 
samples. These Districts should collect sample sets during floods at the 
stations designated by the NAWQA and/or NASQAN programs. For other 
stations, Districts should develop flood-sampling plans around the core 
of NAWQA and NASQAN stations in coordination with city, county, State, 
and other Federal agencies and attempt to interest other agencies in 
paying for the additional work. Districts that do not have NAWQA or 
NASQAN stations should work with cooperators to develop a flood 
water-quality plan. In some cases, funding for the plan may be available 
from other agencies and within the Federal-State Cooperative Program. In 
other cases, full cost recovery may not be available. When a flood is 
imminent, Districts can use their plans to discuss potential, unmet 
funding needs with the Regional office, which will work with the Office 
of Water Quality (OWQ) to determine if partial funding can be made 
available. 

                         PLANNING ACTIVITIES

1. Agency Coordination and Background Information. To the extent 
possible, preflood activities should include: (a) meetings with Federal, 
State, and local agencies to plan each agency's role during flooding, and 
(b) compilation of background data and ancillary information. Lack of 
coordinated planning among agencies may result in duplication of effort 
and excessive lead time to prepare for sampling resulting in missed 
opportunities. Plans should specify sampling locations, data-collection 
responsibilities, and mode of information dissemination. Background 
information should be compiled on maps to show major tributaries; 
potential contaminant sources such as hazardous-waste sites and 
landfills; waste-water treatment plants; intakes for water-treatment 
plants; major industrial plants; storm/combined sewer outflows; 
agricultural drains; levee locations, and critical instream habitat for 
aquatic life such as spawning beds.

2. Identify Potential Sampling Stations. In general, to define water- 
quality during a flood, sites should be selected that have historical 
water-quality data (NASQAN, NAWQA, or other Federal, State, or local 
monitoring site), and for which stage/discharge data are currently 
collected. A priority list of stations to be sampled should be compiled, 
keeping site accessibility and safety in mind. The priority list should 
be included in the District flood plan in the form of an information 
matrix, listing field and lab constituents to be sampled by station. 

3. Identify Desired Constituents for Field Measurements and Laboratory 
Analysis. Districts should consider data objectives and other factors, 
such as upstream land use, when determining which constituents to analyze 
for in flood samples. To aid in selection of analytes, the current 
analytical list for NASQAN II is attached. This list may be used as a 
menu to select constituents to fit various objectives and to ascertain 
requisite sample volumes and methods for sample collection and 
preparation. Provided that costs can be covered, we suggest that the 
complete list of identified constituents be sampled for general 
characterization of the flood-water quality and for quantifying transport.

Field Measurements: Collection and analysis for the following 
constituents should be considered "required" at all sites--dissolved 
oxygen, pH, specific conductance, barometric pressure, air and water 
temperature, alkalinity, and fecal coliform bacteria.

Laboratory Analyses: Samples will be collected and submitted to the 
National Water Quality Laboratory (NWQL) or a local lab (if prior 
approval has been obtained) for analysis. The lab should analyze the 
samples for the current standard set of NASQAN II constituents, which can 
be requested individually or as custom schedules through the NWQL.

Immunoassay field kits are now available for atrazine, alachlor, 2,4-D, 
PCBs, and cyclodienes (chlordane and toxaphene), and should be considered 
for use as screening tools. All "hits" using the field kits should be 
confirmed by GC/MS analysis.

4. Determine Sample-Collection Frequency and Method. Data objectives and 
available funding will determine sampling frequency. Ideally, samples 
should be collected on the rising limb (just before the peak), at peak 
discharge, and during the recession. This may not be possible because of 
cost and/or time constraints. The single most desirable sample is usually 
the sample collected just before the peak; it is also typically the most 
difficult to collect. At a minimum, at least one sample should be 
collected at or near the peak.

Existing data should be examined to determine if samples have been 
previously collected at high flows. This can be done by plotting the 
discharge at which water-quality samples were collected on a flow- 
duration plot for each station. Samples should be collected at those 
discharges where there are little or no data, or where previously 
collected data indicate the need for additional information. Ideally, 
discharge-weighted samples (EDI or EWI) should be collected. This, 
however, may not be practical because of sampling conditions. The 
following sampling-method guidelines are listed in order of preference:

        a)  Discharge-weighted sample (EDI or EWI)
        b)  Composite sample of 3-5 depth-integrated verticals in the 
            cross section
        c)  Sample from single depth-integrated vertical at the   
            centroid
        d)  Sample from partial depth-integrated vertical at the centroid
        e)  Surface-dipped grab sample at the centroid

Choosing the sampling method will depend on knowledge of the 
characteristics of the site to be sampled and sampling conditions (rising 
or falling stage; cross-sectional mixing; amount of debris; and safety). 
The method of collection should be carefully documented.

5. Identify Appropriate Field Equipment. The type and proper use of the 
required sampling equipment is documented in Office of Surface Water 
Technical Memorandum 94.05 and Open-File Report (OFR) 86-531 for 
suspended sediment, and in Office of Water Quality Technical Memorandum 
94.09 and OFR's 86-531 and 94-539 for water-quality sampling. Samplers 
may require additional weight for immersion in swift currents. 
Streamgagers have long used the following rule-of-thumb to select the 
appropriate minimum sounding weight: Sounding weight required, in pounds, 
is estimated as equal to or greater than the product of flow velocity, in 
feet per second, and the depth, in feet (for example, a flow velocity of 
5 feet per second in 10 feet of water will require a minimum 50-pound 
sounding weight for streamgaging). Because the drag force on most 
samplers is larger than that on a current meter, more weight than that 
estimated by this rule-of-thumb equation may be required to stabilize the 
sampler.

Field measurements of dissolved oxygen, pH, specific conductance, and 
temperature should be recorded at the time of collection, preferably with 
a 4-parameter monitor such as a Hydrolab or YSI. If volatile organic 
compound (VOC) or biochemical oxygen demand (BOD) are to be measured, the 
samples should be collected in a non-aerated fashion using a sampler 
similar in design to a stainless-steel sewage sampler. VOC, BOD, and 
bacteria samples should be collected at the centroid of flow. Bacteria 
should be collected with a sterile bottle in a weighted bottle holder or 
a D-77/DH-81 with a sterile bottle, cap and nozzle. 

District vehicles and boats should be equipped with the appropriate power 
equipment necessary to move the heavy samplers needed to collect samples 
at the increased depths and velocities characteristic of floods. 
Districts should consider upgrading their power equipment to hydraulic 
systems when bag samplers or D-77s are used; this will allow for depth 
integration at more controlled rates.

6. Identify Laboratory Facilities. It is USGS policy to use USGS 
laboratories whenever possible. Because analytical turnaround time is 
critical for some flood samples, especially health-related analyses, use 
of a non-USGS lab may be necessary. Therefore, the plan may require a 
memorandum of understanding or a cooperative agreement with a non-USGS 
lab. Division approval from the Branch of Technical Development and 
Quality Systems is required for certification of non-USGS labs (Water 
Resources Division Memorandum 92.35). 

Please obtain approval from the NWQL for "rush" samples before shipping 
such samples. There will be a surcharge for the "rush" samples; the rates 
are 

     + 200 percent for 1-week turn-around time
     + 100 percent for 2-week turn-around time
     +  75 percent for 3-week turn-around time

7. Identify Health and Safety Issues. All personnel doing flood sampling 
should have typhoid, polio, and tetanus immunizations. Cholera shots are 
recommended for personnel performing flood work in coastal states. Some 
immunizations take several weeks to become effective, so prior planning 
is necessary.

Safety considerations may require three or more people when sampling from 
a bridge or cableway. At least one person should monitor river conditions 
to alert the sampling crew of debris, boat traffic, or other potential 
hazards. Cable cutters should be attached to suspension equipment booms 
for 
safety purposes.

Some samples may need to be collected from a boat. All personnel 
operating boats must have had the required boat safety training and meet 
all applicable state and U.S. Coast Guard requirements. Life jackets 
should be worn at all times, whether working from a boat, bridge, or 
cableway.

8. Identify Quality-Control Practices. Quality-control practices cannot 
be ignored during floods. Field crews should follow the guidelines in OFR 
94-539 whenever possible; however, safety considerations may preclude the 
use of the double-bagged, enclosed churn splitter at bridge or cableway 
sites. As suggested in OFR 94-539 a minimum of 10 percent of the samples 
analyzed ideally should be quality-control samples.

9. Identify Data Dissemination Procedures. Because of the intense 
interest in data collected during flooding, review and release of these 
data, especially public health-related data (e.g., fecal coliforms and 
trace metals) in the shortest time possible is desirable. All USGS flood 
data should initially be released as "unpublished, subject to revision." 
For verbal release of flood-related information, one spokesperson should 
be appointed; this helps control the type of information and manner of 
release to the media and general public. The use of WWW (World Wide Web) 
pages on the internet for release and dissemination of flood data should 
also be planned for and used.

Following the flood, more permanent types of documentation should be 
pursued. Two- and four-page Fact Sheets, Circulars, and other types of 
USGS reports should be used to provide an appropriate permanent 
documentation of the flood. This allows for data previously qualified as 
"unpublished, subject to revision" to be finalized and released as 
published and approved data. Circular 1120 A-F, published following the 
1993 Mississippi River flooding, and the Fact Sheet "Suspended sediment 
and agricultural chemicals in floodwaters caused by tropical storm 
Alberto," are excellent examples of the types of flood information that 
can be documented in short reports.



                                                          ATTACHMENT

                 OCTOBER 1995 NASQAN II ANALYTICAL LIST

Constituent                           Lab Code   WATSTORE    Bottle Types
 
                        Nutrients--Schedule 2702

N, nitrite, filtered                    1973      00613      FCC--125 mL
P, ortho-phosphate, filtered            1974      00671
N, nitrite plus nitrate, filtered       1975      00631
N, ammonia, filtered                    1976      00608
P, phosphorus, filtered                 1983      00666
N, ammonia plus organic nitrogen,       1985      00623
filtered

P, phosphorus, unfiltered               1984      00665      RCC--125 mL
N, ammonia plus organic nitrogen        1986      00625

         Major ions and dissolved trace elements--Schedule 176

Turbidity (NTU)                           50      00076    LC0050--125 mL

pH (laboratory)                           68      00403      RU--250 mL
Specific conductance (laboratory)         69      90095
Alkalinity, total (laboratory) as CACO3   70      90410

Solids, filtered, ROE at 180oC            27      70300      FU--500 mL
Fluoride, filtered                        31      00950

Potassium, filtered                       54      00935      FA--250 mL
Selenium, filtered                        87      01145
Barium, filtered                         641      01005
Cobalt, filtered                         644      01035
Iron, filtered                           645      01046
Manganese, filtered                      648      01056
Molybdenum, filtered                     649      01060
Strontium, filtered                      652      01080
Vanadium, filtered                       653      01085
Calcium, filtered                        659      00915
Magnesium, filtered                      663      00925
Lithium, filtered                        664      01130
Silica, filtered                         667      00955
Sodium, filtered                         675      00930
Aluminum, filtered                      1284      01106
Silver, filtered                        1552      01075
Nickel, filtered                        1562      01065
Chloride, filtered                      1571      00940
Sulfate, filtered                       1572      00945

                      Trace elements to be added
Beryllium, filtered                      655      01010
Cadmium, filtered                        673      01025
Chromium, filtered                       722      01030
Lead, filtered                          1560      01049
Arsenic, filtered                        112      01000
Zinc, filtered                           671      01090
Copper, filtered                        1558      01040

                    Organic carbon--Schedule 2075

Carbon, organic, filtered               113       00681     125-mL amber
                                                            glass

Carbon, organic, suspended              305       00689     Silver
                                                            filter, petri
                                                            dish

                         Pesticides--Schedule 2001

Alachlor                               4001       46342     1-L baked
Atrazine                               4003       39632     amber glass
Benfluralin                            4005       82673
Butylate                               4006       04028
Chlorpyrifos                           4009       38933
Cyanazine                              4010       04041
DCPA (Daethal)                         4011       82682
DDE, p, p'-                            4012       34653
Diazinon                               4013       39572
Dieldrin                               4015       39381
Diethylaniline                         4016       82660
Disulfoton                             4018       82677
EPTC (Eptam)                           4019       82668
Ethalfuralin                           4020       82663
Ethoprop                               4021       82672
Fonofos                                4022       04095
HCH, alpha-                            4023       34253
HCH, gamma- (Lindane)                  4025       39341
Linuron                                4026       82666
Malathion                              4027       39532
Metolachlor                            4029       39415
Metribuzin                             4030       82630
Molinate                               4031       82671
Napropamide                            4032       82684
Parathion, ethyl-                      4033       39542
Parathion, methyl-                     4028       82667
Pebulate                               4034       82669
Pendimethalin                          4035       82683
Permethrin, cis-                       4036       82687
Phorate                                4037       82664
Pronamide                              4038       82676
Prometon                               4039       04037
Propachlor                             4040       04024
Propanil                               4041       82679
Propargate I and II                    4042       82685
Simazine                               4043       04035
Thiobencarb                            4044       82681
Tebuthiuron                            4045       82670
Terbufos                               4047       82675
Triallate                              4049       82678
Triflualin                             4050       82661
Atrazine, desethyl-                    4002       04040
Azinphos, methyl-                      4004       82686
Carbaryl (Sevin)                       4007       82680
Terbacil                               4046       82665
Acetochlor                             4053       49260
Diazinon, d10-surrogate %              4014       91063
HCH, alpha d6-surrogate %              4024       91065
Terbuthylazine surrogate %             4048       91064