Water Quality in the Colorado Basin
The mainstem Colorado River Basin in Colorado benefits from first access to the high mountain snowmelt that feeds the upper reaches of the Colorado River and its tributaries. However, the basin is not free of water quality problems. In Summit and Eagle Counties, old mines continue to leak acid and heavy metal-contaminated water into streams, and in the Grand Valley, salt and selenium leach into the river as irrigation water is applied to Mancos shale soils. In between, low flows resulting from diversions and depletions can lead to temperature and algae problems.
You can explore water quality throughout the basin on this Water Quality Data Dashboard developed as part of the Colorado Basin Roundtable’s Integrated Water Management Planning Framework Project. The “Colorado River Headwaters” region identified in the data dashboard corresponds to the territory covered by the Colorado Basin Roundtable.
Water Quality & Quantity Committee
Northwest Colorado Council of Governments is a voluntary association of county and municipal governments in the state’s headwaters counties. NWCCOG is the region designated by the State of Colorado as State Planning and Management Region 12, and includes the counties of Eagle, Grand, Jackson, Pitkin and Summit.
A part of NWCCOG is the Water Quality/ Quantity Committee (QQ). The QQ was formed to respond to environmental pressures, which were threatening the recreation and tourism economy just burgeoning in the region. The Water Quality/ Quantity Committee (QQ) comprises municipalities, counties, water and sanitation districts, and conservancy districts in the headwaters region of Colorado located in Grand, Summit, Eagle, Pitkin, Park and Gunnison counties. QQ’s purpose is to facilitate and augment the efforts of member jurisdictions to protect and enhance the region’s water quality while encouraging its responsible use for the good of Colorado citizens and the environment.
Nonpoint Source Pollution Management
Pollution can come from either “point sources” on “non-point sources.” A point source is a concentrated, identifiable source of pollution, like a sewer pipe or old mine. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands and groundwater.
The Colorado Department of Public Health & Environmentt (CDPHE) is the primary state agency that addresses water pollution. It has a regulatory role and also promotes partnerships that will actively engage communities in the restoration and protection of waters impacted by nonpoint source pollution.