Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Characterization of water quality and suspended sediment during cold-season flows, warm-season flows, and stormflows in the Fountain and Monument Creek watersheds, Colorado, 2007–2015

September 1, 2017

From 2007 through 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Colorado Springs City Engineering, conducted a study in the Fountain and Monument Creek watersheds, Colorado, to characterize surface-water quality and suspended-sediment conditions for three different streamflow regimes with an emphasis on characterizing water quality during storm runoff. Data collected during this study were used to evaluate the effects of stormflows and wastewater-treatment effluent discharge on Fountain and Monument Creeks in the Colorado Springs, Colorado, area. Water-quality samples were collected at 2 sites on Upper Fountain Creek, 2 sites on Monument Creek, 3 sites on Lower Fountain Creek, and 13 tributary sites during 3 flow regimes: cold-season flow (November–April), warm-season flow (May–October), and stormflow from 2007 through 2015. During 2015, additional samples were collected and analyzed for Escherichia coli (E. coli) during dry weather conditions at 41 sites, located in E. coli impaired stream reaches, to help identify source areas and scope of the impairment.

Concentrations of E. coli, total arsenic, and dissolved copper, selenium, and zinc in surface-water samples were compared to Colorado in-stream standards. Stormflow concentrations of E. coli frequently exceeded the recreational use standard of 126 colonies per 100 milliliters at main-stem and tributary sites by more than an order of magnitude. Even though median E. coli concentrations in warm-season flow samples were lower than median concentrations in storm-flow samples, the water quality standard for E. coli was still exceeded at most main-stem sites and many tributary sites during warm-season flows. Six samples (three warm-season flow and three stormflow samples) collected from Upper Fountain Creek, upstream from the confluence of Monument Creek, and two stormflow samples collected from Lower Fountain Creek, downstream from the confluence with Monument Creek, exceeded the acute water-quality standard for total arsenic of 50 micrograms per liter. All concentrations of dissolved copper, selenium, and zinc measured in samples were below the water-quality standard.

Concentrations of dissolved nitrate plus nitrite generally increased from upstream to downstream during all flow periods. The largest downstream increase in dissolved nitrate plus nitrite concentration was measured between sites 07103970 and 07104905 on Monument Creek. All but one tributary that drain into Monument Creek between the two sites had higher median nitrate plus nitrite concentrations than the nearest upstream site on Monument Creek, site 07103970 (MoCr_Woodmen). Increases in the concentration of dissolved nitrate plus nitrite were also evident below wastewater treatment plants located on Fountain Creek.

Most stormflow concentrations of dissolved trace elements were smaller than concentrations from cold-season flow or warm-season samples. However, median concentrations of total arsenic, lead, manganese, nickel, and zinc generally were much larger during periods of stormflow than during cold-season flow or warm-season fl. Median concentrations of total arsenic, total copper, total lead, dissolved and total manganese, total nickel, dissolved and total selenium, and dissolved and total zinc concentrations increased from 1.5 to 28.5 times from site 07103700 (FoCr_Manitou) to 07103707 (FoCr_8th) during cold-season and warm-season flows, indicating a large source of trace elements between these two sites. Both of these sites are located on Fountain Creek, upstream from the confluence with Monument Creek.

Median suspended-sediment concentrations and median suspended-sediment loads increased in the downstream direction during all streamflow regimes between Monument Creek sites 07103970 (MoCr_Woodmen) and 07104905 (MoCr_Bijou); however, statistically significant increase (p-value less than 0.05) were only present during warm-season flow and stormflow. Significant increases in median suspended sediment concentrations were measured during cold-season flow and warm-season flow between Upper Fountain Creek site 07103707 (FoCr_8th) and Lower Fountain Creek site 07105500 (FoCr_Nevada) because of inflows from Monument Creek with higher suspended-sediment concentrations. Median suspended-sediment concentrations between sites 07104905 (MoCr_Bijou) and 07105500 (FoCr_Nevada) increased significantly during warm-season flow but showed no significant differences during cold-season flow and stormflow. Significant decreases in median suspended-sediment concentrations were measured between sites 07105500 (FoCr_Nevada) and 07105530 (FoCr_Janitell) during all flow regimes.

Suspended-sediment concentrations, discharges, and yields associated with stormflow were significantly larger than those associated with warm-season flow. Although large spatial variations in suspended-sediment yields occurred during warm-season flows, the suspended-sediment yield associated with stormflow were as much as 1,000 times larger than the suspended-sediment yields that occurred during warm-season flow.


Publication Year 2017
Title Characterization of water quality and suspended sediment during cold-season flows, warm-season flows, and stormflows in the Fountain and Monument Creek watersheds, Colorado, 2007–2015
DOI 10.3133/sir20175084
Authors Lisa D. Miller, Robert W. Stogner, Sr.
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5084
Index ID sir20175084
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Colorado Water Science Center