USGS

WRD Colorado District

Water-Quality Characteristics and Ground-Water Quantity of the Fraser River Watershed, Grand County, Colorado, 1998–2001

By Nancy J. Bauch and Jeffrey B. Bails

Available from the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4275, 57 p., 15 figs.

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The citation for this report, in USGS format, is as follows:
Bauch, Nancy J., and Bails, Jeffrey B., 2004, Water-Quality Characteristics and Ground-Water Quantity of the Fraser River Watershed, Grand County, Colorado, 1998–2001: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4275, 57 p.


Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Grand County Board of County Commissioners, conducted a 4-year study to assess ground- and surface-water-quality conditions and ground-water quantity in the 302-square-mile Fraser River watershed in north-central Colorado. The Fraser River flows north about 28 miles from the headwaters near the Continental Divide, through the towns of Winter Park, Fraser, Tabernash, and Granby, and is one of the major tributaries to the Upper Colorado River. Increasing urban development, as well as the seasonal influx of tourists, is placing more demands on the water resources in the Fraser River watershed.

A ground-water sampling network of 11 wells was established to represent different aquifer systems (alluvial, Troublesome Formation, Precambrian granite), land uses (urban, nonurban), and areas with or without individual septic disposal system use. The well network was sampled for ground-water quality on a semiannual basis from August 1998 through September 2001. The sampling included field properties and the collection of water samples for analysis of major ions, trace elements, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon, bacteria, methylene blue active substances, and radon-222. One surface-water site, on the Fraser River just downstream from the town of Tabernash, Colorado, was sampled bimonthly from August 1998 through September 2001 to assess the cumulative effects of natural and human processes on water quality in the upper part of the Fraser River watershed. Surface-water-quality sampling included field properties and the collection of water-quality samples for analysis of major ions, trace elements, nutrients, organic carbon, and bacteria.

Ground water was a calcium-bicarbonate type water and is suitable as a drinking-water, domestic, municipal, industrial, and irrigation source. In general, no widespread ground-water-quality problems were indicated. All pH values and concentrations of dissolved solids, chloride, fluoride, sulfate, nitrite, and nitrate in the ground-water samples met or were substantially less than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards and health advisories or State of Colorado water-quality standards. Federal standards for turbidity and concentrations of iron, manganese, methylene blue active substances, and radon-222 were not met in water samples from at least one well. The only ground-water-quality concern assessed by this study is radon-222, which was detected in all radon- analyzed samples from 10 wells at levels exceeding the proposed U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standard of 300 picocuries per liter.

Concentrations of chloride, magnesium, and sulfate were statistically different (higher) in ground-water samples from wells completed in the alluvial aquifer, urbanized areas, and areas with individual septic disposal system use than those from wells completed in the Troublesome Formation, nonurban areas, and areas without individual septic disposal system use. Dissolved organic carbon concentrations were statistically higher in ground-water samples from wells completed in the alluvial aquifer and areas without individual septic disposal system use than those from wells completed in the Troublesome Formation and areas with individual septic disposal system use. Differences in dissolved organic-carbon concentrations between the latter category and areas without septic systems likely had no environmental significance.

Surface water at the site Fraser River below Crooked Creek at Tabernash was a calcium-bicarbonate type water and is suitable as a drinking-water, residential, commercial, and irrigation resource. All pH values and concentrations of dissolved oxygen were within the State of Colorado instream water-quality standards, and all concentrations of chloride, sulfate, iron, manganese, un-ionized ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and fecal coliform bacteria met State standards. Seasonal changes in the values or concentrations of field properties and constituents in the surface water were detected. For most constituents, maximum concentrations typically occurred during winter with low streamflow conditions, and minimums typically occurred during spring as a result of dilution by snowmelt runoff.

Ground-water quantity was estimated for the alluvial and Troublesome Formation aquifers in the upper portion of the Fraser River watershed, the most likely area for future ground-water use. The estimated average volume of available ground water in the alluvial aquifer was about 150,000 acre-feet, with seasonal fluctuations of about 7 percent. The Troublesome Formation aquifer, which consists of siltstone and interbedded sandstone and conglomerate, has approximately 370,000 acre-feet of available water in the upper 500 feet of the aquifer.


Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of the Fraser River Watershed

Acknowledgments

Data Collection and Analysis

Data Collection

Data Analysis

Laboratory Analysis

Statistical Methods

Water-Quality Standards

Water Quality

Ground Water

Field Properties

Dissolved Solids, Major Ions, and Trace Elements

Nutrients and Dissolved Organic Carbon

Bacteria, Methylene Blue Active Substances, and Radon-222

Changes Over Time

Surface Water

Field Properties and Suspended Sediment

Dissolved Solids, Major Ions, and Trace Elements

Nutrients and Organic Carbon

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

Ground-Water Quantity

Summary

References Cited.

Appendix I—Selected Ground-Water-Quality Data for Wells in the Fraser River Watershed, 1998–2001

Appendix II—Quality-Control Methods and Analysis

 

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