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Hydrology and water-quality characteristics of Muddy Creek and Wolford Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling, Colorado, 1990 through 2001

January 1, 2003

A water-quality monitoring program was begun in March 1985 on Muddy Creek in anticipation of the construction of a reservoir water-storage project. Wolford Mountain Reservoir was constructed by the Colorado River Water Conservation District during 1992-94. The reservoir began to be filled in 1995.

Water quality generally was good in Muddy Creek and Wolford Mountain Reservoir throughout the period of record (collectively, 1990 through 2001), with low concentrations of nutrients (median total nitrogen less than 0.6 and median total phosphorus less than 0.05 milligrams per liter) and trace elements (median dissolved copper less than 2, median dissolved lead less than 1, and median dissolved zinc less than 20 micrograms per liter). Specific conductance ranged from 99 to 1,720 microsiemens per centimeter. Cation compositions at Muddy Creek sites were mixed calcium-magnesium-sodium. Anion compositions were primarily bicarbonate and sulfate. Suspended-sediment concentrations ranged from less than 50 milligrams per liter during low-flow periods to hundreds of milligrams per liter during snowmelt. Turbidity in prereservoir Muddy Creek generally was measured at less than 10 nephelometric turbidity units during low-flow periods and ranged to more than 360 nephelometric turbidity units during snowmelt. Compared to prereservoir conditions, turbidity in Muddy Creek downstream from the reservoir was substantially reduced because the reservoir acted as a sediment trap.

During most years, peak flows were slightly reduced by the reservoir or similar to peaks upstream from the reservoir. The upper first to fifteenth percentiles of flows were decreased by operation of the reservoir compared to prereservoir flows. Generally, the fifteenth to one-hundredth percentiles of flow were increased by operation of the reservoir outflow compared to prereservoir flows.

Nutrient transport in the inflow is proportional to the amount of inflow-water discharge in a given year. Some nitrogen was stored in the water column and gain/loss patterns for total nitrogen were somewhat related to reservoir storage. Nitrogen tended to move through the reservoir, whereas phosphorus was mostly trapped within the reservoir in bottom sediments. The reservoir gained phosphorus every year (1996- 2001) and, as a percentage, more phosphorus was retained than nitrogen in years when both were retained in the reservoir due to stronger phosphorus tendencies for adsorption, coprecipitation, and settling. Only small amounts of phosphorus were available in the water column at the outflow, and reservoir water-column storage did not influence phosphorus outflowloading patterns as much as settling further upstream in the reservoir.

From 1990 to 2001, upstream from the reservoir, concentrations and values of dissolved solids, turbidity, some major ions, and dissolved iron increased (p-value less than 0.10), and acid-neutralizing capacity decreased. From 1990 to 2001, there were no significant (p-value less than 0.10) trends in nutrient concentrations upstream from the reservoir. From 1990 to 2001, downstream from the reservoir, trends in concentrations and values of dissolved solids, turbidity, major ions, total ammonia plus organic nitrogen, dissolved and total-recoverable iron, and total-recoverable manganese were downward.

Upstream and downstream water-quality constituents for the prereservoir (1990 to 1995) period were compared. Concentrations and values of dissolved solids, major ions, turbidity, and manganese were greater (p-value less than 0.10) at the downstream site.

From 1995 to 2001 (postconstruction), upstream and downstream water-quality constituents also were compared. Concentrations of specific conductance and major ions increased at the downstream site when compared to the upstream site (p-value less than 0.10), except for acid-neutralizing capacity and silica, which decreased. Turbidity, concentrations of total-recoverable and dissolved manganese, and

Publication Year 2003
Title Hydrology and water-quality characteristics of Muddy Creek and Wolford Mountain Reservoir near Kremmling, Colorado, 1990 through 2001
DOI 10.3133/wri034073
Authors Michael R. Stevens, Lori A. Sprague
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2003-4073
Index ID wri034073
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse