Effects of Water Quality on Fish Species in Cutler Reservoir


Jamie Reynolds

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

USU Student Showcase

Publication Date


Faculty Mentor

Phaedra Budy


Pollution and decreased water quality can affect fishes by impacting habitat, food sources, and dissolved oxygen levels, which in turn impact their growth potential and reproductive abilities. Cutler Reservoir, a warm-water fishery located in northern Utah, was listed as water quality impaired under the Clean Water Act in 2010 due to excess phosphorus and periods of low dissolved oxygen levels. Despite this listing, surveys conducted in 2005 and 2006 revealed 14 species of fish residing in the reservoir. This community is comprised of game and non-game fish species, including trophy-sized walleye. With this research I aimed to determine why there is such a wide diversity of fish species thriving in the reservoir, when the reservoir itself is listed as water quality impaired. I examined the Cutler Reservoir TMDL, journal articles focused on the bioenergetics of the fishes in the reservoir, and journal articles focused on nutrient impacts on fish growth in similar bodies of water around the world. Cutler exceeds the limit of 0.025 mg/L for phosphorus (dissolved and total) in all parts, water temperatures exceed 27 degrees C in the summer months, and the reservoir has a Secchi depth of 0.5 m, indicating high turbidity and poor water quality. A combination of factors seem to contribute to the success of the fishes living in the reservoir. Most of the fish species are tolerant of the warm temperatures in the reservoir because they are warm-water species. In addition, many species possess adaptations to living in turbid environments like Cutler. The low dissolved oxygen levels apparently do not have a drastic effect on the fish species, and the fishes are not limited by food in such a productive environment. Further research may be necessary to confirm these results, and this information could potentially have an impact on the management of the reservoir.

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