Grand County Water Information Network Announces Report on Colorado Rivers

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Grant to Purchase YSI Water Quality Equipment Aids Watershed Organization with Long-Term Data Collection Regimen

This summer the Grand County Water Information Network (GCWIN) collected water quality data to assess the health of the Colorado and Fraser Rivers. After four months of using a sophisticated piece of equipment in monthly river monitoring regimens, data trends have begun to emerge that will help steer water use protocols.

GCWIN used a YSI 6600 V2-4 sonde, which collects data on water temperature, dissolved oxygen, specific conductivity, pH, and turbidity---the long-range background data necessary for characterizing river water quality. The instrument purchase was made possible by a grant from the Sprout Fund of the Grand Foundation. http://www.ysi.com/productsdetail.php?6600V2-1

"It's really brought our whole monitoring program to the next level," notes Jane Tollett, Director of GCWIN in Grand County, Colorado.

Like other parts of the country, Colorado has a limited amount of water to serve numerous needs. Unlike other parts of the country, Colorado's rivers are not drought-stricken. Nevertheless, the Upper Colorado Watershed must supply water to meet both the local needs of residents, ranchers, cold-water fisheries and recreation, along with eastern-slope agriculture and the increasing populations along the front range from Denver to Fort Collins.

Fishers advised to check water temperature

GCWIN has documented a rise in water temperature in some rivers into the 65-70 degree Fahrenheit range during July and August; this summer temperature might sound tepid to us, but it is harmful to the fish.

The rivers support several cold-water fisheries, and these fish prefer temperatures in the 50-65 degree Fahrenheit range. Therefore, catch-and-release fishers are advised to carry thermometers and fish earlier in the day to ease the stress on the fish.

The health of the water shows up in other measurements:

  • Clarity: A turbidity sensor on the sonde measures the clarity--or clearness--of water in Colorado lakes and rivers. Residents around Grand Lake have seen variations in clarity with flow direction in and out of Grand Lake when water moves through the Colorado-Big Thompson system to northeastern Colorado.
  • Pollutants: Conductivity measures the water's ionic strength and can be an indicator of undetermined pollutants.
  • Algal Blooms: Tollett would like to add a chlorophyll or phycocyanin sensor to the sonde so that GCWIN staff can take measurements for blue-green algae. Currently samples are analyzed once per week in a lab to determine if algal blooms are occurring in the lakes. With an in-situ sensor, the team can conduct instantaneous cell counts that could provide data more quickly in case the algal bloom is toxic.

Spreading the word about water

"Good water quality benefits everyone," says Tollett.

Amid growing water concerns, Tollett and GCWIN are working to wrangle the many water monitoring and education programs across Grand County into a comprehensive network for water quality data and stewardship.

The Sprout Fund grant has provided GCWIN with new YSI equipment that is feeding data into a public database, "WILbUR." As the data grows each month and is analyzed, GCWIN is well-positioned to inform the community and steer the conservation effort for Colorado's water resources.

About Grand County Water Information Network http://www.gcwin.org

GCWIN focuses on bringing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) education to students and getting them excited about their surroundings. The non-profit organization also fosters community involvement in understanding the health of water and making policy decisions to support water resources.

About YSI Incorporated http://www.ysi.com/sondes

YSI Inc. is a developer and manufacturer of sensors, instruments, software, and data collection platforms for environmental water quality monitoring and testing. Their tools, technology, and application expertise help to protect and preserve the earth's natural resources.

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Danielle Dumont

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