Roaring Fork Watershed Water-Quality Data

Science Center Objects

The Roaring Fork Watershed, located in the Rocky Mountains 150 miles west of Denver, Colorado, has seen rapid development and population growth in recent years.

The USGS, in cooperation with Pitkin County, Colorado Water Conservation District, Ruedi Water and Power Authority, and other local entities, conducted a comprehensive surface- and ground-water resource assessment in the Roaring Fork River watershed. The study provided an understanding of the natural and human factors that affect the quantity and quality of the water resources including stream biota.

Historical data for the Roaring Fork Watershed have been compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with several agencies: Colorado River Water Conservation Board, Pitkin County, and the Town of Basalt. From 1949 to 2006, 6 agencies have collected water-quality data and biological data at a total of 308 sites within the watershed. These data were compiled into a single relational data base. Types of water data collected include major ions, nutrients, trace metals, pesticides, and volatile organics. Types of biological data collected include fish, algae, and macroinvertebrate information.

Photo of Fryingpan River below Ruedi Dam, Colorado

Fryingpan River below Ruedi Dam, Colorado
Credit: Jeffrey B. Foster, USGS

Objectives:

  1. Compile and characterize existing water-resources and stream-biota data for the Roaring Fork River watershed.
  2. Develop a data base containing information on water-quantity, water-quality, Geographic Information System (GIS) features/coverages, and stream-biota.

  3. Identify, describe, and explain, where possible, the major natural and human factors that affect observed water-quantity and quality conditions.

  4. Photo of a ranch near Mt. Sopris, Colorado

    Ranch near Mt. Sopris, Colorado
    Credit: Jeffrey B. Foster, USGS

    Continued from Phase 1--Identify, describe, and explain, where possible, the major natural and human factors that affect observed water-quantity and quality conditions.

  5. Conduct a retrospective analysis of historic data and assess the broad-scale geographic and seasonal distribution of current water-quantity and quality and stream-biota conditions of the Roaring Fork River watershed.

  6. Based on the retrospective analysis results and stakeholder input, design a water-quality and stream-biology sampling scheme to provide information to address water-quality and water-resource management concerns.

  7. Implement the monitoring program to collect data that will allow current water-quality and quantity and stream-biota conditions in the Roaring Fork River watershed to be described.

  8. Interpret results from the monitoring program and modify the design as needed to address future water-quality and water-resource management concerns.