Diel and Seasonal Patterns in Continuously Monitored Water Quality at Fixed Sites in Two Adjacent Embayments of the Tidal Freshwater Potomac River
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Diel and Seasonal Patterns in Continuously Monitored Water Quality at Fixed Sites in Two Adjacent Embayments of the Tidal Freshwater Potomac River

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    Water quality patterns in two adjacent embayments of the tidal freshwater Potomac River were compared using continuously monitored data. The two embayments, the tidal Occoquan and Gunston Cove, are shallow embayments fed by tributaries which vary in their watershed attributes. The tidal Occoquan has a larger watershed and a dam just upstream from the head of tide whereas Gunston Cove has a large wastewater treatment plant just upstream of the embayment. Water temperature, specific conductance, dissolved oxygen (DO), and pH were collected at 15 min intervals at representative locations in the two embayments from April through November of 2012. Mean daily values of water quality variables exhibited similar seasonal patterns at both sites which were related to seasonal patterns of forcing functions such as temperature, light and freshwater inflows. Three two-week intervals were examined in great detail. During a mid-summer period of stable conditions and low flow, both embayments exhibited strong and consistent diel (light cycle-based) periodicity in temperature, DO, and pH. Specific conductance exhibited semi-diel (tidal cycle-based) periodicity. The two other two-week intervals were punctuated by substantial flow events which resulted in major changes in daily mean values and disruptions to the typical diel or semi-diel cycles. The large rainfall event related to Hurricane Sandy caused a major disruption in diel and semi-diel cycles. Some cycles were quickly re-established and others took a week or more. The two embayments exhibited similar behavior in most aspects. Site-specific factors such as differences in the frequency and magnitude of tributary flow pulses and the presence of treated sewage discharge at Gunston Cove helped explain some of the differences observed between the two embayments.
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    Water, 9(8), 1-21
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    CC BY
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