The Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are asking for Upper Arkansas Basin salinity study

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From The Pueblo Chieftain (Chris Woodka):

“Salinity in the basin is concentrated in the Lower Arkansas basin, but the source of loading is upstream of Pueblo Reservoir,” Pat Edelmann of the U.S. Geological Survey told the Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District last week. The USGS is working on a project to study water quality in the Arkansas River basin for a water resources group formed in 2003. Southeastern, Pueblo Board of Water Works, Colorado Springs, Aurora and the Lower Arkansas Valley Water Conservancy District are participants. Edelmann outlined a course of action for a $1.7 million water quality study over several years that would look at the most pressing water quality issues in the basin: Salinity, Lake Pueblo impacts and heavy metal loading in the Upper Arkansas River. Funding of the complete package would be about one-third from USGS, with $1.2 million from local or state sources. “Water supply and water quality are increasingly linked,” Edelmann said. “It’s getting hard to separate the two.”[…]

The USGS found that two-thirds of the salt that is dissolved in the water enters the Arkansas River above Avondale, long before the major agricultural operations in the valley. While farms contribute, they also remove a certain amount of salt from the river that is deposited on fields, Edelmann said…

Edelmann speculated that the major source of loading along the river is evaporative loss, although there is no way to prove that without more continuous monitoring of the river in critical reaches. Continuous monitoring all along the river is needed to compare changes, and such data have been available only since 2000. That would cost roughly $570,000 on top of the $280,000 already being spent…

The loading above Pueblo has not been studied because water is well within acceptable levels for drinking. But reducing salinity even a little bit in the headwaters could might a tenfold benefit downstream for both surface supplies and groundwater in connected aquifers, Edelmann said.

More Arkansas Basin coverage here and here.

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