Point sources of emerging contaminants along the Colorado River Basin: Source water for the arid Southwestern United States

Tammy L. Jones-Lepp, Charles Sanchez, David A. Alvarez, Doyle C. Wilson, Randi Laurant Taniguchi-Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


Emerging contaminants (ECs) (e.g., pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, personal care products) have been detected in waters across the United States. The objective of this study was to evaluate point sources of ECs along the Colorado River, from the headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of California. At selected locations in the Colorado River Basin (sites in Colorado, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California), waste stream tributaries and receiving surface waters were sampled using either grab sampling or polar organic chemical integrative samplers (POCIS). The grab samples were extracted using solid-phase cartridge extraction (SPE), and the POCIS sorbents were transferred into empty SPEs and eluted with methanol. All extracts were prepared for, and analyzed by, liquid chromatography-electrospray-ion trap mass spectrometry (LC-ESI-ITMS). Log D OW values were calculated for all ECs in the study and compared to the empirical data collected. POCIS extracts were screened for the presence of estrogenic chemicals using the yeast estrogen screen (YES) assay. Extracts from the 2008 POCIS deployment in the Las Vegas Wash showed the second highest estrogenicity response. In the grab samples, azithromycin (an antibiotic) was detected in all but one urban waste stream, with concentrations ranging from 30ng/L to 2800ng/L. Concentration levels of azithromycin, methamphetamine and pseudoephedrine showed temporal variation from the Tucson WWTP. Those ECs that were detected in the main surface water channels (those that are diverted for urban use and irrigation along the Colorado River) were in the region of the limit-of-detection (e.g., 10ng/L), but most were below detection limits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-245
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jul 15 2012


  • Colorado River Basin
  • Emerging contaminants
  • Estrogenicity
  • Log D
  • Temporal variation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


Dive into the research topics of 'Point sources of emerging contaminants along the Colorado River Basin: Source water for the arid Southwestern United States'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this