Mitigating Impact of Devils Lake Flooding On the Sheyenne River Sulfate Concentration

Document Type


Publication Date



Marine Science


Ocean Science and Engineering


Devils Lake is a terminal lake located in northeast North Dakota. Because of its glacial origin and accumulated salts from evaporation, the lake has a high concentration of sulfate compared to the surrounding water bodies. From 1993 to 2011, Devils Lake water levels rose by ~10 m, which flooded surrounding communities and increased the chance of an overspill to the Sheyenne River. To control the flooding, the State of North Dakota constructed two outlets to pump the lake water to the river. However, the pumped water has raised concerns about of water quality degradation and potential flooding risk of the Sheyenne River. To investigate these perceived impacts, a Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was developed for the Sheyenne River and it was linked to a coupled SWAT and CE‐QUAL‐W2 model that was developed for Devils Lake in a previous study. While the current outlet schedule has attempted to maintain the total river discharge within the confines of a two‐year flood (36 m3/s), our simulation from 2012 to 2018 revealed that the diversion increased the Sheyenne River sulfate concentration from an average of 125 to >750 mg/L. Furthermore, a conceptual optimization model was developed with a goal of better preserving the water quality of the Sheyenne River while effectively mitigating the flooding of Devils Lake. The optimal solution provides a “win–win” outlet management that maintains the efficiency of the outlets while reducing the Sheyenne River sulfate concentration to ≤600 mg/L.

Publication Title

Journal of the American Water Resources Association





First Page


Last Page


Find in your library