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Using GIS and Multivariate Regressions to Model Salt and Selenium Loads in Regions of the Upper Colorado River Basin

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Using GIS and Multivariate Regressions to Model Salt and Selenium Loads in Regions of the Upper Colorado River Basin

Study Area: Upper Colorado River Basin, Colorado
Period of Project: 2004-2006
Project Number: BCJO1
Project Chief: Ken Leib
Cooperator: Bureau of Reclamation


Salinity and selenium water-quality issues in the upper Colorado River Basin of western Colorado have been the focus of remediation efforts for many years. In response to the Salinity Control Act of 1974, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) have focused on salinity control since 1979 through the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Program. The primary methods of salinity reduction are the lining of irrigation canals and laterals and assisting farmers to establish more efficient irrigation practices (Butler, 1996). Starting in 1988, the National Irrigation Water Quality Program (NIWQP), a Federal-agency board, began investigations to determine other possible adverse effects irrigation drainage was having on water quality in the western United States. The NIWQP investigations lead to the discovery that irrigation drainage contributes a significant portion of the salinity load of the upper Colorado River Basin and the discovery of high concentrations of selenium in water, biota, and sediment samples. Previous investigations determined a relation exists between subbasin characteristics (Mancos Shale outcrops, agricultural practices, and irrigation water-delivery system design) and salt and selenium loads at the mouths of certain subbasins.


  1. To model salt and selenium loading using quantified GIS information and regression analysis to simulate, track, and manage water quality in regions of the upper Colorado River and its tributaries.
  2. To locate and quantify areas where salt and selenium load reductions may be feasible and to estimate loading scenarios in regions of proposed development or transitional land use. Load reductions for salt and selenium will be modeled using remediation scenarios such as polyacrylamide applications in irrigation-delivery systems or improving septic-system placement and construction.

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