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Water quality and trend analysis of Colorado--Big Thompson system reservoirs and related conveyances, 1969 through 2000

April 1, 2004

The U.S. Geological Survey, in an ongoing cooperative monitoring program with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Bureau of Reclamation, and City of Fort Collins, has collected water-quality data in north-central Colorado since 1969 in reservoirs and conveyances, such as canals and tunnels, related to the Colorado?Big Thompson Project, a water-storage, collection, and distribution system. Ongoing changes in water use among agricultural and municipal users on the eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, changing land use in reservoir watersheds, and other water-quality issues among Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District customers necessitated a reexamination of water-quality trends in the Colorado?Big Thompson system reservoirs and related conveyances. The sampling sites are on reservoirs, canals, and tunnels in the headwaters of the Colorado River (on the western side of the transcontinental diversion operations) and the headwaters of the Big Thompson River (on the eastern side of the transcontinental diversion operations). Carter Lake Reservoir and Horsetooth Reservoir are off-channel water-storage facilities, located in the foothills of the northern Colorado Front Range, for water supplied from the Colorado?Big Thompson Project. The length of water-quality record ranges from approximately 3 to 30 years depending on the site and the type of measurement or constituent. Changes in sampling frequency, analytical methods, and minimum reporting limits have occurred repeatedly over the period of record.

The objective of this report was to complete a retrospective water-quality and trend analysis of reservoir profiles, nutrients, major ions, selected trace elements, chlorophyll-a, and hypolimnetic oxygen data from 1969 through 2000 in Lake Granby, Shadow Mountain Lake, and the Granby Pump Canal in Grand County, Colorado, and Horsetooth Reservoir, Carter Lake, Lake Estes, Alva B. Adams Tunnel, and Olympus Tunnel in Larimer County, Colorado.

This report summarizes and assesses:

Water-quality and field-measurement profile data collected by the U.S. Geological Survey and stored in the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Information System,
Time-series trends of chemical constituents and physical properties,
Trends in oxygen deficits in the hypolimnion of the reservoirs in the late summer season by the seasonal Kendall trend test method,
Nutrient limitation and trophic status indicators, and
Water-quality data in terms of Colorado water-quality standards.
Water quality was generally acceptable for primary uses throughout the Colorado?Big Thompson system over the site periods of record, which are all within the span of 1969 to 2000. Dissolved solids and nutrient concentrations were low and typical of a forested/mountainous/crystalline bedrock hydrologic setting. Most of the more toxic trace elements were rarely detected or were found in low concentrations, due at least in part to a relative lack of ore-mineral deposits within the drainage areas of the Colorado?Big Thompson Project.

Constituent concentrations consistently met water-quality standard thresholds set by the State of Colorado. Trophic-State Index Values indicated mesotrophic conditions generally prevailed at reservoirs, based on available Secchi depth, total phosphorus concentrations, and chlorophyll-a concentrations.

Based on plots of time-series values and concentrations and seasonal Kendall nonparametric trends testing, dissolved solids and most major ions are decreasing at most sites. Many of the nutrient data did not meet the minimum criteria for time-series testing; but for those that did, nutrient concentrations were generally stable (no statistical trend) or decreasing (ammonia plus organic nitrogen and total phosphorus). Iron and manganese concentrations were stable or decreasing at most sites that met testing criteria. Chlorophyll-a data were only collected for 11 years but generally indicated quasi-stable or d

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Water quality and trend analysis of Colorado--Big Thompson system reservoirs and related conveyances, 1969 through 2000
DOI 10.3133/wri034044
Authors Michael R. Stevens
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2003-4044
Index ID wri034044
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse