Tributaries to the Colorado River in the Grand Valley in western Colorado (segment COLCLC13b) have been placed on the State of Colorado 303(d) list as impaired for Escherichia coli (E. coli), total recoverable iron, and dissolved selenium. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Water Quality Control Division is required to develop total maximum daily loads for these constituents in these tributaries. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Grand Valley Drainage District and Colorado Water Conservation Board, conducted a study to (1) characterize concentrations, loads, and load reductions for E. coli, total recoverable iron, and dissolved selenium using existing data and (2) identify water-quality data gaps to inform future monitoring strategies. This study analyzed water-quality and streamflow data for 3 main-stem sites (2 sites along the Colorado River and 1 site along the Gunnison River) and 29 selected sites on tributaries to the Colorado River.
Sample data were available at five sites along Adobe Creek and at six sites along Leach Creek, the two tributaries in the study area that are impaired for E. coli. All geometric mean E. coli concentrations at sites along Adobe Creek and Leach Creek exceeded the State recreational use standard of 126 colony forming units per 100 milliliters (CFU/100 mL). In Adobe Creek, E. coli concentrations in samples ranged from 45.7 to more than 2,420 CFU/100 mL (method upper reporting limit for undiluted samples), and geometric mean concentrations at sites ranged from 301 to 1,180 CFU/100 mL. The E. coli concentrations generally increased in the downstream direction in Adobe Creek; however, increases were not seen between all sites. The largest downstream increase in E. coli concentration was measured between the two most upstream sites. In Leach Creek, concentrations of E. coli in samples ranged from 25.9 to more than 2,420 CFU/100 mL, and geometric mean concentrations at sites ranged from 160 to 259 CFU/100 mL. The E. coli concentrations showed no consistent downgradient increase in Leach Creek. In fact, some of the highest E. coli concentrations were measured at the most upstream site, Leach Creek at Summer Hill Drive.
Total recoverable iron concentrations and loads were evaluated at 15 tributary sites for samples collected from August 1993 to February 2018. Median total recoverable iron concentrations ranged from 211 to 4,670 micrograms per liter (µg/L). The chronic aquatic-life water-quality standard (1,000 µg/L) was exceeded in most irrigation season (April through October) samples but was rarely exceeded in nonirrigation season (November through March) samples. Concentrations were often an order of magnitude higher in samples collected during irrigation season than in samples collected during nonirrigation season. None of the sites had enough concurrent total recoverable iron and streamflow data to compute annual loads. As with E. coli, the lack of concurrent total recoverable iron and streamflow information represents a data gap, which needs to be addressed to compute annual loads.
Dissolved selenium concentrations and loads were evaluated at 20 tributary sites using discrete water-quality data collected 1991–2018. Dissolved selenium concentrations were higher during nonirrigation season than during irrigation season at tributary sites. However, irrigation season dissolved selenium loads were generally higher than nonirrigation selenium loads, because streamflows were higher during irrigation season. Regression analysis was used to estimate daily dissolved selenium concentrations and loads at three main-stem sites for water years (WYs) 1980–2018 (Gunnison River near Grand Junction and Colorado River near Colorado-Utah State Line) and WYs 2002–18 (Colorado River near Cameo). A trend analysis of dissolved selenium concentrations and loads was completed for these sites from the same respective starting dates but ending in 2017. A continuing downward trend in dissolved selenium concentration was observed at all sites and across all seasonal designations of the analysis. The dissolved selenium concentration decreased by 0.12 µg/L from WY 2002 to 2017 at Colorado River near Cameo, representing an 18-percent decrease during the time period. The dissolved selenium concentration at Gunnison River near Grand Junction decreased by 4.2 µg/L from WY 1980 to 2017, representing a 56-percent decrease overall. During the same time period, dissolved selenium concentration at Colorado River near Colorado-Utah State Line decreased by 3.8 µg/L, representing a 56-percent decrease overall. A downward trend in dissolved selenium load was also observed at all sites and across all seasonal designations of the analysis. The relative contribution of dissolved selenium from the Grand Valley near Grand Junction was estimated by comparing loads at main-stem sites bracketing the study area. The two upstream sites, Colorado River near Cameo and Gunnison River near Grand Junction, contributed 60,300 cumulative pounds and 251,000 cumulative pounds, respectively, during WYs 2002–18. At the furthest downstream site, Colorado River near Colorado-Utah State Line, 490,000 cumulative pounds were estimated during the same time period, indicating that the region between Whitewater and State line contributed approximately 179,000 cumulative pounds or a mean annual load of 10,500 lb/yr. Grand Valley dissolved selenium contributions appear to be stable during WYs 2002–18.
|Title||Analysis of Escherichia coli, total recoverable iron, and dissolved selenium concentrations, loading, and identifying data gaps for selected 303(d) listed streams, Grand Valley, western Colorado, 1980–2018|
|Authors||Lisa D. Miller, Rachel G. Gidley, Natalie K. Day, Judith C. Thomas|
|Publication Subtype||USGS Numbered Series|
|Series Title||Scientific Investigations Report|
|Record Source||USGS Publications Warehouse|
|USGS Organization||Colorado Water Science Center; Southwest Biological Science Center|