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Water Quality Watch

August 2023

If you do not see the photos below, please click the link above that says, 

"View it in your browser."

Welcome to Grand County Water Information Network's (GCWIN)'s Water Quality Watch newsletter where we keep you updated on the most pressing issues related to water quality and conservation. Grab a cup of your favorite beverage, settle in, and explore GCWIN's latest news and updates.

This edition of Water Quality Watch newsletter contains the following sections: 

From the Field - update from our field team on our water quality monitoring programs

Education Corner - update from our education coordinator on current education activities

Parameter Spotlight - info on one of our tracked parameters 

Partner Updates - updates from our partner organizations

The More You Know - featured article on a water quality or conservation topic

Current Water News - newsworthy articles related to water and drought

Member & Board Highlights - spotlight on our members and board of directors

From the Field

Summer is here and so is our field season.  Our field team has been very busy gathering water quality data for our partners and our public database.  Current monitoring programs include:

  • Secchi disk measurements to determine water clarity in Grand Lake and Shadow Mountain Reservoir: 3 times per week 
  • Cyanobacteria monitoring to determine the presence of harmful algae in Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Granby Reservoir, and Willow Creek Reservoir: Once a week 
  • Stream temperature measurements at 57 sites throughout the county: Downloaded once every other week (recorded on the device daily)
  • Temperature and Electric Conductivity measurements to determine the presence of dissolved solids in the water as a measure of water pollution at 6 sites at the inflows to the 3 Lakes System: Once every other week
Learn More About GCWIN
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Field Tech Kyle Masterson taking measurements in the field.

Education Corner

GCWIN Kids Learning Labs

This summer, GCWIN is partnering with Middle Park Conservation District and the Headwaters Center in Winter Park to host bi-weekly "Kids Learning Labs" for children ages 5-12.  Learning Labs are open to all children whether they are locals or visitors.  

The educational series incorporates hands-on lessons, experiments, and games to teach kids about the environment. Each week focuses on a different topic: water conservation, water protection, soils, plants, and wildlife.

Learning Lab Schedule

Friday, August 4, 1:30-4 pm: Soils

Friday, August 18, 1:30-4 pm: Plants

Friday, September 1, 1:30-4 pm: Wildlife

Parents can sign their kids up by clicking on the appropriate "GCWIN Learning Lab" event link in Headwaters Center's Calendar of Events:


Upcoming Field Trips

GCWIN is currently planning our fall field trips planned for September.  Due to COVID, this fall will be the first year since 2019 that we have held our full slate of field trips.

Middle School Watershed Week

GCWIN has been able to provide Watershed Week since 2010 for Grand County Middle School Students. GCWIN works alongside teachers to develop a week's worth of interactive activities and field projects that teaches students about their watershed.This program is done both in East & West Grand Schools. 

Elementary School

GCWIN has developed several interactive lessons for Grand County elementary-aged students and currently runs field trips every spring for 2nd graders as well as every fall for 5th graders.

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Students check out their macroinvertebrate sample as part of a 7th grade field trip.

Parameter Spotlight: Cyanobacteria

Cyanobacteria: Nature's Photosynthetic Pioneers

Cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, are a group of photosynthetic bacteria that play a unique role in aquatic environments. These microscopic organisms are capable of producing oxygen through photosynthesis and can be found in various aquatic habitats, including lakes, ponds, and rivers.

Why Monitor Cyanobacteria in Lakes?

Monitoring cyanobacteria is crucial for assessing and managing lake health. Here's why it is important:

1. Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs): Cyanobacteria are responsible for the formation of harmful algal blooms (HABs). Under certain conditions, such as warm temperatures and excess nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen), cyanobacteria can experience rapid growth and proliferation. HABs can have detrimental effects on water quality, ecosystem balance, and human health. Monitoring cyanobacteria allows for early detection of HABs and implementation of appropriate management strategies.

2. Toxin Production: Some cyanobacteria species have the ability to produce toxins, known as cyanotoxins. These toxins can pose significant risks to human and animal health. Ingesting or coming into contact with water contaminated by cyanotoxins can cause adverse effects, such as gastrointestinal illness, skin irritation, and even neurological damage. Monitoring cyanobacteria helps identify the presence of toxin-producing species and enables timely advisories or closures to protect public safety.

3. Ecological Impacts: Cyanobacterial blooms can disrupt the balance of aquatic ecosystems. The dense growth of cyanobacteria can block sunlight, reducing the availability of light for other plants and organisms. This can lead to oxygen depletion, altering the composition of the biological community and potentially causing fish kills or other detrimental effects on aquatic life. Monitoring cyanobacteria allows for the assessment of ecological impacts and facilitates appropriate management actions.

4. Water Treatment and Recreational Use: Lakes are often used as a source of drinking water and for recreational activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing. Cyanobacterial blooms can compromise water quality and render the water unsuitable for these purposes. Monitoring cyanobacteria helps water treatment facilities anticipate and manage potential challenges associated with water treatment processes. Additionally, monitoring allows recreational users to be informed of potential health risks associated with cyanobacterial blooms.

5. Climate Change and Nutrient Management: Climate change and nutrient pollution can influence the occurrence and severity of cyanobacterial blooms. Warmer temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and increased nutrient runoff can create favorable conditions for cyanobacterial growth. Monitoring cyanobacteria helps scientists and policymakers understand the impacts of these changes and develop effective strategies for climate resilience and nutrient management.

Taking Action for Lake Health

To protect and preserve the health of our lakes, it is important to take proactive measures. Here are a few ways you can contribute:

  1. Water Quality Monitoring: Support and participate in lake monitoring programs that include cyanobacteria monitoring. These programs provide valuable data for assessing cyanobacterial blooms, toxin production, and overall lake health.
  1. Nutrient Management: Minimize nutrient inputs into lakes by practicing responsible fertilizer use, proper waste disposal, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices. Healthy nutrient balances help reduce the risk of excessive cyanobacterial growth.
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Photo of Cyanobacteria.

Cyanobacteria Update from GCWIN

As of Tuesday, 7/25/2023, cyanobacteria has NOT been observed in the monitoring zones. GCWIN is actively monitoring cyanobacteria on weekly visits to the zones on Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Reservoir, Lake Granby, and Willow Creek Reservoir.

If cyanobacteria is detected at any of the monitoring sites, the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Team and our partner agencies will determine appropriate actions and public notifications.

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Cyanobacteria Monitoring Matrix

Partner Updates

Grand County Stream Management Plan Survey


The Grand County Learning by Doing (LBD) Stakeholder Outreach team is inviting you to fill out a survey regarding the ongoing update of the Grand County Stream Management Plan.

The original Grand County Stream Management Plan (GC SMP) was adopted in 2010. Since then, there have been changes in land use, the completion of restoration projects, and two large wildfires within the Upper Colorado River Watershed in Grand County. All these changes warrant a re-examination of the current conditions in the watershed and technical aspects of the GC SMP. The purpose of the GC SMP update is to synthesize current conditions, new technical information, and stakeholder input (from you!) to identify objectives, priority areas, and coordination opportunities that will improve river and stream health. You can learn more about the original GC SMP at this link.


Grand County in Drought Watch

On July 26, 2023, the Grand County Drought Preparedness Committee declared that Grand County remains in Drought Watch. Despite consistent rainfall and below average temperatures in June, it is crucial to emphasize that we are currently enduring the driest two decades ever recorded. Therefore, the availability of water now does not guarantee certainty for the later stages of the summer and fall seasons. Conditions can evolve rapidly, requiring proactive efforts from all residents and visitors to address this ongoing challenge – HELP OUT DURING DROUGHT!

The Drought Preparedness Committee will continue to monitor the situation closely and requests everyone to practice continued water conservation measures. The following tips can help conserve water:

1. Water lawn grass no more than 3 days per week.

2. Adjust sprinklers to avoid spraying on concrete or asphalt.

3. Properly prune or trim trees and shrubs to maximize the plant’s health.

4. Eligible entities should consider applying for the CWCB Turf Replacement Program: https://engagecwcb.org/turf-replacement-program. The second round of funding runs through August 31, 2023.

By working together and taking proactive steps, we can preserve our water resources.

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Drought Watch infographic.

Volunteers Needed for Trout Unlimited Willow Planting - August 5

The Colorado Headwaters Chapter of Trout Unlimited loves to harvest and plant willows as part of our conservation and stream restoration work. This summer, they are focusing their efforts on C Lazy U Ranch to help with stream restoration after the East Troublesome Fire of 2020.

July 22 was our harvesting date, and August 5 is the planting date. Many thanks to all our volunteers who helped with willow harvesting! We always need more volunteers for planting than we did for harvesting, so please sign up using the link below.


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Trout Unlimited volunteer carrying willow clippings as part of the willow harvesting event.

The More You Know

Kawuneeche Valley Ecosystem Restoration Collaborative (KVERC)

What is KVERC?

The Kawuneeche Valley Ecosystem Restoration Collaborative (KVERC) formed in 2020 to focus on ecosystem restoration of the Kawuneeche Valley to support its ecological, economic and community well-being. The Kawuneeche Valley is located where the Colorado River headwaters flow through Rocky Mountain National Park and into Shadow Mountain Reservoir near the town of Grand Lake.

The KVERC member organizations share the goal of a healthy and resilient watershed, occupied by a mix of public and private landowners, which serves diverse ecological, recreational, and economic interests. No one organization can achieve a healthy watershed in this region on its own; the combined resources and expertise of KVERC and its stakeholders can accomplish more through collaboration. KVERC members include: 

  • Colorado River Water Conservation District 
  • Colorado State University
  • Grand County  
  • Town of Grand Lake  
  • The Nature Conservancy  
  • Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District  
  • United States Forest Service 
  • National Park Service
  • Rocky Mountain Conservancy

Why does the Kawuneeche Valley need restoration?

The Kawuneeche Valley has experienced a biome shift, from a riparian wetland with seasonal flooding along the river’s banks to a grassland/savannah with incised stream channels and abundant invasive, non-native vegetation. Land uses, predator extirpation and wildlife management in the greater landscape have led to significant changes in vegetation (particularly willows), wildlife (including beaver), and water quality and flow.

Moose and elk browse heavily on willows, substantially reducing willow height and biomass. Without tall willows as food and building material, wildlife such as beavers are now uncommon and the absence of dams prevents the overbank flooding along streams, which is needed to maintain wet meadows and natural cycles, drought resistance, and resiliency to wildfire. Additionally, abandoned irrigation ditches and channel modifications have further de-watered extensive floodplain wetlands.

Planned Projects to Help Restore a Healthy, Willow-Beaver Wetland Environment

Following assessments of the valley, KVERC partners are implementing targeted ecosystem restoration projects and abandoned infrastructure mitigation with the goal of large-scale ecosystem restoration.

Four sites within Rocky Mountain National Park have been identified as highly suitable for restoration. These sites are located along the four major tributaries of the Colorado River within the Kawuneeche Valley (Beaver Creek, Baker Gulch, Bowen Gulch and Onahu Creek). KVERC will implement restoration at the Beaver Creek site in Fall 2023. Projects include:

  • Invasive plant removal treatments
  • Fencing to protect vegetation
  • Vegetation planting
  • Process-based restoration (e.g., beaver dam analogs)
  • Pre- and post-restoration monitoring

In addition to restoration projects, KVERC is also working on stakeholder and public outreach to garner feedback and support. This work includes creating a new, updated website and other publications to educate the public, landowners, and other stakeholders about its work in the valley and why it is important.

Benefits of Large-Scale Restoration in the Kawuneeche Valley

These potential restoration activities will help with:

  • Improving water quality and maintaining healthy water temperatures in the Colorado River
  • Accommodating healthier aquatic life and habitat surrounding the river
  • Creating natural wildfire lines via renewed overbank flooding
  • Strengthening the valley’s overall resilience to drought and climate change
  • Enhancing aesthetics and recreational value

For more information about KVERC activities, please visit https://co.grand.co.us/1436/KVERC.

Learn More About KVERC

Current Water News

The following articles are provided for your information, bedside reading, and enjoyment.  

Colorado River Losing Vast Amount of Water
Climate Change Impacting CO Weather
What Can You Do to Save Water at Home?
July 25: Colorado River Day

Member & Board Highlights

GCWIN is supported by its strong membership network. Our membership is committed to protecting water quality in Grand County by supporting GCWIN's mission.  GCWIN thanks all of our members for their continued support.

GCWIN Membership

Current Members

  • Grand County Board of County Commissioners
  • Colorado River Water Conservation District
  • Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
  • Denver Water
  • Climax Molybdenum Company
  • Trout Unlimited - Colorado Rivers Headwaters Chapter
  • Granby Sanitation District
  • Granby/SilverCreek Water and Wastewater Authority
  • Grand County Water & Sanitation District #1
  • Tabernash Meadows Water and Sanitation District
  • ​Three Lakes Water & Sanitation District
  • Three Lakes Watershed Association
  • Town of Fraser
  • Town of Granby
  • Town of Grand Lake
  • Town of Hot Sulphur Springs
  • Town of Kremmling
  • Town of Winter Park
  • Winter Park Ranch Water & Sanitation District
  • Winter Park Resort
  • Winter Park Water & Sanitation District
  • Upper Colorado Wild and Scenic Stakeholder Group

Current Board of Directors

  • Katherine Morris, Grand County, Chair
  • Kirk Klancke, Trout Unlimited, Vice-Chair
  • Will O'Donnell, Three Lakes Watershed Association, Treasurer
  • Jessica Alexander, Denver Water, Secretary
  • Jen Stephenson, Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District
  • Geoff Niggeler, Climax Molybdenum Company
  • Josh Broady, Town of Granby
  • Rebecca Briesmoore, Colorado River District

Grand County Water Information Network
610 Center Dr | Grand Lake | CO 80447 | USA

(970) 627-8162


The content of this newsletter is for Educational Purposes ONLY. In some cases, we highlight newsworthy articles from outside sources. Opinions stated in these articles do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, or viewpoints of the Grand County Water Information Network or its Board of Directors/Employees.

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