Twenty-three stream sites representing a range of forested, agricultural, and urban land uses were sampled in the South Platte River Basin of Colorado from July through September 2002 to characterize water quality during drought conditions. With a few exceptions, dissolved ammonia, Kjeldahl nitrogen, total phosphorus, and dissolved orthophosphate concentrations were similar to seasonal historical levels in all land use areas during the drought. At some agricultural sites, decreased dilution of irrigation return flow may have contributed to higher concentrations of some nutrient species, increased primary productivity, and higher dissolved oxygen concentrations. At some urban sites, decreased dilution of base flow and wastewater treatment plant effluent may have contributed to higher dissolved nitrite-plus-nitrate concentrations, increased primary productivity, and higher dissolved oxygen concentrations. Total pesticide concentrations in urban and agricultural areas were not consistently higher or lower during the drought. At most forested sites, decreased dilution of ground water-derived calcium bicarbonate type base flow likely led to elevated pH and specific-conductance values. Water temperatures at many of the forested sites also were higher, contributing to lower dissolved oxygen concentrations during the drought.
Additional publication details
Drought effects on water quality in the South Platte River Basin, Colorado
Journal of the American Water Resources Association