The Straight River, in north-central Minnesota, is a trout stream having cold, clear water. The 75-square-mile Straight River watershed contributes flow to the stream. The watershed is underlain by highly transmissive surficial and confined-drift aquifers. Ground-water discharge from these aquifers sustains flow in the Straight River, and the cold water supports a population of trout. Water withdrawals from these aquifers are increasing in response to changes in land use from dry-land to irrigated fanning. Degradation of the stream's habitat for trout could result from the following: a decrease in ground-water discharge to the stream caused by ground-water withdrawals for irrigation, an increase in ground-water temperature resulting from percolation of irrigated water to the ground-water system, and introduction of agricultural chemicals to the stream through ground-water flow or runoff. Physical data indicate a hydraulic connection between the stream and the surficial aquifer. Discharge of the Straight River increases from about 25 cubic feet per second at the outfall from a reservoir near the headwaters to about 51 cubic feet per second near the mouth. The rate of streamflow gain during summer decreases downstream, possibly as a result of ground-water withdrawal for irrigation. The water table and potentiometric surface of the uppermost confined-drift aquifer generally slope to the southeast and locally toward rivers and lakes; gradients decline to about 5 feet per mile from spring to summer. Daily fluctuations of stream temperature are as great as 15 degrees Celsius during the summer, primarily in response to changes in air temperature. Ground-water discharge to the Straight River decreases stream temperature during the summer. Results of simulations from a stream-temperature model indicate that daily changes in stream temperature are strongly influenced by solar radiation, wind speed, stream depth, and ground-water inflow. Results of simulations from ground-water-flow and stream-temperature models developed for the investigation indicate a significant decrease in ground-water flow could result from ground-water withdrawal at rates similar to those measured during 1988. This reduction in discharge to the stream could result in an increase in stream temperature of 0.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Nitrate concentrations in shallow wells screened at the water table, in some areas, are locally greater than the limit set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Nitrate concentrations in water from deeper wells and in the stream are low, generally less than 1.0 milligram per liter.
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U.S. Geological Survey
Body of Water
Minnesota Water Research Digital Library