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Water Quality

Protecting Water Quality

The Colorado Water Quality Control Commission is responsible for establishing water quality standards around the state, including baseline “table value standards” and site-specific standards adopted for particular streams. While the work of the commission is of critical importance to protecting Colorado’s water, CTU has been the only consistent participant in the commission’s basin hearings. The hearings are held annually and cover five basins on a rotating basis:

  1. Statewide basic standards;
  2. Platte basin standards;
  3. Arkansas/Rio Grande basin standards;
  4. Colorado/Yampa basin standards; and
  5. Gunnison/San Juan basin standards.

Represented by a retired Division of Wildlife water quality expert, Dr. John Woodling, CTU has been an official “party” each year in these important public policy hearings.

In 2007, the commission is taking up standards for the Arkansas and Rio Grande basins. CTU has proposed “outstanding water” designations for Bear Creek and Severy Creek – two greenback cutthroat trout recovery streams on which Cheyenne Mountain Chapter volunteers have conducted water quality monitoring. If adopted, the designations will put anti-degradation standards in place for the streams. In other words, they would be protected from any degradation from their current high-quality condition. Click here for more information on the key issues for the 2007 hearings.

In 2006, CTU participated in the hearings for the Gunnison, San Juan, and Dolores watersheds and supported the San Juan Citizens Alliance’s successful efforts to secure “outstanding water” designation for Hermosa Creek. CTU also helped secure improved zinc standards and defeat efforts to reclassify coldwater habitat on the San Miguel as “warmwater,” a move that would have allowed a power plant to discharge heated water without regard to impacts on trout. Click here for a recap on CTU’s efforts.

In addition to the annual standard-setting hearings, the commission also holds additional hearings on specific issues. In early 2007, the commission held a hearing to establish state standards on water temperature. As trout anglers know, maintaining suitable water temperatures is critical in providing trout habitat. In this hearing, CTU’s interests were effectively represented through staff with the Colorado Water Project. The outcome was an important “win” for trout habitat in Colorado. The commission adopted “default” standards that will be protective of trout and will be implemented basin-by-basin through the five-year cycle of standard-setting hearings. In the meantime, most trout habitat – 1st through 3rd order streams in the mountains, as well as all Gold Medal waters – will be protected by interim standards. Click here for more information on the water temperature hearings.

CTU’s water quality advocacy is complemented by on-the-ground water quality monitoring through the River Watch program. Click here to learn more about River Watch and how you can participate.