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Influence of rock composition on the geochemistry of stream and spring waters from mountainous watersheds in the Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and Grand Mesa National Forests, Colorado

Professional Paper 1667

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Abstract

The ranges of geochemical baselines for stream and spring waters were determined and maps were constructed showing acid-neutralizing capacity and potential release of total dissolved solids for streams and spring waters for watersheds underlain by each of ten different rock composition types in the Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and Grand Mesa National Forests, Colorado (GMUG). Water samples were collected in mountainous headwater watersheds that have comparatively high precipitation and low evapotranspiration rates and that generally lack extensive ground-water reservoirs. Mountainous headwaters react quickly to changes in input of water from rain and melting snow and they are vulnerable to anthropogenic impact. Processes responsible for the control and mobility of elements in the watersheds were investigated. The geochemistry of water from the sampled watersheds in the GMUG, which are underlain by rocks that are relatively unmineralized, is compared to the geochemistry of water from the mineralized Redcloud Peak area. The water with the highest potential for release of total dissolved solids is from watersheds that are underlain by Paleozoic sedimentary rocks; that high potential is caused primarily by gypsum in those rocks. Water that has the highest acid-neutralizing capacity is from watersheds that are underlain by Paleozoic sedimentary rocks. The water from watersheds underlain by the Mancos Shale has the next highest acid-neutralizing capacity. Water that has the lowest acid-neutralizing capacity is from watersheds that are underlain by Tertiary ash-flow tuff. Tertiary sedimentary rocks containing oil shale, the Mesavede Formation containing coal, and the Mancos Shale all contain pyrite with elevated metal contents. In these mountainous head-water areas, water from watersheds underlain by these rock types is only slightly impacted by oxidation of pyrite, and over-all it is of good chemical quality. These geochemical baselines demonstrate the importance of rock composition in determining the types of waters that are in the headwater areas. The comparison of these geochemical baselines to later geochemical base-lines will allow recognition of any significant changes in water quality that may occur in the future.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Influence of rock composition on the geochemistry of stream and spring waters from mountainous watersheds in the Gunnison, Uncompahgre, and Grand Mesa National Forests, Colorado
Series title:
Professional Paper
Series number:
1667
Edition:
Version 1.0
Year Published:
2002
Language:
ENGLISH
Description:
52 p.