Nitrate concentrations in Illinois rivers 1967 to 1974: Comparison among reporting agencies

Gregory F. McIsaac, Matthew B. Short, George Groschen, Paul Terrio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Long term data on surface water quality can sometimes be assembled by combining data collected by different agencies at different times and assuming that between agency differences in data quality are insignificant. The objective of this paper was to assess the quality of riverine nitrate (NO3) concentrations in Illinois measured and reported by four agencies from 1967 to 1974 by comparing median values for similar sampling locations and periods. A total of 17 river reaches were identified for which two agencies reported NO3 concentrations during similar periods. Nonparametric comparison of median values and analysis of covariance with discharge as a covariant produced similar results. Nitrate concentrations reported by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) from 1967 to 1971 were not statistically (P > 0.05) different from values reported by the Illinois State Water Survey (ISWS) for two of three river reaches. Additionally, NO3 concentrations reported by USGS from 1972 to 1974 were not statistically different than concentrations reported by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) for four of five river reaches. From 1969 to 1971, NO3 concentrations reported by the Illinois Department of Public Heath and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IDPH/IEPA) were less than one-fourth the magnitude of values reported by ISWS. The median NO3 concentrations measured by the Central Illinois Public Service (CIPS) were significantly greater than those measured by USGS and IDPH/IEPA in the three comparable sampling locations. The use of NO 3 concentrations measured by CIPS and IDPH/IEPA prior to 1972 is not recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)443-459
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • Data quality assurance
  • Long term data analysis
  • Nonpoint source pollution
  • Statistical analysis
  • Water quality
  • Water resources history

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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