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Streamflow and selenium loads during synoptic sampling of the Gunnison River and its tributaries near Delta, Colorado, November 2015

June 13, 2018

In response to the need for more information about selenium (Se) sources and transport, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Colorado Water Conservation Board, completed a study that characterized Se loads in a reach of the Gunnison River between Delta and Grand Junction, Colo. This report identifies where possible dissolved Se loading is occurring in a study reach in the Lower Gunnison River Basin between Delta and Grand Junction on November 19, 2015.

The combined Se loads from the Gunnison River at Delta (site 3) and the Uncompahgre River at Delta (site 4) were about 95 percent of the load at the furthest downstream main-stem sample location at the Gunnison River below Roubideau Creek near Delta (site 20) (31.6 and 33.4 pounds per day, respectively), indicating that about 5 percent of the total load (1.8 pounds) was potentially contributed from diffuse groundwater inflow. Main-stem streamflow accounting during November 2015 in a downstream direction was not supportive of substantial net gains or losses in the main-stem water balance.

The cumulative load from measured tributary inflows downstream from the Uncompahgre River confluence only amounted to 1.2 pounds of the main-stem loads (1.8 pounds gain) from site 4 to the end of the synoptic reach at site 20. The remaining 33 percent (about 0.6 pounds) of Se load increase was not accounted for by known tributary inflow. Yet, the small changes in the streamflow mass balance in the same reach does not strongly support a net inflow explanation for the apparent gain in load.

Based on the results of the loading and streamflow analysis, when errors in the loading estimates are considered, there is no conclusive evidence of an appreciable amount of Se load that is unaccounted for in the study reach of the Gunnison River as was originally hypothesized. Differences determined from comparisons of cumulative tributary loads and Gunnison River main-stem loads for this study are within error estimates of the main-stem loads.

Publication Year 2018
Title Streamflow and selenium loads during synoptic sampling of the Gunnison River and its tributaries near Delta, Colorado, November 2015
DOI 10.3133/sir20185029
Authors Michael R. Stevens, Kenneth J. Leib, Judith C. Thomas, Nancy J. Bauch, Rodney J. Richards
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2018-5029
Index ID sir20185029
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Colorado Water Science Center