National Park Service

Southern Colorado Plateau Network (SCPN)

Parks in this Network

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Tsaile Creek at Canyon de Chelly NM



Project Summary
Protocol Narrative and SOPs (Link to IRMA)

Inventory Reports

Monitoring Reports

SCPN parks have identified vital signs for this project and related aquatic monitoring

  1. Water quality
    • Core parameters — temperature, pH, Specific conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity,
      and flow
    • Bacteria
    • Nutrients, trace metals and major ions
  2. Aquatic macroinvertebrate
  3. Fluvial geomorphology
  4. Riparian vegetation composition & structure
  5. Spring vegetation composition & structure

Parks and streams/springs where SCPN monitors water quality

Park Streams
Bandelier NM Capulin Creek,
Rito de los Frijoles
Canyon de Chelly NM Tsaile Creek,
Chinle Wash
Glen Canyon NRA Escalante River,
Coyote Gulch
Grand Canyon NP Bright Angel Creek,
Garden Creek
Mesa Verde NP Mancos River
Park Springs
Canyon de Chelly NM TBD
Chaco Culture NHP TBD
El Morro NM TBD
Glen Canyon NRA TBD
Grand Canyon NP TBD
Mesa Verde NP TBD
Navajo NM TBD
Salinas Pueblo Missions NM TBD
Yucca House NM TBD

Water quality data are used to characterize the condition of stream and spring waters, detect trends over time, and identify existing or emerging problems. In SCPN parks, water quality is monitored as an indicator of aquatic ecosystem integrity, as a component of watershed condition, and to document water quality conditions in relation to state and federal regulations. Perennial streams are rare on the Colorado Plateau, and most streams in the region are intermittent or ephemeral. Because of highly varying flows, difficult access, and limited funding availability, water quality data describing SCPN streams and springs are sparse. Information documenting water quality status and trends helps to guide the development of resource management plans and actions designed to maintain or restore surface water quality.

Water quality is influenced by physical and biological conditions such as geology and vegetation, altered by natural disturbance events such as catastrophic fire, flooding or climatic drought, or degraded by a variety of anthropogenic activities. Significant contamination of surface waters can be harmful to aquatic biota and may pose health risks to recreational visitors. SCPN's water quality monitoring program complements ongoing state, tribal, and other NPS monitoring programs, thus contributing to a broader regional understanding of aquatic conditions.

Monitoring Objectives

Specific objectives of water quality monitoring for the SCPN parks are

  • Determine status and trends in selected core water quality parameters (water temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and discharge) under base flow conditions at selected sites in priority streams and springs within SCPN parks as a function of flow, season and climatic condition.
  • Determine status and trends of water quality constituents including bacteria, nutrients, major elements, and trace metals at selected sites in priority streams and springs within SCPN parks.
  • Compare water quality data against state standards for chronic exceedences. Multiple exceedences in a year typically indicate non-compliance.
Bright Angel Creek in Grand Canyon NP<br/>(SCPN photo) Tsaile Creek in Canyon de Chelly NM<br/>(SCPN photo) Water quality monitoring site on Rito de los Frijoles in Bandelier NM prior to 2011 fire and flood (SCPN photo) Collecting temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH, and specific conductivity data, Capulin Creek,Bandelier NM(SCPN photo) Measuring discharge during the winter at Capulin Creek in Bandelier NM (SCPN photo) Collecting water quality data at Garden Creek in Grand Canyon NP (SCPN photo) Measuring discharge on the Mancos River in Mesa Verde NP (SCPN photo) Downloading water temperature data from a datalogger at Tsaile Creek in Canyon de Chelly NM (SCPN photo) Collecting water quality samples at Chinle Wash in Canyon de Chelly NM (SCPN photo) Highly turbid water sample collected from Capulin Creek after the Las Conchas Fire in Bandelier NM (SCPN photo) Collecting water quality data from Rito de los Frijoles in Bandelier NM (SCPN photo)

Monitoring Project Status

Water quality will be is monitored quarterly at selected streams in five SCPN parks. Pilot studies were initiated in 2007 and stream water quality monitoring was implemented in 2010. SCPN sends water quality samples to the US Geological Survey's National Water Quality Laboratory for analysis of selected water quality constituents.

SCPN's spring water quality monitoring is integrated with the network's spring ecosystems monitoring and will be implemented in 2018. The Water Quality Monitoring Protocol for Streams and Springs in the Southern Colorado Plateau Network was published in November 2016.

Project Contacts

Stacy Stumpf, Aquatic Ecologist
Southern Colorado Plateau Network

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Last Updated: February 08, 2018 Contact Webmaster