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Salinity and selenium yield maps derived from geostatistical modeling in the lower Gunnison River Basin, western Colorado, 1992–2013

April 5, 2023

Salinity is known to affect drinking-water supplies and damage irrigated agricultural lands. Selenium in high concentrations is harmful to fish and other wildlife. Land managers, water providers, and agricultural producers in the lower Gunnison River Basin in western Colorado expend resources mitigating the effects of these constituents. The U.S. Geological Survey revised existing salinity (total dissolved solids) and selenium models for the lower Gunnison River Basin in an attempt to better identify areas of greatest salinity and selenium yield. This effort developed maps of yields predicted from multiple linear regression (MLR) models for the lower Gunnison River Basin. The models included data for irrigation and nonirrigation seasons and two periods, 1992–2004 and 2005–13.

Concentrations of salinity and selenium and discharge measurements made at the time of sampling were used to compute loads for subbasins (component drainages of the larger lower Gunnison River Basin study area), which were adjusted for inflows and outflows of canal loads. Load regression equations were determined from explanatory basin characteristics that included physical properties, precipitation, land use and cover, surficial deposits (soil and unconsolidated geologic materials), and bedrock geology. Loads of salinity and selenium were converted to yields by using the subbasin drainage areas, and an empirical Bayesian kriging procedure was used to produce robust grids of yields for salinity and selenium.

Salinity yields ranged from 0.00667 to 6.564 tons per year per acre. The highest salinity yields, greater than about 5.0 tons per year per acre, are predicted on the western side of the Uncompahgre River upstream from Delta, Colorado, an area with a high density of irrigated land. The selenium yield map shows a similar pattern, but the highest yields are somewhat more confined to the eastern side of the lower Uncompahgre River and south of the Gunnison River near the confluence with the Uncompahgre River at Delta, Colorado. Selenium yields ranged from 2.6888 x 10-10 to 0.000445 pounds per day per acre. The highest predicted selenium yields, greater than 0.0003 pounds per day per acre, were in the area downstream from Montrose, Colorado, on the eastern side of the Uncompahgre River.

Publication Year 2023
Title Salinity and selenium yield maps derived from geostatistical modeling in the lower Gunnison River Basin, western Colorado, 1992–2013
DOI 10.3133/sir20235013
Authors Cory A. Williams, Rachel G. Gidley, Michael R. Stevens
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2023-5013
Index ID sir20235013
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Colorado Water Science Center