Salt a growing concern in Colorado River |

Salt a growing concern in Colorado River

Donna Gray

GARFIELD COUNTY – Salinity is a growing problem in the Colorado River as it wends its way west of Eagle County. As it flows through Colorado, the river picks up a significant amount of salt, chiefly from hot springs, runoff from farms’ irrigation systems and natural geologic features such as salt-rich shales. By the time the Colorado reaches Mexico, its waters are so laden with salt they are a danger to crops.A good deal of that salt – between 400,000 and 500,000 tons annually – is dumped into the river between Dotsero and an area west of Glenwood Springs, said Dave Merritt, chief engineer with the Colorado River Water Conservation District in Glenwood Springs.”It’s a major loading point” on the river, he said.The Garfield County Commissioners will pay $11,645 to help build a water-quality gauge near New Castle that will help identify the sources of the slat dumped in that reach of the river. Salinity has been a growing problem in communities that draw water from the Colorado, such as New Castle, Silt and Rifle. The problem is especially noticeable in winter when river flows decrease.”The salt rate is constant,” Merritt said.Also of concern are the rising levels of selenium in the waters of the Colorado. In small amounts, naturally occurring selenium is a necessary nutrient in soil. In larger amounts, however, it can be toxic to fish and birds, Merritt said.The state Water Quality Control Commission has added the tributaries of the river between South Canyon and Parachute to its list of waters impaired by selenium, he added.Vail, Colorado

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