USGS

Water Resources of Colorado

Characterization of Selected Biological, Chemical, and Physical Conditions at Fixed Sites in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Colorado, 1995-98

by Jeffrey R. Deacon, Scott V. Mize, and Norman E. Spahr

Available from the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, USGS Water-Resources Investigations Report 99–4181, 71 p., 13 figs.

This document also is available in pdf format: Adobe Acrobat Icon WRIR 99–4181
(Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader)

Abstract

Biological community samples were collected at 15 sites in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCOL) in Colorado as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program. Sites sampled in two physiographic provinces, the Southern Rocky Mountains and the Colorado Plateau, represented agriculture, mining, urban and recreation, and mixed land uses and background conditions. Nine measures of water quality, which include information on nutrients, specific conductance (a surrogate for salinity), trace elements in streambed sediment, pesticides in fish tissue, fish communities, and macroinvertebrate richness and composition and stream habitat were used for comparisons among sites within the two physiographic provinces. Sampling sites from three other NAWQA study units—the Rio Grande Valley, the South Platte River Basin, and the Upper Snake River Basin study units—were categorized on the basis of land use and stream size in order to develop a larger data set for comparison to sites in the UCOL. Three categories of land use—forested (includes mining, urban and recreation, and background), agriculture, and mixed—were used for comparison to the UCOL fixed sites.

Results indicated that all sites other than the Colorado River below Baker Gulch (a background site) showed some water-quality characteristics to be significantly affected. Results indicated that the concentrations of cadmium and zinc in streambed sediment at mining land-use sites in the Southern Rocky Mountains physiographic province generally were orders of magnitude higher than streambed-sediment concentrations at the background site. Streambed-sediment concentrations at mining land-use sites in the UCOL were greater than the 75th percentile of concentrations from sites in the three other NAWQA study units. Fish communities and habitat conditions were degraded at mining land-use sites compared to the background site. Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) richness and the percentage of EPT were lower at mining land-use sites than at the background site and were less than the 50th percentile of those for sites from the three other NAWQA study units.

Nutrient concentrations at urban and recreation sites in the Southern Rocky Mountain physiographic province generally were greater than concentrations at the background site and generally were between the 25th and 90th percentile of concentrations for sites from the three other NAWQA study units. Habitat conditions and fish communities at urban and recreation sites were slightly degraded compared to the background site. EPT richness and the percentage of EPT were lower at urban and recreation sites than at the background site and were between the 25th and 75th percentile of those for sites from the three other NAWQA study units. The percentage of Chironomidae, which may be indicative of pollutant-tolerant organisms, was higher at urban and recreation sites than at the background site.

Mixed land-use sites in the Southern Rocky Mountains physiographic province had similar nutrient concentrations and similar cadmium and zinc streambed-sediment concentrations. Fish-community degradation index values were very different among the three mixed land-use sites in the Southern Rocky Mountains physiographic province. Larger percentages of omnivores and anomalies such as lesions and deformities at two mixed land-use sites resulted in higher degradation values of the fish community.

Agriculture land-use sites had higher concentrations of nutrients and selenium than the background site in the Colorado Plateau physiographic province. Concentrations of p,p'-DDE in fish tissue at agriculture sites were higher than the 75th percentile of concentrations for sites from the three other NAWQA study units. Fish communities had degradation values near the 75th percentile for agriculture sites. The percentage of EPT was low at agriculture sites when compared to the background site.

Two mixed land-use sites in the Colorado Plateau physiographic province had similar concentrations of nutrients, selenium, and p,p'-DDE, and similar EPT richness and composition. These two sites were located downstream from agricultural and urban activities. Some water-quality measures at these two sites indicated degradation compared to a mixed land-use site upstream from most of the agriculture and urban activities in the Colorado Plateau physiographic province.


Table of Contents

Foreword

Abstract

Introduction

Purpose and Scope

Description of Study Unit

Acknowledgments

Methods of Data Collection and Analysis

Sample Collection and Analysis

Selection of Data for Analysis

Data Analysis

Characterization of Fixed Sites

Southern Rocky Mountains Physiographic Province Indicator Sites

Southern Rocky Mountains Physiographic Province Integrator Sites

Colorado Plateau Physiographic Province Indicator Sites

Colorado Plateau Physiographic Province Integrator Sites

Summary

References

Appendixes

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Up arrowBack to top


Water Resources of Colorado
Contact: webmaster_co@usgs.gov


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Persistent URL: http://pubs.water.usgs.gov/wri994181
Page Contact Information: GS Pubs Web Contact
Last modified: Friday, September 16 2005, 04:22:31 PM
FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button