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A tale of two streams: Chemical and physical characteristics of secondary tributaries in an arid urban watershed and potential impacts on a main stem river

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Since 1998 South Platte Coalition for Urban River Evaluation (SPCURE) has studied the Denver, Colorado, urban watershed. The studies have focused on the main stem of the South Platte River. There has always been concern that the tributaries may impact the main stem but there have been limited resources to study the problem. In the Spring of 2004 an opportunity occurred because of a John H. Ware Fellowship program that sponsored a trainee from Bolivia. The trainee was scheduled to spend seven weeks observing and working with SPCURE. The trainee's goals were to learn techniques and methods for assessing water quality, and acquire field sampling design and implementation skills. This provided an opportunity for combined fellowship training and a tributary stream impact research project. The trainee gained valuable insight into the process of designing and implementing a watershed field study, and knowledge about appropriate analytical procedures. The two streams that were selected for the study were selected because chemical analyses collected at the tributary mouths suggested that the two streams had different characteristics. Bear Creek (BC) originates from the western Rocky Mountains and Little Dry Creek (LDC) originates form the eastern plains. Analytical variables measured included physical/chemical parameters, microbiology and a suite of metals. From this data it was observed that 1. the two streams are different in nature 2. the Mancos shale deposits to the east produced high Se levels in LDC 3. both streams had high non-human e. coli populations 4. the streams were impacted, but differently, by road de-icing In conclusion, the chemical characteristic of relatively small tributary streams can vary significantly in spatial and temporal terms even for streams that are located in seemingly close proximity. During low flow conditions these streams have the potential to significantly impact the larger stream into which they flow.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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