Occoquan Reservoir and Watershed: A Water Quality Assessment 1973–2019

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Virginia Tech


The Occoquan Reservoir is part of the largest indirect potable reuse systems in the United States. It in an important water supply source for the Northern Virginia area, as well as, an ecological and recreational area. Furthermore, the Occoquan Reservoir protects the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay because it acts as a trap for sediments and pollutants. Continuous water quality monitoring and evaluation is critical to preserve this important water resource. Reservoir water quality can be affected by the delivery of pollutants from point and nonpoint sources, potentially causing problems such as eutrophication, excess salinization, presence of compounds that affect human and aquatic health. Different management strategies have been implemented at the Occoquan Reservoir to nutrient loading into the reservoir and address eutrophication issues, including nitrate addition to hypolimnetic waters and installation of a hypolimnetic oxygenation system. The goal of this study is to assess how current management strategies implemented in the Occoquan Reservoir have affected the water quality from 1973 to 2019, with particular emphasis on the data since 2003. This analysis of the Occoquan Reservoir and its tributary watershed includes the evaluation of hydrometeorological data and morphometric characteristics; establishment of long-term trends for water quality constituents; and determination of the trophic state of the reservoir. Data from water samples from four different stations located at the Occoquan Reservoir and four stations located throughout the Occoquan tributary watershed were analyzed for nutrients, principal ions and metals, synthetic organic compounds (SOCs), and other water quality parameters. Long-term water quality trends were determined using Mann-Kendall test and relationship between constituents was evaluated using Principal Component Analysis (PCA). Trophic state of the reservoir was assessed using Carlson's Trophic State Index (TSI), Vollenweider Model, and Rast, Jones, and Lee's Model. Results indicate the Occoquan Reservoir is a eutrophic waterbody. However, the nitrate management strategy and the installation of the hypolimnetic system have improved reservoir water quality, reducing concentrations of nutrients and metals.



Water quality, nutrients, eutrophication, hypolimnetic oxygenation, nitrate addition, reservoir, watershed, Occoquan, trophic state