Working to Find Ways to Reduce Selenium In Our Locally Affected Waterways
Effects of Changes in Land Use on Selenium Loading in the Whitewater, CO Area
Status: In Process
Project Details: Historically, land use in the Kannah Creek, Whitewater Creek, and
Callow Creek basins has been generally limited to open range and
irrigated agriculture (see Whitewater map).
Currently, greater demand for residential housing is increasing
development pressure in the area. Previously undeveloped areas are
becoming residential plots. Increasing residential land use in the area
has fostered concerns about potentially negative changes in water
quality, specifically concerning the potential for increased selenium
loading to the nearby Gunnison River.
Development in the area is expected to use independent septic drainage
systems (ISDS). In addition, areas not historically irrigated will come
under residential and ranchette style irrigation practices. Portions of
the Kannah Creek, Whitewater Creek, and the entire Callow Creek basins
are underlain by Mancos Shale, which is known to contain high
concentrations of selenium. Increased water use in the area, ISDS
installation, and suburban irrigation could be expected to increase the
loading of selenium into the nearby Gunnsion River.
This project is collecting water quality and streamflow samples from
the area with the goal of characterizing background conditions prior to
the planned residential development. Evaluation of changes in selenium
loading will provide additional insight into how land use practices and
watershed conditions affect selenium loading to the local waterways.
Evaluation of potential changes in water quality in this area will also
guide the implementation of Best Management Practices (BMPs) that are
suited to the local environmental conditions.