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Nutrient and Particle Load Estimates to Lake Tahoe (CA-NV, USA) for Total Maximum Daily Load Establishment

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Nutrient and Particle Load Estimates to Lake Tahoe (CA-NV, USA) for Total Maximum Daily Load Establishment

G B Sahoo et al. Sci Total Environ.

Abstract

The Lake Tahoe Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requires detailed methodologies to identify sources of flows and pollutants (particles and nutrients) for estimating time-variant loads as input data for the Lake Tahoe clarity model. Based on field data and a modeling study, the major sources of pollutant loads include streams (three subdivisions of this category are urban, nonurban, and stream channel erosion), intervening zones (IZs) (two subdivisions of this category are urban and nonurban), atmosphere (wet and dry), groundwater and shoreline erosion. As Lake Tahoe remains well oxygenated year-round, the contribution of internal loading from the bottom sediments was considered minor. A comprehensive quantitative estimate for fine particle number (< 16 μm diameter) and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) loading is presented. Uncertainties in the estimation of fine particle numbers and nutrients for different sources are discussed. Biologically available phosphorus and nitrogen were also evaluated. Urban runoff accounted for 67% of the total fine particle load for all sources making it the most significant contributor although total urban runoff was only 6%. Non-urban flows accounted for 94% of total upland runoff, but the nitrogen, phosphorus and fine sediment loadings were 18%, 47% and 12%, respectively of the total loadings. Atmospheric nitrogen, phosphorus, and fine particle loadings were approximately 57%, 20%, and 16%, respectively of the total loading. Among streams and IZs, IZ 8000, Upper Truckee River, Trout Creek, Blackwood Creek, and Ward Creek are the top fine particle, nitrogen and phosphorus contributors. The relative percentage contribution of inorganic fine particles from all sources based on annual average for the period 1994-2008 on size classes 0.5-1, 1-2, 2-4, 4-8, and 8-16 μm are 73%, 19%, 5%, 2%, and 1%, respectively. These results suggest clear priorities for resource managers to establish TMDL on sources and incoming pollutants and preserving lake clarity.

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