USGS - Science for a Changing World

Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4236

Water Quality at Fixed Sites in the Great Salt Lake Basins, Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, Water Years 1999-2000



By Steven J. Gerner


The Great Salt Lake Basins (GRSL) study unit of the National Water-Quality Assessment program encompasses the Bear River, Weber River, and Utah Lake/Jordan River systems, all of which discharge to Great Salt Lake in Utah. Data were collected during each month at 10 sites in the GRSL study unit from October 1998 to September 2000 to define spatial and temporal distribution and variability in concentration of nutrients, major ions, trace elements, suspended sediments, and organic compounds.

Water samples collected from rangeland and forest sites in the GRSL study unit generally contained low concentrations of dissolved solids. Median dissolved-solids concentration in water samples was highest at sites with mixed land uses. Dissolved-solids concentration in some parts of the Bear River during low flow exceeded Utah State standards for agricultural use.

Total-nitrogen concentration in water samples from GRSL sites ranged from 0.06 to 11 milligrams per liter. Water samples from predominantly forest and rangeland sites generally had a low total-nitrogen concentration. Many samples from sites with a higher percentage of agricultural and urban land cover had higher concentrations of total nitrogen. Fifty percent of the samples collected at GRSL sites had total phosphorus concentrations that exceeded 0.1 milligram per liter, the recommended limit for the prevention of nuisance aquatic-plant growth in streams not discharging directly into lakes or impoundments.

Concentration of most trace elements in water samples from the fixed sites generally was low; however, arsenic concentrations, as high as 284 micrograms per liter, sometimes exceeded aquatic-life guidelines. Forty-three pesticides and 35 volatile organic compounds were detected in water samples from three GRSL sites; however, the concentration of most was low, less than 1 microgram per liter. The herbicides atrazine and prometon and the insecticides carbaryl and diazinon were the most frequently detected pesticides. Chloroform and toluene were detected in more than 90 percent of the samples and were the most frequently detected volatile organic compounds. The concentration of carbaryl, diazinon, malathion, and toluene in water samples from GRSL sites sometimes exceeded aquatic-life guidelines.


Purpose and Scope
Description of Study Area
Data Collection and Analysis
Water-Quality Issues
Description of Fixed-Site Network
Bear River Drainage Basin
Bear River below Smiths Fork
Bear River at Pescadero
Cub River near Richmond
Bear River near Corinne
Weber River Drainage Basin
Weber River near Coalville
Weber River near Plain City
Utah Lake/Jordan River Drainage Basin
Little Cottonwood Creek at Crestwood Park
Little Cottonwood Creek at Jordan River
Red Butte Creek at Fort Douglas
Jordan River at Salt Lake City
Water Quality
Physical Properties, Dissolved Solids, and Alkalinity
Major Ions
Nutrients and Suspended Sediment
Trace Elements
Organic Compounds
Volatile Organic Compounds
Organic Carbon
References Cited

This report is contained in the following file:

WRI034236.pdf (10.3 mb)


Send questions or comments about this report to the author, Susan A. Thiros ( 801-908-5063.

For more information about USGS activities in Utah, visit the USGS Utah District home page.

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