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Estimation of salt loads for the Dolores River in the Paradox Valley, Colorado, 1980–2015

July 13, 2017

Regression models that relate total dissolved solids (TDS) concentrations to specific conductance were used to estimate salt loads for two sites on the Dolores River in the Paradox Valley in western Colorado. The salt-load estimates will be used by the Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate salt loading to the river coming from the Paradox Valley and the effect of the Paradox Valley Unit (PVU), a project designed to reduce the salinity of the Colorado River. A second-order polynomial provided the best fit of the discrete data for both sites on the river. The largest bias occurred in samples with elevated sulfate concentrations (greater than 500 milligrams per liter), which were associated with short-duration runoff events in late summer and fall. Comparison of regression models from a period of time before operation began at the PVU and three periods after operation began suggests the relation between TDS and specific conductance has not changed over time. Net salt gain through the Paradox Valley was estimated as the TDS load at the downstream site minus the load at the upstream site. The mean annual salt gain was 137,900 tons per year prior to operation of the PVU (1980–1993) and 43,300 tons per year after the PVU began operation (1997–2015). The difference in annual salt gain in the river between the pre-PVU and post-PVU periods was 94,600 tons per year, which represents a nearly 70 percent reduction in salt loading to the river.

Publication Year 2017
Title Estimation of salt loads for the Dolores River in the Paradox Valley, Colorado, 1980–2015
DOI 10.3133/sir20175059
Authors Alisa Mast
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5059
Index ID sir20175059
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Colorado Water Science Center