Physical and chemical characteristics of Terrace Reservoir, Conejos County, Colorado, May 1994 through May 1995

Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-4150

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Terrace Reservoir receives drainage of low-pH, metal-enriched water from mineralized areas, including the Summitville Mine, within the AlamosaRiver Basin. Drainage from the Summitville Mine has contributed a substantial part of the metal load to Terrace Reservoir. From May 1994 through May 1995, a study was done by the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to evaluate the physical and chemical characteristics of Terrace Reservoir.Terrace Reservoir was thermally stratified from about mid-May through August 1994. Thermal stratification was absent from September\x111994through March 1995. During periods of stratification, underflow of the Alamosa River was predominant, and residence times of the underflow were shortened by 40 to 75\x11percent of the theoretical residence times for a well-mixed reservoir. Transport and deposition of suspended solids in Terrace Reservoir varied spatially and temporally. Most of the suspended solids were deposited in Terrace Reservoir. The concentration of dissolved oxygen in the reservoir varied little spatially or temporally and generally was within a few tenths of the dissolved-oxygen concentration of the inflow. The pH of water in the reservoir generally ranged from about 4.0 to about 7.0, depending on date, depth, and location. The largest pH values were measured during May. A markeddecrease of about 1.5\x11pH units occurred at site T5 in the reservoir about mid-June. The pH of the reservoir remained at or below 5.5 from mid-June through November. Dissolved-metal concentrations varied spatially and temporally in response to several factors, which included inflow characteristics, reservoir stratification and mixing, inflow-routing and flow-through patterns, residence times, sedimentation, dissolved oxygen, and pH.Inflow chemistry is the dominant controlling factor of metal chemistry within Terrace Reservoir.During periods of stratification, large vertical variations in metal concentrations occurred. The highest metal concentrations in the reservoir generally were measured in the hypolimnion between June and August. During June, epilimnetic water of the reservoir had pH values greater than 6.0, and metal concentrations were lower than hypolimnetic concentrations. In the hypolimnion, pH values were less than 5.5. The difference between the chemistry of the epilimnion and the hypolimnion was due to differences in flow routing and residence times of water in those respective layers. The dissolved-metal concentrations were larger during July and August than during June.During September, small vertical variations in metalconcentrations occurred, and the dissolved-metal concentrations were nearly equivalent to the average August metal concentrations, indicatingthat the metal concentrations measured during September resulted largely from reservoir mixing.During March, the largest metal concentrationsoccurred in the epilimnion, where pH was about 5.5; in the hypolimnion, where the pH was about 6.0, dissolved-metal concentrations were substantially lower and reflected inflow concentrations.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Physical and chemical characteristics of Terrace Reservoir, Conejos County, Colorado, May 1994 through May 1995
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Revision - 1997
Year Published:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey : Branch of Information Services [distributor],
iv, 34 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.