Assessing to Understand:

Monitoring and Evaluating water quality and non-point pollution sources to develop the best management practices for our water

The Background

Over the last three years, the Middle Colorado Watershed Council has been sampling and analyzing water quality in the Rifle Creek watershed. Rifle Creek is one of the major tributaries of the Colorado River along our stretch of the watershed, draining 200 square miles through 61 linear miles of perennial streams and rivers.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program keeps a list called the 303(d) List of Impaired Waters, documenting waterways throughout the state that don't meet state standards for water quality. In sampling conducted by the state in 2006-'07, Rifle Creek exceeded the accepted limit of selenium, a metal mostly used in electronic and photocopier components. Consequently, this landed Rifle Creek on the state's 303(d) listing, setting the stage for the Rifle Creek Watershed Assessment, beginning in 2015. The Assessment was supported by the Colorado Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program, alongside the Bureau of Reclamation and the Bureau of Land Management. Between the years 2015 and 2017, sampling occurred across thirteen sites in the Rifle Creek watershed. Detail of the process can be found in the full assessment linked below.

The assessment

Generally, water quality was found to be good in the Rifle Creek watershed. Though the presence of selenium was the major concern going into the assessment, data collected showed it to be within acceptable levels. The data did show, however, that arsenic, iron, and sulfate often exceeded acceptable limits within the Rifle Creek watershed. The Middle Colorado Watershed Council developed a set of Best Management Practices (BMPs) and project recommendations so that water quality can continued to be improved in the Rifle Creek watershed through intentional change of landowners and partners, and through future projects with partners. The MCWC intends to continue to work with partners to bring these projects to fruition.

Rifle Creek Watershed Assessment

Rifle Creek Informational Two Page Document

MCWC’s Your Watershed Post Independent Column on Rifle Creek