Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5039

Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, and the Colorado River Water Conservation District

Characterization of Streamflow, Salinity, and Selenium Loading and Land-Use Change in Montrose Arroyo, Western Colorado, from 1992 to 2013

By Rodney J. Richards and Jennifer L. Moore

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (25.6 MB)Abstract

Salinity and dissolved selenium are known water-quality impairments in the lower Gunnison River watershed of western Colorado. Salinity is a concern because of its adverse effects on agricultural land and equipment, and on municipal and industrial users. The Montrose Arroyo watershed in Montrose, Colorado, contains agricultural and residential areas as well as undeveloped land and has undergone substantial land-use change since the early 1990s. Previous sampling efforts indicated salinity concentrations and loads have remained constant since land-use change began in the early 1990s; however, recent sampling also indicated that dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads have begun to increase. In response to the potential increasing dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads, the U.S. Geological Survey—in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation; Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum; and Colorado River Water Conservation District—continued to monitor salinity and dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads in the Montrose Arroyo watershed. This report characterizes salinity and dissolved-selenium loads in Montrose Arroyo from 1992 to 2013 at three sites: Montrose Arroyo at East Niagara Street (MA2, U.S. Geological Survey site identification number 382802107513301), Montrose Arroyo at 6700 Road (MA3, U.S. Geological Survey site identification number 382711107500501), and Montrose Arroyo at 6750 and Ogden Roads (MA4, U.S. Geological Survey site identification number 382702107493701). A detailed land-use change analysis was also characterized in the MA3 subwatershed.

The three sites were used to monitor salinity and dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads in Montrose Arroyo. Over a period from December 2011 through September 2013, 46 water-quality samples and streamflow measurements were collected at sites MA2, MA3, and MA4. Streamflow, salinity concentrations and loads, and selenium concentrations and loads were characterized and compared between the pre-lateral (before April 1999) and post-growth periods (March 2008 through September 2013) and between post-lateral (April 1999 through October 2000) and post-growth periods.

Results from a previous USGS study on the characterization of salinity and selenium loading and land-use change in Montrose Arroyo from 1992 to 2010 indicated that there was no change in salinity load at site MA2 and a significant increase in dissolved-selenium load from the pre-lateral period to the post-growth period. Data associated with this report indicate the selenium loads at site MA2 show no significant change from the pre-lateral period to the post-growth period. In addition, both salinity load and dissolved-selenium load at site MA3 show significant decreases in salinity and dissolved-selenium load for both periods that are potentially associated with land-use change.

Land use was characterized for 1992, 2002, and 2009 for site MA3. The common land-use change in the MA3 subwatershed was a conversion from previously irrigated agricultural land to urban land use. The MA3 subwatershed had 124 acres of irrigated land use converted to urban land use and 27.1 acres of unirrigated desert converted to urban land use from 1992 to 2009. Consistent with findings in previous land-use change reports, salinity and dissolved-selenium loading at site MA3 showed significant decreases as irrigated land was converted to urban land use.

First posted April 15, 2015

For additional information contact:
Director, Colorado Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
Box 25046, Mail Stop 415
Denver, CO 80225

Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). For best results viewing and printing PDF documents, it is recommended that you download the documents to your computer and open them with Adobe Reader. PDF documents opened from your browser may not display or print as intended. Download the latest version of Adobe Reader, free of charge. More information about viewing, downloading, and printing report files can be found here.

Suggested citation:

Richards, R.J., and Moore, J.L., 2015, Characterization of streamflow, salinity, and selenium loading and land-use change in Montrose Arroyo, western Colorado, from 1992 to 2013: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2015–5039, 18 p.,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)




Methods for Analysis of Salinity and Selenium Loading

Streamflow, Salinity, and Dissolved-Selenium Loading Step Trends

Land-Use Change




Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Monday, March 07, 2016, 01:44:51 PM