Colorado Water Quality Monitoring Council (CWQMC).
Bringing water quality home to all Coloradoans...
The CWQMC is dedicated to facilitating water quality monitoring and seamless data sharing among all interested parties to accurately characterize water quality in Colorado. The Colorado Data Sharing Network is one of the primary projects of the CWQMC. One of our main goals is facilitating the distribution of water quality data so we continuously strive to keep access to the CDSN as inexpensive as possible. We understand that many people are either collecting water quality data or examining data collected by others. Our goal is to make that process as easy as possible. If you are interested in assisting us in our goals or have suggestions as to how we can do it better, please contact us!
Thank you to our generous supporters who donated to support the CDSN: SP CURE, Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, CDOT, Thornton Water, Centennial Water & Sanitation District, Northern Colorado Water Conservation District, South Adams County Water & Sanitation District, AF CURE, Aurora Water, Summit Water Quality Committee, City of Fort Collins Utilities, Clear Creek Watershed Foundation, and many others!
Colorado Water Quality Monitoring Council Projects and Services:
The CWQMC is dedicated to facilitating water quality monitoring and seamless data sharing among all interested parties to accurately characterize water quality in Colorado. CWQMC's mentoring program assists the needs of the monitoring community. Please contact us to be connected with a mentor.
Watershed Planning and Data Literacy Workshops
Our partnership with Colorado Watershed Assembly (CWA),One Water Solutions Institute, and ElephantFish, allows us to assist watershed groups and communities in a specific basin to compile current and legacy water data and to better plan for future monitoring efforts. We will help you in planning and facilitating a workshop with all possible data collectors in your basin or watershed to share concerns relating to water quality in your area, identifying what data currently exists, examining data collection and visualization tools available to illustrate water issues, and learning about efforts that could be made to accomplish watershed goals.
A great time to host a Data Literacy workshop is in advance of the CDPHE triennial data review for a basin. Please contact us to plan a workshop or presentation in your watershed or basin.
Water Quality Monitoring
The CWQMC is a statewide resource for all regarding water quality monitoring in the state. Please visit our Monitoring Best Practices tab. CWQMC works with watershed groups to provide mentoring or assistance on developing custom monitoring plans and uploading current and legacy data into the CDSN. The CDSN is also a great resource for educators and teachers all over Colorado because it provides real-world information for lessons. Many teachers monitor the environmental quality of a local waterbody or stream measuring field parameters, sampling water quality, or sampling macroinvertebrates through the Colorado River Watch program or independently. If you are interested in assisting with Monitoring a local stream and submitting data to the CDSN, please contact us to see how you can share and analyze your school's data using CDSN. We recommend checking out becoming a Colorado River Watch Volunteer. Colorado River Watch makes their data available to the public via an annual spring data upload to the CDSN.
Regulation 31 & Regulation 85 Background
Under the Clean Water Act, states and authorized tribes are responsible for establishing water quality standards that specify appropriate designated uses, establish criteria to protect those uses, and provide for the protection of downstream waters. Nutrient regulation has been discussed at the national and state level for many years, but the problem is more difficult to define and solve than most of the previous water quality standards. Unlike most other regulated compounds, neither nitrogen nor phosphorus is toxic in the aquatic environment and presence of these compounds in limited amounts is necessary to sustain ecosystems. In addition, the treatment of nitrogen and phosphorus is extremely expensive at point source locations and very difficult to control at non-point source locations.
The passage of CDPHE WQCD Regulations 31 (Reg. 31) and 85 (Reg. 85) is Colorado’s solution to nitrogen and phosphorus regulation. The two regulations were passed simultaneously in March of 2012 to both establish scientifically based nutrient regulations and allow point source dischargers time to develop plans to begin treating both nitrogen and phosphorus. Reg. 31 is the Water Quality Control Commission document that establishes statewide water quality regulations for surface waters. Reg. 85 establishes requirements for organizations holding a NPDES permit and with the potential to discharge either nitrogen or phosphorus to begin planning for nutrient treatment based on treatment technology and monitoring both effluents and streams for nitrogen and phosphorus. The data from these efforts is designed to better characterize nutrient sources, characterize nutrient conditions and effects around the state and to help inform future regulatory decisions regarding nutrients.
Nutrient pollution resulting from excess nitrogen (N) and phosporus (P) is a leading cause of degradation of U.S. water quality. Nitrogen and phosphorus together support the growth of algae and aquatic plants, which provide food and habitat for fish, shellfish and other organisms that live in water. Excess N and P in aquatic systems can stimulate production of plant and microbial biomass, which leads to depletion of dissolved oxygen, reduced transparency and changes in biotic community composition. This effect is called eutrophication. In estuaries and coastal waters, nitrogen and phosphorus loading can cause hypoxic zones which are areas of extremely low dissolved oxygen.
Hypoxic zones can have severe impacts on fisheries in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen and phosphorus can come from many sources including: • Fertilizers from agriculture, golf courses and residential lawns • Erosion of soil full of nutrients • Discharges from point sources such as domestic wastewater treatment plants • Deposition of atmospheric nitrogen (nitrogen only). Eutrophication became a more serious problem following the industrial revolution when the first inorganic fertilizers were created.
A few major scientific discoveries in plant growth indicated that additions of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium could promote plant growth. Many of these fertilizers are made to dissolve quickly in water which can stimulate plant growth in gardens and farmer’s fields, but can also promote eutrophication in our nation’s waterways. Excess nitrogen can also cause degradation of aesthetics of recreational waters by turning the water green, often with layers of floating green scum. Health can also be affected when excess nitrogen appears in drinking water wells. Levels above 10 mg/L of nitrate can cause Blue Baby Syndrome which can prevent babies and small children from being able to uptake and process sufficient amounts of oxygen.
The CWQMC actively participated during the collaborative development of nutrient monitoring plans for the implementation of the Colorado Water Quality Control Division ("division" or "WQCD") Regulation# 85, as passed in 2012, along with the Colorado Monitoring Framework (CMF) and WQCD stakeholders. WQCD allows CDSN data partners uploading Regulation 85 data into CDSN to submit their Regulation 85 data directly through CDSN without having to use the division's upload process. You must notify CDSN that you wish us to package and submit your data by February 15 and have your data uploaded into CDSN by April 1, of each year. CDSN can submit your data with advance notice, whether you self-upload your data or have CDSN upload it for you. Please see the CDSN Regulation 85 Data Call page for details. CWQMC continues to actively collaborate and outreach information about resources and best practices to entities required to conduct monitoring by Regulation 85.
Both the CWQMC and the Colorado Monitoring Framework recommend establishing a comprehensive sampling plan that includes a variety of compounds, even though Regulation 85 may only require monthly monitoring of a brief list of parameters at a few monitoring sites. DO, pH, and chlorophyll A have all been related to nutrient concentrations and can also be affected by things like temperature and turbidity. Having a comprehensive picture of water quality that is both spatially and temporally diverse may allow for comprehensive models to be developed to expertly discuss and solve water quality problems on a site-specific basis. Please contact CWQMC if we can offer assistance for developing a comprehensive monitoring program.