River Watch Facts

Our volunteers:

Taylor Rocha from Monte Vista High School standing in front of her project display board. 

Taylor Rocha from Monte Vista High School standing in front of her project display board. 

  • Since 1989, River Watch has worked with volunteers around the state, coordinating volunteer efforts to collect quality water ecosystem data that can be used to monitor and regulate Colorado's rivers and streams. River Watch has worked with over 70,000 individuals at 3,000 stations and at more than 400 rivers and streams throughout the state. Currently, River Watch works with over 135 active monitoring teams.
  • River Watch's volunteers are students, teachers, individuals, and watershed organizations. Currently, between 75-80% of all River Watch groups are student groups, where teachers integrate the River Watch program into their science curriculums.
  • In 2012, we were very proud to have one of our student volunteers, Taylor Rocha from Monte Vista High School in Monte Vista, CO win second place overall at the International Science and Engineering Fair for a project inspired by her work with River Watch. The student’s project, entitled “Macroinvertebrate and Nutrient Response After a Wildfire on Medano Creek, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve”, also won a special award from the Society of Freshwater Science, making her one of the top six students in the world for an Environmental Studies project. River Watch is extremely honored to inspire and be a part of our student’s passion for environmental stewardship and studies. Our hope, especially when it comes to working with our student volunteers is to educate, empower, enlighten, and inspire them.

Our Data:

  • River Watch collects more stream data than any other entity in Colorado. It is the largest volunteer-driven water quality program in the United States. River Watch is also the only entity in the state that tests chemical, physical, and biological indicators of health in all watersheds in Colorado.
  • River Watch volunteers analyze water samples for hardness, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and temperature. Volunteers also record certain physical characteristics of the riparian zone, such as discharge, flow, and adjacent vegetation. Additionally, volunteers collect samples which a professional lab analyzes for 13 metals, 7 nutrients, and macro-invertebrates.
  • River Watch has a strong Quality Assurance and Quality Controls (QA/QC) Program. Our volunteers collect a field and lab QA/QC sample at a rate of 20%, compared the national average of 10%. This program insures that the data is accurate and reproducible.
  • Data collected from the River Watch program is used by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to regulate and enhance Colorado's rivers and streams. River Watch's data is also used by the Environmental Protection Agency for enforcement of the Clean Water Act and by the Colorado Water Quality Control Division, which routinely calls upon River Watch data for its rule making hearings and in the triennial review of standards.

Our Accomplishments:

  • River Watch helped obtain outstanding water protection (when the water quality is BETTER than standards) for several streams in Colorado, such as Severy Gulch, outside of Colorado Springs.
  • In 2009, new temperature standards were introduced in the Northern Platte, Republican, and Arikaree River Basins using River Watch data.
  • The Water Quality Control Commission has been reviewing and adopting numeric criteria for macroinvertebrate community health; creating a reference river database (comparing healthy to impaired); and developing nutrient standards for nitrogen and phosphorus.
  • In 2009, our samples assisted in the identification of a species of mayfly (Maccaffertium terminatum) previously not collected and recorded in Colorado.
  • River Watch volunteers have monitored the distribution of the New Zealand Mud Snail (Potamopygrus antipodarum), an aquatic snail that is indigenous to New Zealand and is now a rapidly spreading, non-native, invasive species in the U.S.
  • One new mayfly addition to the reference collection (Paracloeodes minutus) was collected in 2010 as part of the River Watch monitoring during 2010. 
  • In 2012, we collected a species of caddisfly (Rhyacophilia) which is either a new state record or a new, previously undescribed species (still to be determined) in the state of Colorado.