Watershed Health & Protection

Watershed Health and ProtectionWater is one of Colorado’s most valued resources. Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority customers use over two billion gallons of water annually. The majority of this water is returned to the Gore Creek and Eagle River Watersheds, which together encompass 1046 square miles. To ensure watershed health and protection, each of us has a special responsibility to use water wisely and in ways that will not harm aquatic life, wildlife, and other water users downstream.

Watersheds are areas of land that drain to rivers, creeks, lakes and other bodies of water. The District and Authority have forged partnerships with other stakeholders, governmental agencies, non-profit groups, and experts in water resources and water quality to ensure source water protection and health of the Gore Creek and Eagle River Watersheds.

In 2007, the Colorado Water Quality Control Division requested assistance from interested entities with their efforts to collect paired macroinvertebrate and nutrient data.  The District has spearheaded and participated in many monitoring and water quality assessment efforts over the last 30 years that have been designed for purposes ranging from assessment of potential impacts associated with individual projects (e.g. Black Lakes) to evaluation of regional water quality conditions and trends.  These ongoing efforts are needed to develop and support water resources planning, management and stewardship strategies that are scientfically based.

Building upon previous studies, the District chose to participate in the WQCD’s data collection effort.  The District’s “nutrient sampling and data collection plan” was initiated in 2008 and continues today, in cooperation with the WQCD, the US Forest Service, and USGS.

Background information and preliminary results were presented in August 2010 on the Nutrient Study and Macroinvertebrate Metrics, with sampling and analysis continuing over the next few years.

Individuals can help protect our watershed simply by conserving water and properly disposing of household hazardous waste.  Becoming involved with one of the many local watershed or habitat protection groups is an option for those who want to do more. Business customers of the District can do their part by checking out our Industrial Pretreatment page and following the guidelines in place for discharge of pollutants into the sewer system.

More and more people are working to improve and protect the Eagle River Watershed by educating themselves, sharing information with their neighbors, restoring water quality where needed, and planning for the future of our water.

Source Water Quality & Protection

Keeping a close eye on the watersheds that feed our local streams is a high priority for the Eagle River Water & Sanitation District (District) and the Upper Eagle Regional Water Authority (Authority). As water providers for much of the Eagle River Valley’s residents and guests, we are charged with supplying safe drinking water. Protection of our streams and lakes helps to ensure a perpetual supply of high quality source water while protecting the wildlife habitat and aesthetics of our mountain environment.

When one thinks of the mountains and valleys of Eagle County, pollutants and contaminants are not the first things that come to mind. But even in our relatively pristine environment, threats to our waters are present. Some examples are:

Metals are dissolved in water from abandoned mine sites. Assessment and clean up activities for old mine sites by responsible parties have been under way for a number of years now, and improvements in fish populations have been documented.

Tanker truck spills of fuel or industrial chemicals can pose a threat to the environment. Should that kind of an emergency arise, the Eagle County Emergency Communications Network would alert our Water Plant Operators to temporarily interrupt diverting water from a potentially affected water source.

Traction Sand used on highways in the winter is a key component to keeping highways open and safe. However steps are underway by the Colorado Department of Transportation to monitor and control how much of that sand load enters streams such as Black Gore Creek, Gore Creek and the Eagle River. Too much sand can adversely affect the organisms in the streams that contribute to a balanced ecosystem.

The Eagle River Watershed Council and the Black Gore Steering Committee are two area organizations that are active in watershed protection activities and can be reached at 970-827-5406. The District participates and cooperates with these organizations to help promote a clean environment.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s – Water Quality Control Division is required by the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to make a Source Water Assessment summary report available to the general public. The District and Authority’s summary reports can be viewed here. These reports identify pollution sources of potential concern and rank sources as low to moderate concern in this area. The District’s Public Water System ID (PWSID) number is CO0119802, and the Authority’s is CO0119786.

Household & Hazardous Waste

Americans generate 1.6 million tons of household hazardous waste per year. The average home can accumulate as much as 100 pounds of household hazardous waste in the basement or garage and in storage closets. When improperly disposed of, household hazardous waste can create a risk to people and the environment. Paints, cleaners, oils, batteries, and pesticides are examples of just a few of the common household hazardous wastes that need special disposal. For more information about the potential health effects, ingredients, and recommended handling of specific household products, please visit the National Institute of Health, National Library of Medicine, Household Products Database.

Do not pour hazardous waste down the drain. Household hazardous waste products dumped down the drain are most often not removed by the wastewater treatment process. In fact, harmful chemicals from these wastes end up in rivers, creeks and lakes where they can eventually enter the natural food chain. Additionally, pouring hazardous waste down the drain can endanger the health of municipal workers, disrupt the wastewater treatment process, and accumulate pollutants in aquatic ecosystems.

There are steps that people can take to reduce the amount of household hazardous waste they generate. Protection of human health and the environment is everyone’s concern, and it is very important to ensure that hazardous wastes are safely stored, handled and disposed of properly. Minimizing the hazardous wastes in our homes can help reduce the impact on the environment. Here are some suggestions:

  • Compare labels and ingredients when purchasing a product; if a less toxic product will work just as well, buy it.
  • Buy only the quantity you need for the job. If there is none left over, there is no waste to dispose of.
  • Use products according to label directions – more is not necessarily better.
  • Consider non-toxic alternatives such as a metal snake to clear a drain instead of a chemical drain cleaner.
  • Never mix cleaning products – dangerous reactions can occur.

Eagle County has more information on proper disposal of household hazardous waste or contact the Eagle County Solid Waste Manager at (970) 328-3471.