Initial effects of Stagecoach Reservoir on discharge, water-quality characteristics, and suspended-sediment loads in the Yampa River, northwestern Colorado

Water-Resources Investigations Report 95-4101




The construction and filling of Stagecoach Reservoir on the Yampa River during 1988-91 were done to enhance water management and to use local water resources. To assess the initial effects of the reservoir on the hydrology of the upper Yampa River, physical, chemical, and biological data were collected at a site upstream (YR-1) during water years 1989-92 and a site downstream (YR-2) from the reservoir during water years 1985-92 and at two sites in the reservoir during 1990-92. Annual suspended-sediment loads were determined for the Yampa River for water years 1985-92, and sediment retention in Stagecoach Reservoir was estimated. The initial filling of the 33,275-acre-foot reservoir proceeded slower than expected because inflow from the Yampa River was about 50 to 73 percent of average during water years 1989-91. Secchi-disk measurements in Stagecoach Reservoir ranged from 2.5 to 18 feet. Algal growth and sediment transport during stormy weather decreased water clarity, and possible algal grazing by zooplankton and sediment deposition improved water clarity. Water temperature in the reservoir ranged from 0 to 22 degrees Celsius, and thermal stratification was maintained during summer. Values of pH ranged from 7.2 in the hypolimnion to 8.9 in the epilimnion. Changes in pH were related to photosynthesis and respiration. Concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the reservoir ranged from 0 milligram per liter in the hypolimnion to 13 milligrams per liter in the epilimnion. Average 5-day biochemical-oxygen-demand rates ranged from 0.33 to 0.46 milligram per liter per day. Oxygen production from photosynthesis was greatest in the epilimnion; oxygen depletion from respiration was characteristic in the hypolimnion. Near or above average inflow might decrease the incidence of anaerobic conditions. Specific conductance in the reservoir ranged from 414 to 520 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius, depending on the specific conductance of inflow from the Yampa River. The water was a very hard, calcium bicarbonate type. Nitrogen input to the reservoir was mostly as organic nitrogen that ranged in concentration from less than 0.18 to about 1.0 milligram per liter. Concentrations of dissolved phosphorus in the inflow of the Yampa River ranged from less than 0.01 to 0.06 milligram per liter. Decomposition of organic material and release of nutrients from sediments under reducing conditions were probable causes for dissolved-ammonia concentrations near the reservoir bottom to increase to maximum values of 0.9 to 1.6 milligrams per liter as nitrogen during thermal stratification in summer. Dissolved phosphorus also increased in the same conditions to a range of 0.32 to 0.35 milligram per liter. Except for concentrations of total recoverable manganese that ranged from 210 to 440 micrograms per liter near the reservoir bottom, most concentrations of 20 trace constituents were measured at or near analytical detection limits. A total of 119 phytoplankton from 7 phyla was identified in Stagecoach Reservoir during 1990-92. Cyanophyta (blue-green algae) accounted for most of the cell counts. Cyanophyta blooms of Aphanizomenon and Aphanocapsa developed during 1990-92, and photosynthesis caused concentrations of dissolved oxygen to exceed 150-percent saturation in the epilimnion. Diversity index values for phytoplankton ranged from 0.05 to 3.06. Values of diversity index during the summer of 1992 indicated that the community diversity of algae could be greatest in spring and least in fall. All colony counts of fecal coliform bacteria in the reservoir during 1990-92 were less than criteria limits set by the State of Colorado. During water years 1985-88 (preconstruction period), at a site on the Yampa River downstream from the proposed damsite, and water years 1989-92 (post-construction period), at a site upstream from the dam, annual loads of suspended sediment ranged from 2,480 to 22,650 tons. The average annual suspended-sediment load for th

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Initial effects of Stagecoach Reservoir on discharge, water-quality characteristics, and suspended-sediment loads in the Yampa River, northwestern Colorado
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Dept. of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey : Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
v, 111 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.