Assessment of Dissolved-Selenium Concentrations and Loads in the Lower Gunnison River Basin, Colorado, as Part of the Selenium Management Program, 2011–17

Open-File Report 2020-1078
Prepared in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation
By:

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Abstract

The Gunnison Basin Selenium Management Program implemented a water-quality monitoring network in 2011 to measure concentrations of selenium in the lower Gunnison River Basin in Colorado. Selenium is a trace element that bioaccumulates in aquatic food chains. Selenium is essential for life, but elevated amounts can cause reproductive failure, deformities, and other harmful effects. The primary goal of the Selenium Management Program is to meet the State of Colorado water-quality standard of 4.6 micrograms per liter (µg/L) for dissolved selenium at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) streamflow-gaging station number 09152500—Gunnison River near Grand Junction, Colorado—herein referred to as “Whitewater.” The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, has completed a review of dissolved-selenium data collected from the Selenium Management Program network during Water Year (WY) 2017 (October 1, 2016 through September 30, 2017) to further the understanding of the status and trends of selenium in the basin. This report presents the percentile values for selenium because regulatory agencies in Colorado make decisions based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act section 303(d), which uses percentile values for concentrations. Also presented are dissolved-selenium loads at 14 sites in the lower Gunnison River Basin for WYs 2011–17. Annual dissolved-selenium loads were calculated for six sites with continuous U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations. These six sites are referred to as “core” sites in this report. The remaining sites, which do not have streamflow-gaging stations, are referred to as “ancillary” sites in this report. During WY 2017, the loads calculated at the six core sites ranged from 306 pounds (lb) at Uncompahgre River at Colona to 12,600 lb at Whitewater, respectively.

By using discrete water-quality samples and the associated discharge measurements, instantaneous loads were calculated for 14 sites in WYs 2011–17 where discrete water-quality sampling took place. Median instantaneous loads ranged from 0.52 pounds per day (lb/d) at Uncompahgre River at Colona to 35.7 lb/d at Whitewater. Mean instantaneous loads ranged from 0.63 lb/d at Cummings Gulch at mouth to 35.5 lb/d at Whitewater. Most tributary sites in the basin had a median instantaneous dissolved-selenium load of less than 20.0 lb/d. In general, dissolved-selenium loads at Gunnison River main-stem sites showed an increase from upstream to downstream.

The State of Colorado’s water-quality standard for dissolved selenium of 4.6 µg/L was compared to the 85th percentiles for dissolved selenium at selected sites. Annual 85th percentiles for dissolved selenium were calculated by using estimated dissolved-selenium concentrations from linear regression models for the six core sites with U.S. Geological Survey streamflow-gaging stations. The 85th-percentile concentrations for WY 2017 based on this method ranged from 0.68 µg/L at Uncompahgre River at Colona to 140 µg/L at Loutzenhizer Arroyo at North River Road. The 85th percentiles for concentrations of dissolved selenium also were calculated from water-quality samples collected during WY 2017 from sites with sufficient data. The annual 85th-percentile concentrations based on the discrete samples ranged from 0.75 µg/L at Uncompahgre River at Colona to 106 µg/L at Loutzenhizer Arroyo at North River Road.

An analysis was completed for Whitewater to determine if an upward or downward trend exists for dissolved-selenium loads during two time periods. The first time period included all data at Whitewater, whereas the second time period focused on more recent data. The trend analysis indicates a decrease from 22,200 to 12,600 lb, which is a 43.1 percent (9,600 lb) reduction during the time period WY 1986 through WY 2017. The trend analysis for the annual dissolved-selenium load for WY 1995 through WY 2017 indicates a decrease of 6,600 lb per year, or 35.5 percent. An evaluation of laboratory bias was completed for selenium data which was used in the trend analysis. Findings indicated a potential positive bias of approximately 12 percent may exist in the data from October 2005 through August 2015.

Suggested Citation

Henneberg, M.F., 2020, Assessment of dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads in the Lower Gunnison River Basin, Colorado, as part of the Selenium Management Program, 2011–17: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2020–1078, 21 p., https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20201078

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Assessment of Dissolved-Selenium Concentrations and Loads
  • Summary.
  • References Cited
  • Appendix 1. R-LOADEST Equation Forms, Regression-Model Coefficients, and Statistical Diagnostics

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Assessment of dissolved-selenium concentrations and loads in the Lower Gunnison River Basin, Colorado, as part of the Selenium Management Program, 2011–17
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2020-1078
DOI 10.3133/ofr20201078
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Colorado Water Science Center
Description v, 21 p.
Country United States
State Colorado
Other Geospatial Lower Gunnison River Basin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
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