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USGS Water-Quality Information

USGS Water-Quality Data and Activities for the 2015 Gold King Mine Release


Water-Quality Sampling Data

 [Photo: USGS Site ]

USGS gage 09358550, Cement Creek at Silverton. Photo taken September 29, 2012. Credit: USGS. This photo is in the public domain. Higher resolution version is available.

USGS has collected water-quality samples at a number of sites downstream from the Gold King Mine since the August 2015 release. As part of our routine science activities, USGS collects water-quality data around the Nation. The region near Silverton, Colorado, has been an area of extensive USGS research on abandoned mine lands and on natural sources of metals and acidity to streams. The locations, types of data, and frequency of data vary based on the objectives of the USGS program or study for which they were collected.

Two main databases are available with data for the area of interest:

USGS Gold King Mine Release Database

Download the Data

For convenience and ease of access, USGS has compiled a database of USGS National Water Information (NWIS) water-quality data, referred to as the USGS Gold King Mine Release Database [25MB ZIP]. The zip file includes copies of the database in two formats: a Microsoft Access Database and a comma-separated-values text file.

What does the database include?

The USGS water-quality sites included in the database were selected based on the criteria below. Both approved and provisional data are contained in the database.


The data are from USGS water-quality sites in the area around and downstream from the Gold King Mine, including

  • the Animas River and tributaries (including the headwaters of Cement Creek) and
  • the San Juan River and its tributaries down to and including the San Juan Arm of Lake Powell.

The database currently includes data from more than 80 USGS National Water Information (NWIS) water and sediment sites. Download a comma-separated-values file with information about the included NWIS sites [55KB CSV]. Site information in this file includes information about a location where samples were collected or measurements were made, such as the site name, NWIS site number, hydrologic unit code, latitude/longitude, and other site metadata; it does not include the results of Site measurements or sampling.

The NWIS sites sampled by USGS after the August 5, 2015, release are:

  • 09358000
  • 09358550
  • 09359020
  • 09361500
  • 09363500
  • 09364010
  • 09364500
  • 09365000
  • 09368000
  • 09371010
  • 09379500
  • 375322107391101
  • 375333107385401
  • 375344107384801
 [Photo: Gold King Mine portal ]

Gold King Mine portal. Photo taken August 12, 2015. Credit: USGS. This photo is in the public domain.


Only data for selected water-quality parameters of interest were included. The list of parameters to include was compiled by USGS scientists based on

  • historical water-quality data for the Gold King Mine area;
  • historical water-quality conditions upstream and downstream from the release area;
  • their scientific expertise and experience with conducting water-quality studies related to similar mines and mine waste.

A list of the parameter names, explanations, units, and media is available for download:

Period of Interest

There is no restriction on the start date. The database includes all relevant data up to the current time, including any available public USGS data collected since the August 2015 release.

Other Common Questions

How often is the USGS Gold King Mine Release Database database updated?

The Gold King Mine Release Database file provided on this web site is updated periodically. The frequency will vary depending on the availability of new data.

Are there any restrictions on use of these data?

The data are in the public domain and have been publicly released.

The USGS Gold King Mine Release Database includes NWIS data-quality indicator codes (DQI_CD):

  • Data released prior to implementation of the NWIS DQI code system in 2002 are indicated with 'A'
  • Data released after the DQI codes system was implemented are indicated with
    • 'R' for approved data, or
    • 'S' for provisional data awaiting approval

Provisional Data: Preliminary or provisional data are subject to revision. They are being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The data have not received final approval by the USGS and are provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the data.

Approved Data: Unless otherwise stated, all approved data, metadata and related materials are considered to satisfy the quality standards relative to the purpose for which the data were collected. Although these data and associated metadata have been reviewed for accuracy and completeness and approved for release by the USGS, no warranty expressed or implied is made regarding the display or utility of the data on any other system or for general or scientific purposes, nor shall the act of distribution constitute any such warranty.

Do these data include EPA data?

No. For EPA data, please contact the EPA.

Why is the USGS limiting access to just these sites and parameters?

The Gold King Mine Release Database is intended to increase access to USGS data by making it easier to quickly access and download data of potential interest to anyone studying the August 2015 release. If you are interested in other USGS data, you can download data from the National Water Information System (NWIS) web site or any other USGS water-quality related national databases.

Why aren't the data available as soon as they are collected?

The amount of time between when a sample is collected or when a measurement is made in the field and when that information is available online varies for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Automated USGS data collection and relay systems connect to USGS servers at different intervals depending on the available communication systems (such as phone or satellite connections) and the objectives for which the data are being collected. For example, water-level data at one site might be uploaded via satellite daily, while data at another site may be downloaded periodically when a USGS scientist visits the site.
  • Water-quality samples collected in the field may need to be shipped to and analyzed by a laboratory. Also, different water-quality tests take different amounts of time; therefore, the results of analysis of samples collected on the same day may not all be available at the same time.
  • All data collected by the USGS and intended for public release are subject to the USGS Fundamental Science Practices to ensure and maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information disseminated by USGS. Requirements include a minimum of two reviews that include one data review and one metadata review followed by Bureau approval. Learn more about release of USGS scientific data.
Can the USGS analyze some data for me?
Can the USGS advise me on how to manage my land or water supply wells?
Can the USGS recommend equipment I can use to test water on my property?

No. The USGS cannot provide private consulting or advice. The USGS cannot recommend or endorse equipment, manufacturers, retailers, or environmental service providers.

For information on testing your private drinking-water supply or on finding certified water testing laboratories, refer to the EPA web site.

Other USGS water-quality data

Interested users can browse and download other USGS water-quality data from any of our online national databases.




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Page Last Modified: Wednesday, 28-Dec-2016 18:55:16 EST