USGS Colorado Water Science Center

Characterization of Water Quality in
Government Highline Canal at Camp 7
Diversion and Highline Lake, Mesa County,
Colorado, July 2000 through September 2003

By Roderick F. Ortiz

Available from the U.S. Geological Survey, Branch of Information Services, Box 25286, Denver Federal Center, Denver, CO 80225, USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5281, 30 p., 12 figs.

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Appendix 1
1. (200 KB)
2. (98 KB)
3. (87 KB)

The citation for this report, in USGS format, is as follows:
Ortiz, R.F., 2005, Characterization of Water Quality in Government Highline Canal at Camp 7 Diversion and Highline Lake, Mesa County, Colorado, July 2000 through September 2003: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2004-5281, 30 p.


The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Colorado Division of Parks and Recreation, collected and analyzed water-quality data for the Government Highline Canal and Highline Lake from July 2000 through September 2003. Implementation of modernization strategies for the canal, which supplies most of the water to the lake, would decrease the amount of water spilled to Highline Lake from August through October. A reduction in spill water into Highline Lake could adversely affect the recreational uses of the lake. To address this concern and to characterize the water quality in the Government Highline Canal and Highline Lake, the U.S. Geological Survey conducted a study to evaluate limnological conditions prior to implementation of the modernization strategies.

This report characterizes the water quality of inflow from the Government Canal and in Highline Lake prior to implementation of modernization strategies in the Government Canal. Flow entering the lake from the Government Canal was characterized using field properties and available chemical, sediment, and bacteria concentrations. Data collected at Highline Lake were used to characterize the seasonal stratification patterns, water-quality chemistry, bacteria populations, and phytoplankton community structure in the lake. Data used for this report were collected at one inflow site to the lake and four sites in Highline Lake.

Highline Lake is a mesotrophic/eutrophic lake that has dimictic thermal stratification patterns. Samples collected in the photic zone indicated that there was little physical, chemical, or biological variability at this depth at any of the sampled sites in Highline Lake. Strong thermal and dissolved-oxygen stratification
patterns were observed during summer. Dissolved-oxygen concentrations of less than 1 milligram per liter were observed during the summer. Ammonia likely was released from the bottom sediments of Highline Lake. The limiting nutrient in Highline Lake could be nitrogen or phosphorus.

In general, the seasonal succession of phytoplankton was similar to that of other lakes in the temperate zone. Several types of algae associated with taste and odor issues were identified in samples, but critical concentrations were not exceeded for any listed algal group with the exception of the diatom genus Cyclotella in one sample.

Bacteria concentrations were determined at the public swim beach at Highline Lake. E. coli samples were collected periodically by the USGS and weekly by the Colorado Division of Parks and Recreation. During the study period, no reported E. coli concentration exceeded the standard for natural swimming areas.

Inflow water quality was characterized by samples collected at the Camp 7 check structure on the Government Canal. Inflow water temperatures reflected the seasonal patterns of the source water in the Colorado River. The water was well oxygenated. Nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were low, and concentrations did not differ substantially from year to year or seasonally within a year. All samples had reportable numbers of fecal streptococcus. The maximum reported concentration of E. coli was reported at 77 colonies per 100 milliliters of sample. Suspended-sediment concentrations were relatively low.




Purpose and Scope

Description of the Study Area


Methods of Investigation

Sample Collection and Processing

Analytical Methods

Quality Assurance

Data Analysis Methods

Water Quality

Government Canal at Camp 7

Highline Lake

Spatial distribution using depth-profile measurements

Annual stratification patterns

Selected physical and chemical properties



Dissolved organic carbon




Tropic state

Nutrient limitations


References Cited

Appendix 1

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