Named for the North Fork of the Gunnison River, the North Fork Valley is dependent, as all places are, on safe and reliable water sources. As snow and rain fall on the mountains and mesas that mark our watershed, tributaries like Anthracite Creek, Minnesota Creek, and Cottonwood Creek feed the North Fork which flows into the Gunnison River. As the Gunnison meets the Colorado River in Grand Junction, Colorado, the snowmelt and rainfall that provided water for our fields, homes, and livelihoods will be reused many times over as it flows towards the Gulf of California.
We are all downstream of something. The Western Slope Conservation Center is dedicated to keeping a watchful eye on the quality of the water that flows within the North Fork and Lower Gunnison Watersheds. Through the help of our dedicated team of River Watch volunteers, our water quality database includes data from 2001 to today. Rain, snow, or shine, our volunteers collect and test samples from an established network of stream stations every month. In addition to monitoring the field parameters, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife lab analyzes the water chemistry for nearly 40 chemical parameters including elements of concern that have been associated with mining, wastewater treatment, and agriculture including arsenic, ammonia and selenium.
We gather this information to provide background data on water quality conditions in our watershed, help water users understand seasonal and natural variation in the watershed, and provide a basic understanding of how the North Fork River compares to state stream standards. The understanding of these current concentrations is just one way of ensuring the long-term protection of water quality in the North Fork and Lower Gunnison watersheds.
Just as we have collected baseline data for the quality of water in our rivers and streams, the Conservation Center has also compiled baseline data for the quality of water in local wells and springs. Much of this work has been completed with help from the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Colorado Water and Energy Research Center.
Join our dedicated team of water quality monitoring volunteers. Once per quarter, volunteers meet together in Hotchkiss before dispersing throughout the North Fork Valley to take water samples that have provided a baseline monitoring of our watershed for over a decade. With varying levels of experience, our volunteers are some of the most fun and dedicated citizen scientists around!