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Open-File Report 2012–1052

Prepared in cooperation with the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District

Summary and Evaluation of the Quality of Stormwater in Denver, Colorado, 2006–2010

By Michael R. Stevens and Cecil B. Slaughter

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (12.9 MB)Abstract

Stormwater in the Denver area was sampled by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Urban Drainage and Flood Control District, in a network of 5 monitoring stations—3 on the South Platte River and 2 on streams tributary to the South Platte River, Sand Creek, and Toll Gate Creek beginning in January 2006 and continuing through December 2010. Stormwater samples were analyzed at the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Laboratory during 2006–2010 for water-quality properties such as pH, specific conductance, hardness, and residue on evaporation at 105 degrees Celsius; for constituents such as major ions (calcium, magnesium), organic carbon and nutrients, including ammonia plus organic nitrogen, ammonia, dissolved nitrite plus nitrate, total phosphorus, and orthophosphate; and for metals, including total recoverable and dissolved phases of copper, lead, manganese, and zinc. Samples collected during selected storms were also analyzed for bacteriological indicators such as Escherichia coli and fecal coliform at the Metro Wastewater Reclamation Laboratory.

About 200 stormwater samples collected during storms characterize the quality of storm runoff during 2006–2010. In general, the quality of stormwater (2006–2010) has improved for many water-quality constituents, many of which had lower values and concentrations than those in stormwater collected in 2002–2005. However, the physical basis, processes, and the role of dilution that account for these changes are complex and beyond the scope of this report.

The water-quality sampling results indicate few exceptions to standards except for dissolved manganese, dissolved zinc, and Escherichia coli. Stormwater collected at the South Platte River below Union Avenue station had about 10 percent acute or chronic dissolved manganese exceedances in samples; samples collected at the South Platte River at Denver station had less than 5 percent acute or chronic dissolved manganese exceedances. In contrast, samples collected at Toll Gate Creek above 6th Avenue at Aurora station, Sand Creek at mouth near Commerce City station, and the South Platte River at Henderson station, each had about 30 to 50 percent exceedances of both acute and chronic dissolved manganese standards. Of the samples collected at Sand Creek at mouth near Commerce City, 1 sample exceeded the acute standard and 4 samples exceeded the chronic standard for dissolved zinc, but no samples collected from the other sites exceeded either standard for zinc. Almost all samples of stormwater analyzed for Escherichia coli exceeded Colorado numeric standards. A numerical standard for fecal coliform is no longer applicable as of 2004.

Results from the 2002–2005 study indicated that the general quality of stormwater had improved during 2002–2005 compared to 1998–2001, having fewer exceedances of Colorado standards, and showing downward trends for many water-quality values and concentrations. These trends coincided with general downward or relatively similar mean streamflows for the 2002–2005 compared to 1998–2001, which indicates that dilution may be a smaller influence on values and concentrations than other factors. For this report, downward trends were indicated for many constituents at each station during 2006–2010 compared to 2002–2005. The trends for mean streamflow for 2006–2010 compared to 2002–2005 are upward at all sites except for the South Platte River at Henderson, indicating that dilution by larger flows could be a factor in the downward concentration trends. At the South Platte River below Union Avenue station, downward trends were indicated for hardness, dissolved ammonia, dissolved orthophosphate, and dissolved copper. Upward trends at South Platte River below Union Avenue were indicated for pH. At the South Platte River at Denver station, downward trends were indicated for total ammonia plus organic nitrogen, dissolved ammonia, dissolved nitrite plus nitrate, dissolved orthophosphate, total phosphorus, dissolved organic carbon, and dissolved lead, manganese, and zinc, and total recoverable zinc. An upward trend in properties and constituents at South Platte River at Denver was indicated for pH. At Toll Gate Creek above 6th Avenue at Aurora, downward trends were indicated for residue on evaporation, total ammonia plus organic nitrogen, dissolved ammonia, dissolved orthophosphate, total phosphorus, and total recoverable copper, lead, manganese, and zinc. Upward trends in properties and constituents at Toll Gate Creek above 6th Avenue at Aurora were indicated for pH, specific conductance, and dissolved nitrite plus nitrate. At Sand Creek at mouth near Commerce City, downward trends were indicated for hardness, dissolved calcium, total ammonia plus organic nitrogen, and dissolved ammonia, orthophosphate, manganese, and zinc. An upward trend in properties and constituents at Sand Creek at mouth near Commerce City was indicated for pH. Downward trends at South Platte River at Henderson were indicated for specific conductance, hardness, dissolved magnesium, residue on evaporation, total ammonia plus organic nitrogen, dissolved ammonia, dissolved nitrite plus nitrate, dissolved orthophosphate, total phosphorus, dissolved lead and manganese, and total recoverable copper, lead, manganese, and zinc.

First posted March 29, 2012

For additional information contact:
Center Director, USGS Colorado Water Science Center
Box 25046, Mail Stop 415
Denver, CO 80225

http://co.water.usgs.gov

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Suggested citation:

Stevens, M.R., and Slaughter, C.B., 2012, Summary and evaluation of the quality of stormwater in Denver, Colorado, 2006–2010: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2012–1052, 94 p.



Contents

Abstract

Introduction

Methods of Study

Summary of Stormwater Quality

Evaluation of Stormwater Quality between 2002–2005 and 2006–2010

Summary

References Cited

Appendix


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