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Water quality and chemistry of an alpine stream: a case study of Sneffels Creek, Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado
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Mountain areas are sensitive ecosystems responsible for supplying and maintaining the streamflow in various regions of Earth. In the western mountain region of the United States, mountain areas supply more than three quarters of the streamflow in the region. Over the past forty years, awareness and concern about acid precipitation and water quality have increased worldwide. Concern over the many high-altitude lakes and streams in the western United States has also been expressed. This concern has resulted in the establishment of water-quality monitoring networks. A primary key to long term water-quality monitoring for any lake or stream is the establishment of baseline conditions. In an effort to increase our understanding of alpine water conditions, this thesis establishes the baseline conditions for Sneffels Creek in Yankee Boy Basin which is located in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. Water temperature, total dissolved solids (tds), water pH, conductivity, turbidity, and oxygen reduction potential (orp) were measured at forty-one study sites along Sneffels Creek. Temperature, tds, conductivity, and orp are positively correlated and show an inverse relationship with elevation and channel width. Turbidity is highly variable along the course of the stream, displaying a positive relationship with temperature and a negative relationship with gradient. Water pH is alkaline throughout much of the stream, indicative of the presence of limestone and volcanic rocks, whereas a mid-elevation section of the stream is characterized by acidic water. Of all the variables tested, only turbidity shows a negative correlation with pH. No significant chemical or physical differences are found between pools and riffles. Whereas the water temperature of Sneffels Creek is not suitable for human consumption, it is suitable for industrial use and capable of supporting both cold and warm water biota. The range in pH for the entire stream is not suitable for agricultural, industrial, recreational, or domestic water use. Future research beneficial to Sneffels Creek might include sampling from the beginning of spring snowmelt, annual sampling, sampling of a greater number of biological, chemical, and physical characteristics, and comparisons between Sneffels Creek and other alpine streams.
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Includes bibliographical references (leaves 115-127).
Issued also on microfiche from Lange Micrographics.
Heggie, Tracey Michelle (2002). Water quality and chemistry of an alpine stream: a case study of Sneffels Creek, Yankee Boy Basin, Colorado. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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