Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. John All (Director), Dr. David Keeling, Dr. Jun Yan

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District, maintains ten reservoirs in the Cumberland River Basin in Kentucky and Tennessee, and has been monitoring sediment chemistry in the reservoirs since 1994. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the sediment data collected from the reservoirs from 1994 to 2010 to determine if there are any spatial patterns of the trace elements: arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, and zinc. The results indicated that trace element levels were consistent with national baseline concentrations measured by the U.S. Geological Survey. Center Hill reservoir had the greatest number of trace element concentrations (all except cadmium) that were significantly higher when compared to all other reservoirs. The degree of urbanization in the reservoir basins was based on population density from the 2000 Census and the percentage of developed land using the 2006 national land cover dataset. Aquatic toxicity values were used as a measure of sediment quality. The reservoirs with the worst aquatic toxicity rankings were not the most urban, instead they were the reservoirs with the longest retention times. Therefore, it may be concluded that retention time has a larger effect on Cumberland River Basin sediment concentrations than the type of land use or the degree of urbanization. The results also indicate that it may be prudent to include an evaluation of quality based on aquatic toxicity when monitoring sediment quality, and that when reservoirs are the subject of sediment quality assessments, the consideration of the physical properties of the reservoir, especially the retention time, is essential for a comprehensive evaluation. This may also imply that sediment quality in reservoirs may effectively be regulated by water resource management techniques at the reservoirs that affect retention time.


Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Monitoring | Water Resource Management