Salinity, or the dissolved-solids concentration, is the measure of salts such as sodium chloride, calcium bicarbonate, and calcium sulfate that are dissolved in water. About one-half of the salinity in the Colorado River Basin is from natural sources (U.S. Department of the Interior, 1995), such as thermal springs in the Glenwood-Dotsero area, located about 90 miles upstream from Grand Junction (fig. 1). Effects of human activities, such as irrigation, reservoir evaporation, and transbasin diversions, have increased the levels of salinity in the Colorado River. High salinity can affect industrial and municipal water users by causing increased water-treatment costs, increased deterioration of plumbing and appliances, increased soap needs, and undesirable taste of drinking water. High salinity also can cause lower crop yields by reducing water and nutrient uptake by plants and can increase agricultural production costs because of higher leaching and drainage requirements. Agricultural losses might occur when salinity reaches about 700?850 milligrams per liter (U.S Department of the Interior, 1994). Figure 1. Irrigated area in the Grand Valley and locations of sampling sites for the 1994?95 salinity study of the Colorado River. The Colorado River is the major source of irrigation water to the Grand Valley (fig. 1) and also is one source of water for the Clifton Water District, which supplies domestic water to part of the eastern Grand Valley. During spring and early summer in 1994, the Colorado River in the Grand Valley had lower than average streamflow. There was concern by water users about the effect of this low streamflow on salinity in the river. In 1994, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), in cooperation with the Colorado River Water Conservation District, began a study to evaluate salinity in the Colorado River. This fact sheet describes results of that study. The specific objectives of the fact sheet are to (1) compare salinity in the Colorado River among different locations from Cameo to the Colorado-Utah State line, (2) assess variations in salinity for different times of the year, and (3) describe the relation between streamflow and salinity in the river.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Salinity in the Colorado River in the Grand Valley, western Colorado, 1994-95