Chemical and physical characteristics of water and sediment in Scofield Reservoir, Carbon County, Utah

Water Supply Paper 2247

Prepared in cooperation with the U.S.Bureau of Land Management
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Evaluations based on the nutrient content of the inflow, outflow, water in storage, and the dissolved-oxygen depletion during the summer indicate that the trophic state of Scofield Reservoir is borderline between mesotrophic and eutrophic and may become highly eutrophic unless corrective measures are taken to limit nutrient inflow.

Sediment deposition in Scofield Reservoir during 1943-79 is estimated to be 3,000 acre-feet, and has decreased the original storage capacity of the reservoir by 4 percent. The sediment contains some coal, and age dating of those sediments (based on the radioisotope lead-210) indicates that most of the coal was deposited prior to about 1950.

Scofield Reservoir is dimictic, with turnovers occurring in the spring and autumn. Water in the reservoir circulates completely to the bottom during turnovers. The concentration of dissolved oxygen decreases with depth except during parts of the turnover periods. Below an altitude of about 7,590 feet, where 20 percent of the water is stored, the concentration of dissolved oxygen was less than 2 milligrams per liter during most of the year. During the summer stratification period, the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the deeper layers is coincident with supersaturated conditions in the shallow layers; this is attributed to plant photosynthesis and bacterial respiration in the reservoir.

During October 1,1979-August 31,1980, thedischargeweighted average concentrations of dissolved solids was 195 milligrams per liter in the combined inflow from Fish, Pondtown, and Mud Creeks, and was 175 milligrams per liter in the outflow (and to the Price River). The smaller concentration in the outflow was due primarily to precipitation of calcium carbonate in the reservoir about 80 percent of the decrease can be accounted for through loss as calcium carbonate.

The estimated discharge-weighted average concentration of total nitrogen (dissolved plus suspended) in the combined inflow of Fish, Pondtown, and Mud Creeks was 1.1 milligrams per liter as nitrogen. The load of total nitrogen contributed by each stream was about proportional to the quantity of water contributed by the respective stream.

For the combined inflow of Fish, Pondtown, and Mud Creeks, the discharge-weighted average concentration of total phosphorus was 0.06 milligram per liter as phosphorus. Percentages of the total phosphorus load contributed by Mud and Pondtown Creeks were significantly larger than their percentages of the total inflow. During October 1, 1979-August 31, 1980, Fish Creek contributed 72 percent of the inflowing water but only 60 percent of the total phosphorus load, Mud Creek contributed 16 percent of the total inflow but 24 percent of the total phosphorus load, and Pondtown Creek contributed 6 percent of the total inflow and 16 percent of the load of total phosphorus.

Eccles Canyon is a major contributor of nutrients to Mud Creek, and most of the nutrient load occurs in the form of suspended organic material. During the snowmelt period, concentrations of total nitrogen and phosphorus were as much as 21 and 4.3 milligrams per liter at the gaging station in Eccles Canyon. The unusually large concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus probably have resulted from flushing of residual debris from the canyon about 27.3 acres of forested land were cleared during 1979 for fire protection around new mine portals and for road rights-of-way.

The concentrations of trace metals in the sediments near the inflow of Mud Creek are not greatly different from those in the middle of the reservoir, which suggests that sediments related to coal mining either have not affected the trace-metal concentrations in the sediments or, particularly for the fine-grained sediments, have been uniformly distributed over the reservoir bottom. The concentration of total extractable mercury in the sediments ranged from 0.08 to 0.20 part per million near the inflow of Mud Creek and from 0.08 to 0.46 part per million at a site near the middle of the reservoir. Virtually all the mercury is silica bound, which is the least soluble fraction. The maximum concentration of mercury in the nondetrital and easily soluble fraction was 0.02 part per million at both sites.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Chemical and physical characteristics of water and sediment in Scofield Reservoir, Carbon County, Utah
Series title:
Water Supply Paper
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Government Printing Office
Publisher location:
Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s):
Utah Water Science Center
v, 36 p.
United States
Carbon County
Other Geospatial:
Scofield Reservoir