Seven years of discharge and water quality records define temporal and spatial patterns of solute movement in a Colorado alpine stream system. Dissolved solids concentrations are low, generally less than 30 mg 1-1 and occasionally less than 3 mg 1-1 at the highest elevations. Calcium is the dominant cation and bicarbonate and sulfate are the main anions. Temporal changes in solute concentrations are dominated by an annual cycle with high values in late winter and spring that decrease rapidly during early summer and then return more slowly through fall. This pattern corresponds to the seasonal streamflow regime and reflects differential elution of the snowpack by meltwater and changing proportions of surface and subsurface water in the streamflow. The amplitude of the annual cycle of solute concentration is reduced with increasing catchment area and where the groundwater contribution to flow is relatively high. In general, solute concentrations increase down valley but this trend is reversed in the case of biologically important solutes, such as nitrate and potassium. Rates of geochemical denudation are dominated by the volume of water discharge and thus are highest in the parts of the basin that accumulate the greatest depths of winter snow. They vary between 5 and 26 g m-2 yr-1 for different parts of the catchment and average less than 9 g m-2 yr-1. These rates are low compared to those from high-elevation catchments elsewhere but are an order of magnitude higher than rates of sediment removal from the basin. ?? 1990.
Additional publication details
Temporal and spatial variations in the solute content of an alpine stream, Colorado Front Range