A reconnaissance investigation for the National Irrigation Water Quality Program in 1990 indicated elevated selenium concentrations in some water and biota samples collected in the Dolores Project in southwestern Colorado. High selenium concentrations also were indicated in bird samples collected in the Mancos Project in 1989. In 1994, field screenings were done in parts of the Dolores Project and Mancos River Basin to collect additional selenium data associated with irrigation inthose areas. Selenium is mobilized from soils in newly irrigated areas of the Dolores Project called the Dove Creek area, which includes newly (since 1987) irrigated land north of Cortez and south of Dove Creek.Selenium was detected in 18 of 20stream samples, and the maximum concentration was 12micrograms per liter. The Dove Creek area is unique compared to other study areas of the National Irrigation Water Quality Program becauseselenium concentrations probably are indicative of initial leaching conditions in a newly irrigated area.Selenium concentrations in nine shallow soil samples from the Dove Creek area ranged from 0.13 to 0.20 micrograms per gram. Selenium concentrations in bottom sediment from six ponds were less than the level of concern for fish and wildlife of 4 micrograms per gram. Many biota samples collected in the Dove Creek area had elevated selenium concentrations when compared to various guidelines and effect levels,although selenium concentrations in water, soil, and bottom sediment were relatively low. Selenium concentrations in 12 of 14 aquatic-invertebratesamples from ponds exceeded 3 micrograms per gram dry weight, a dietary guideline for protection of fish and wildlife. The mean seleniumconcentration of 10.3 micrograms per gram dry weight in aquatic bird eggs exceeded the guideline for reduced hatchability of 8 micrograms per gramdry weight. Two ponds in the Dove Creek area had a high selenium hazard rating based on a new protocol for assessing selenium hazard in theenvironment; however, waterfowl were reproducing at the two ponds. Three tributary streams of Mc Elmo Creek that drain irrigated areas of the Montezuma Valley south of the creek were sampled in 1994. Mud Creek probably is the largest source of selenium to Mc Elmo Creek. Most biota samples from Mud Creek had elevated selenium concentrations when compared to guidelines for dietary items and freshwater fish. Selenium concentrations in water samples collected in the Mancos River Basin upstream from Navajo Wash, which includes the Mancos Project, ranged from less than 1 to 10 micrograms per liter. Mud Creek contributed about 74 percent of the selenium load to the upper Mancos River in March 1994.Selenium concentrations were much higher in Navajo Wash; a sample collected in March had 97 micrograms per liter of selenium. Bottom-sediment samples from two ponds in the Mancos Projectexceeded the concentration of concern of 4 micrograms per gram. The highest selenium concentrations in biota samples from streams in the Mancos River Basin were for samples from Navajo Wash. Mostconcentrations in biota in the upper Mancos River Basin were less than guidelines. Mean selenium concentrations in eggs from aquatic birds collected at three ponds in the Mancos Project slightly exceed the guideline associated with reduced hatchability.Five bird livers had a mean selenium concentration of 32.6 micrograms per gram dry weight, whichslightly exceeded the mean concentration of 30 micrograms per gram dry weight that is associated with reproductive impairment. Two of the pondshad a high selenium hazard rating; however, mallard reproduction was observed in 1994 at one of the ponds that had a high selenium-hazard rating.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Field screening of water, soil, bottom sediment, and biota associated with irrigation drainage in the Dolores Project and the Macos River basin, southwestern Colorado, 1994
Water-Resources Investigations Report
U.S. Geological Survey :
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