Report Abstract

WATER-QUALITY ASSESSMENT OF THE RIO GRANDE VALLEY, COLORADO, NEW MEXICO, AND TEXAS--Summary and analysis of water-quality data for the basic-fixed-site network, 1993-95

By Denis F. Healy

The Rio Grande Valley study unit of the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program collected monthly water- quality samples at a network of surface-water sites from April 1993 through September 1995. This basic-fixed-site network consisted of nine main-stem sites on the Rio Grande, five sites on tributaries of the Rio Grande, two sites on streams in the Rio Grande Valley study unit that are not directly tributary to the Rio Grande, and one site on a conveyance channel. During each monthly sampling, field properties were measured and samples were collected for the analysis of dissolved solids, major constituents, nutrients, selected trace elements, and suspended-sediment concentrations. During selected samplings, supplemental samples were collected for the analysis of additional trace elements, organic carbon, and/or pesticides.

Spatial variations of dissolved-solids, major-constituent, and nutrient data were analyzed. The report presents summary statistics for the monthly water-quality data by sampling site and background information on the drainage basin upstream from each site. Regression equations are presented that relate dissolved-solids, major-constituent, and nutrient concentrations to streamflow, selected field properties, and time.

Median instantaneous streamflow at each basic-fixed site ranged from 1.4 to 1,380 cubic feet per second. Median specific conductance at each basic-fixed site ranged from 84 to 1,680 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius, and median pH values ranged from 7.8 to 8.5. The water sampled at the basic-fixed sites generally was well oxygenated and had a median dissolved-oxygen percent of saturation range from 89 to 108. With the exception of Rio Grande above mouth of Trinchera Creek, near Lasauses, Colorado, dissolved-solids concentrations in the main stem of the Rio Grande generally increased in a downstream direction. This increase is from natural sources such as ground-water inflow and evapotranspiration and from anthropogenic sources such as irrigation- return flows, urban runoff, and wastewater-treatment plant discharges. The smallest median dissolved-solids concentration detected at a basic- fixed site was 58 milligrams per liter and the largest was 1,240 milligrams per liter.

The spatial distribution of calcium, magnesium, sodium, sulfate, chloride, and fluoride was similar to the spatial distribution of dissolved solids. The spatial distribution of potassium and bicarbonate varied slightly from that of dissolved solids. Median silica concentrations generally decreased in a downstream direction.

Of all cations, calcium and sodium had the largest concentrations at most basic-fixed sites. Bicarbonate and sulfate were the anions having the largest concentrations at most sites. The largest median silica concentration was at Rito de los Frijoles in Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico, where silica composed approximately 50 percent of the dissolved solids.

The largest concentrations and largest median concentrations of dissolved-nutrient analytes were detected at Santa Fe River above Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, and Rio Grande at Isleta, New Mexico. The relatively large dissolved-nutrient concentrations at these sites probably were due to discharges from wastewater-treatment plants and urban runoff.

The largest concentrations and largest median concentrations of total ammonia plus organic nitrogen and total phosphorus were detected at Rio Puerco near Bernardo, New Mexico. The largest concentrations of these nutrients at this site were associated with runoff from summer thunderstorms.

Dissolved-iron concentrations ranged from censored concentrations to 914 micrograms per liter. Median dissolved-iron concentrations ranged from 3 to 160 micrograms per liter. Dissolved-manganese concentrations ranged from censored concentrations to 300 micrograms per liter; median concentrations ranged from 1 to 68 micrograms per liter.

Abstract from Water-Resources Investigations Report 97-4212


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