Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Long-term trends in reservoir water quality and quantity in two major river basins of the southern Great Plains

September 30, 2015

Trends in water quality and quantity were assessed for 11 major reservoirs of the Brazos and Colorado river basins in the southern Great Plains (maximum period of record, 1965–2010). Water quality, major contributing-stream inflow, storage, local precipitation, and basin-wide total water withdrawals were analyzed. Inflow and storage decreased and total phosphorus increased in most reservoirs. The overall, warmest-, or coldest-monthly temperatures increased in 7 reservoirs, decreased in 1 reservoir, and did not significantly change in 3 reservoirs. The most common monotonic trend in salinity-related variables (specific conductance, chloride, sulfate) was one of no change, and when significant change occurred, it was inconsistent among reservoirs. No significant change was detected in monthly sums of local precipitation. Annual water withdrawals increased in both basins, but the increase was significant (P < 0.05) only in the Colorado River and marginally significant (P < 0.1) in the Brazos River. Salinity-related variables dominated spatial variability in water quality data due to the presence of high- and low-salinity reservoirs in both basins. These observations present a landscape in the Brazos and Colorado river basins where, in the last ∼40 years, reservoir inflow and storage generally decreased, eutrophication generally increased, and water temperature generally increased in at least 1 of 3 temperature indicators evaluated. Because local precipitation remained generally stable, observed reductions in reservoir inflow and storage during the study period may be attributable to other proximate factors, including increased water withdrawals (at least in the Colorado River basin) or decreased runoff from contributing watersheds.

Publication Year 2015
Title Long-term trends in reservoir water quality and quantity in two major river basins of the southern Great Plains
DOI 10.1080/10402381.2015.1074324
Authors D. Dawson, Matthew M. VanLandeghem, William H. Asquith, Reynaldo Patiño
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Land and Reservoir Management
Index ID 70173601
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Atlanta