River Watch is a statewide volunteer water quality-monitoring program operated by the non-profit Colorado Watershed Assembly in cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). Its mission is to work with voluntary stewards to monitor water quality and other indicators of watershed health and utilize this high quality data to educate citizens and inform decision makers about the condition of Colorado’s waters. This program is unique in its statewide focus and frequency of data collection.
River Watch volunteers come from approximately 120 different organizations including local chapters of Colorado Trout Unlimited. Each volunteer group receives the training, support and supplies needed to monitor their respective rivers and provide consistent and accurate data.
Volunteers agree to monitor on a monthly basis:
- Samples are collected which the volunteers analyze for hardness, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, pH and temperature. Additional samples are collected to be analyzed for total and dissolved metals, including Al, As, Ca, Cd, Cu, Fe, Mg, Mn, Pb, Se and Zn.
- Twice a year volunteers collect nutrient samples that are analyzed for ammonia, chloride, sulfate, total suspended solids, total phosphorous, nitrate and nitrite.
- Volunteers perform one physical habitat assessment to accompany their annual macroinvertebrate sample, which is sent to an outside lab for identification.
Each volunteer group performs their sampling and analysis according to a uniform set of guidance documents. Quality assurance checks are performed regularly through the year and include an annual site visit to ensure that the volunteers accurately perform within the standardized protocols. Laboratory analysis is validated through a series of steps that include analysis of lab blanks, duplicates and spikes, confirmation of results using known standards, use of outside labs and documentation and reporting of quality assurance and control results.
All the data is reviewed and validated by CPW before it is made public. River Watch data is utilized by the Water Quality Control Commission, CPW, CTU and many others.
Volunteers involved in the program not only obtain hands-on education into the processes and methods of water quality analysis, these devoted and skilled stewards are key elements in the generation of information and data that is used in the formulation of water management plans on the local and statewide level. Volunteers are actively involved in the decisions that shape their watersheds.