Assessment of dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads in the lower Gunnison River Basin, Colorado, as part of the Selenium Management Program, from 2011 to 2016
The Gunnison Basin Selenium Management Program implemented a water-quality monitoring network in 2011 in the lower Gunnison River Basin in Colorado. Selenium is a trace element that bioaccumulates in aquatic food chains and can cause reproductive failure, deformities, and other harmful effects. This report presents the percentile values of selenium because regulatory agencies in Colorado make decisions based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Water Act Section 303(d) that uses percentile values of concentration. Also presented are dissolved-selenium loads at 18 sites in the lower Gunnison River Basin for water years (WYs) 2011–2016 (October 1, 2010, through September 30, 2016). Annual dissolved-selenium loads were calculated for five sites with continuous U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow-gaging stations. Annual dissolved-selenium loads for WY 2011 through WY 2016 ranged from 179 and 391 pounds (lb) at Uncompahgre River at Colona to 11,100 and 17,300 lb at Gunnison River near Grand Junction (herein called Whitewater), respectively.
Instantaneous loads were calculated for five sites with continuous U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow-gaging stations and 13 ancillary sites where discrete water-quality sampling also took place, using discrete water-quality samples and the associated discharge measurements collected during the period. Median instantaneous loads ranged from 0.01 pound per day (lb/d) at Smith Fork near Lazear to 33.0 lb/d at Whitewater. Mean instantaneous loads ranged from 0.06 lb/d at Smith Fork near Lazear to 36.2 lb/d at Whitewater. Most tributary sites in the basin had a median instantaneous dissolved-selenium load of less than 20.0 lb/day. In general, dissolved-selenium loads at Gunnison River main-stem sites showed an increase from upstream to downstream.
The State of Colorado water-quality standard for dissolved selenium of 4.6 micrograms per liter (µg/L) was compared to the 85th percentiles for dissolved selenium at selected sites. Annual 85th percentiles for dissolved selenium were calculated for the five core sites having USGS streamflow-gaging stations using estimated dissolved-selenium concentrations from linear regression models. The 85th-percentile concentrations for WYs 2011–2016 based on this method ranged from 0.62 µg/L and 1.1µg/L at Uncompahgre River at Colona to 12.1 µg/L and 18.7 µg/L at Uncompahgre River at Delta.
The 85th percentiles for dissolved selenium also were calculated for sites with sufficient data using water-quality samples collected during WYs 2011–2016. The annual 85th-percentile concentrations based on the discrete samples ranged from 0.16 µg/L and 0.17 µg/L at Gunnison River below Gunnison Tunnel to 62.2 µg/L and 170 µg/L at Loutzenhizer Arroyo at North River Road.
A trend analysis was completed for Whitewater to determine if dissolved-selenium loads are increasing or decreasing. The trend analysis indicates a decrease of 9,100 lb from WY 1986 to WY 2016, a 40.8 percent reduction during the time period. The trend analysis for the annual dissolved-selenium load for WY 1994 to WY 2016 indicates a decrease of 6,300 lb per year, or 33.3 percent.
|Assessment of dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads in the lower Gunnison River Basin, Colorado, as part of the Selenium Management Program, from 2011 to 2016
|Mark F. Henneberg
|USGS Numbered Series
|Scientific Investigations Report
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Colorado Water Science Center