Colorado Water Science Center

TREND ANALYSIS OF DISSOLVED-SOLIDS CONCENTRATIONS AND LOADS IN THE COLORADO AND GUNNISON RIVER BASINS IN COLORADO

By Nancy J. Bauch and Norman E. Spahr


Abstract

To assess the effects of salinity-control projects and to determine the status of salinity upstream from control projects in the Colorado and Gunnison River Basins in Colorado, dissolved-solids data from several Federal and State agencies were analyzed for trends in flow-adjusted periodic dissolved-solids concentrations and in monthly and annual dissolved-solids loads for 1970-93, 1980-93, 1986-93. A decrease in dissolved-solids concentrations and loads occurred in the Colorado River near the Colorado-Utah State line, and part of this decrease was probably due to upstream salinity-control projects. In areas of the Colorado River Basin not affected by salinity-control projects, flow-adjusted dissolved-solids concentrations and loads generally were decreasing or had no statistically significant trends for the three analysis periods. For sites in the Gunnison River Basin, just over one-half of all trend results indicated no statistically significant change in flow-adjusted dissolved-solids concentrations and loads, both upstream and downstream of salinity-control projects. More of the statistically significant results were decreasing rather than increasing. Trend results indicating decreasing concentrations and loads of dissolved-solids in areas not affected by salinity-control projects may indicate that other factors, such as variations in streamflow, snowmelt, and runoff; water quality of springs and seeps; and land-use changes, may be affecting salinity in the Colorado and Gunnison River Basins in Colorado.

KEY TERMS: salinity; dissolved solids; trends; Upper Colorado River Basin; Gunnison River Basin; Colorado.


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