Document Type


Publication Date

January 1986


What Quality Management in Utah Mountain Streams: Several years of thorough monitoring of water quality parameters in Little Cottonwood Creek in Salt Lake County, Utah, measured the natural levels of the major water constituents, spotted significant (largely nonpoint) pollution sources, identified the pollutants deserving primary attention, and suggested the approaches to land and water management for pollution control in a mountain watershed used primarily for recreation purposes. Bacterial pollution is greater at night than during the day, on weekends than on week days, and in the summer than in the winter. Mineral content is of natural origin and largely explained by the passage of ground and surface waters through source geologic formations and aplified by the after effects of historic mining activity. Anion concentrations vary with underlying geology in a pattern that increases nitrate and sulfate and decreases phosphate concentrations while moving northwesterly through the basin. Acid is added by both mine drainage an dprecipitation. As to current human water quality impacts, runoff from roadside and other areas of construction is a varying source of sediment, but sediment concentrations are consistently high below major resort areas. Road salts are a major contributor of sodium chloride. Organic and fecal pollution originate from nonpoint soil sources contaminated by vegetation, wildlife, and human activities. Nitrates appear to come largely from natural sources. The toxic effect of mine drainage appears to reduce bacteria counts. Campgrounds, private cabins, and resorts were the primary source of fecal pollution that is considerably worse in the summer than in the winter. Ski areas are the lesser winter source as pollution levels fluctuate with visitor populations. Water quality may well be the most important limitation to the recreation carrying capacity of the canyon during the summer and fall. The most effective management program for pollution control may well be to limit summer recreation activities conducted apart from adequate sanitary facilities.