The Lake Titlow watershed (approximately 35,000 acres) in south-central Minnesota is part of the Minnesota River Basin. The lake is listed in the draft 2010 Clean Water Act Section 303d for nutrient pollution, eutrophication, and biological indicators for impairment of aquatic life and recreational use. Over 90 percent of pre-settlement wetlands are currently drained for agricultural land use. The Lake Titlow watershed is over 80 percent row crops and land use is implicated as a primary cause of impairment in the lake.
Water samples were collected from the Lake Titlow tributaries McLeod-Sibley Judicial Ditch Number 18 (JD18), Sibley County Ditch Number 18 (CD18), and Ditch 250 (D250) during 2009 and 2010 and were analyzed for total suspended solids (TSS), total phosphorus (TP), and nitrate-nitrite nitrogen (NOx). Investigative methods included continuous recording stream stage and through the use of rating curves, discharge. Runoff, sediment loads, and nutrient loads were then determined from the field data. Four rain gauges collected precipitation each year and were used to assess the impact of precipitation on runoff and loading. Four characteristic precipitation events were selected for each of the calendar years 2009 and 2010 to estimate the loads of sediment and nutrients to the lake and more fully understand the specific roles that land use, hydrologic soil group, slope, and precipitation play with regard to causing sediment and nutrient loading in the lake.
Results indicate runoff and loads are significant and highly variable by position within the watershed, areas referred to herein as subsheds. The row crop land use, soils characteristics, and precipitation do contribute to overall runoff and loads; however, they do not control subshed variability. Although the low-sloping land surfaces of the watershed should not contribute to overall runoff and loads, results indicate that subtle slope changes in the JD18Lo and CD18Lo subsheds could contribute to the variability of loads seen in these portions of the watershed.
The location and type of best management practices to implement is debatable because the results of this study indicate that large runoffs and loads could originate within any given subshed during any given rainstorm event. This study was unable to precisely identify the root cause of the variability in subshed runoff and loading. Therefore, it is suggested to look at other factors (e.g., antecedent soil moisture, rainfall intensity, mass wasting, etc.) to explain the subshed variability in the sediment and nutrient loading in future studies of this lakeshed.
Date of Degree
Master of Science (MS)
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Schultz, L. (2017). Agricultural Land Use, Watershed Characteristics, and Hydrological Forces Contributing to the Impairment of a Shallow Lake in the Western Corn Belt Ecoregion [Master’s thesis, Minnesota State University, Mankato]. Cornerstone: A Collection of Scholarly and Creative Works for Minnesota State University, Mankato. https://cornerstone.lib.mnsu.edu/etds/671/
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