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Canyon Creek, located in southwestern New Mexico, is listed on the New Mexico (NM) 2000-2002 303(d) list due to the presence of plant nutrients resulting in nuisance growths of algae. The New Mexico plant nutrients standard is narrative.

This creek was originally listed for plant nutrients based on 1992 data. This determination was based on the best professional judgment of the principal investigator during the 1992 intensive survey. Since there are no numeric standards applicable to Canyon Creek for plant nutrients, an assessment for nutrient enrichment was made in late spring and summer 2001. This two-season study was conducted in 2001 to determine whether or not the 303(d) listing was valid.

To determine whether the creek was nutrient impaired and extensive enough to cause undesirable water quality changes, three levels of assessment were available in the Nutrient Assessment Protocol developed by the Surface Water Quality Bureau (SWQB). The levels of assessment range from visual to analytical assessments. The different levels of assessment are used in sequential order to determine occurrence of nutrient over enrichment. If it is determined that a stream reach is nutrient enriched, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) will be written for that reach.

Level one and two nutrient assessments were used in Canyon Creek in 2001. These water quality surveys were conducted during high and low flow events. Macroinvertebrates were collected using EPAs Rapid Bioassessment Protocols (RBP) and showed impacts to the benthic community.

Overall, the observational and quantitative data collected for the nutrient assessment for Canyon Creek showed a violation of the narrative standard for plant nutrients, and indicated a water quality impairment. There were extensive amounts of filamentous algae in the creek. Several data points for pH and dissolved oxygen (DO) indicated possible high plant productivity in the creek. As well, an algal bioassay determined moderately high plant productivity levels in the creek.

A draft TMDL for plant nutrients was written in August 2001 for Canyon Creek. Public participation was solicited in the development of the TMDL. This draft was made available for a thirty day public comment period beginning October 9, 2001. This draft document was extensively advertised via newsletters, email distribution lists, web page postings, and press releases.

In October 2001, representatives from the SWQB held public meetings in the watershed to discuss the draft TMDL for plant nutrients. Public comments and responses to comments were attached as an appendix in the final TMDL. The TMDL was formally approved by the NM Water Quality Control Commission and adopted into the Water Quality Management Plan in December 2001. EPA Region 6 then formally approved the TMDL for Canyon Creek in February 2002.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2002

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