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Colorado Water Science Center

GEOMORPHIC INDICES AS A TOOL FOR ASSESSMENT OF WATER QUALITY IN THE MAINSTEM AND TRIBUTARIES OF THE SOUTH PLATTE RIVER IN COLORADO, NEBRASKA, AND WYOMING

National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program
South Platte River Basin Study

by Janet S. Heiny 1

ABSTRACT

The South Platte River undergoes many geomorphic changes as it flows from the mountains at elevations over 4,300 m and across the plains at elevations as low as 850 m. Habitats subsequently are diverse and also are modified by anthropogenic factors. To assess habitat variability and changes in water quality, the physical setting was quantified by measuring geomorphic features including channel width, depth, and roughness and bank width, height, and angle. Habitat variability, as the result of localized events such as flooding or construction, also was determined.

Bank stability, as a function of bank height, width, angle, and vegetation, is one factor being studied in the South Platte River. Bank features and a bank stability index are useful predictors of stream stability in the basin, thus serving as indicators of human disturbance or natural conditions that can be related to existing water quality.

1 U.S. Geological Survey, Box 25046, MS 415, Denver Federal Center, Lakewood, CO 80225

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