Specific conductance and pH as watershed disturbance indicators in streams of the New Jersey Pinelands, U.S.A.

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Dow, C.L., and R.A. Zampella. 2000. Environmental Management 26(4):437–445.

doi: 10.1007/s002670010101


We used linear regression to independently and jointly relate specific conductance and pH measured at New Jersey Pinelands stream sites to the percentage of altered land in a watershed. Percentage altered land included developed and agricultural land uses and represented watershed disturbance for a given site. Median values calculated for a 2-year period (September 1992 through August 1994) characterized pH and specific conductance at the study sites. We found the relationships between the median values for both water-quality measures and percentage altered land for a site to be consistent across subregion and dominant altered-land use. Our results also demonstrated that the water-quality/altered-land relationships developed using median values were similar to relationships developed using data from any single-sample period within the entire study period. Individually, pH and specific conductance explained 48% and 56%, respectively, of the variability in watershed disturbance among study sites. The joint use of pH and specific conductance explained 79% of the watershed disturbance variability among sites. The joint use of these easily obtained water-quality measures can provide a quick assessment of instream water-quality impacts from upstream watershed disturbance at any Pinelands stream site. Additionally, a range in pH and specific conductance, and hence a range in ambient water quality, can be predicted for a given altered-land percentage or a change in existing altered-land conditions.