Why a Watershed Forum
The Big Thompson Watershed Forum was formed in 1997 when a group of concerned citizens, stakeholders, and officials (including Rob Buirgy, the Forum’s founding director) observed clear signs of local water quality deterioration, such as dissolved oxygen, more frequent fish kills, increasing E.coli and bacteria counts, trash and debris, and Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) listings. The Forum’s founders believed that water quality could best be protected by monitoring the entire watershed.
In 1996, the Upper Big Thompson River Watershed Study Needs Assessment Final Report was completed for the North Front Range Water Quality Planning Association (NFRWQPA). Study results showed that various water quality concerns existed, yet many had not been identified by regulatory agencies, prompting citizens and key stakeholders to establish the Big Thompson Watershed Forum.
When the final report was presented to the public, a group of concerned people representing municipalities, private citizens, and government agencies endorsed the formation of a watershed forum. Thus, the Big Thompson Watershed Forum was created and designed to take a holistic approach to water quality assessment and protection, embracing the spirit of cooperation and community involvement.
Having targeted the lack of comprehensive water quality and stream flow data as the greatest obstacle to effective protection efforts, the Forum created a collaborative water quality monitoring program in partnership with Colorado State University, the U.S. Geological Survey, and local municipalities and stakeholders to allow a more thorough examination of water quality issues in the Big Thompson River and its tributaries. Based on a well-documented initial assessment, extensive stakeholder discussion, research, and historical TMDL listings, the Forum determined that nutrient, metal, sediment, and pathogen water quality variables were the highest priority for a monitoring and assessment program.
USEPA Volunteer Monitoring Program
In 1997, the Forum developed a volunteer monitoring program to help determine baseline water-quality conditions throughout the Big Thompson Watershed. The sampling locations were selected to fill in the gaps from the USGS Cooperative Monitoring Program and included sites in the Big Thompson River, North Fork of the Big Thompson, Little Thompson River, Fall River, and Glacier Creek.
From 1997 to 2015, the 12 sites were sampled 6-8 times per year by Forum staff and volunteers trained by the Forum, in partnership with US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Region 8. The USEPA Region 8 laboratory in Golden, CO, analyzed 26 water-quality constituents, including nutrients, metals, bacteria, total organic carbon, and major ions. The USEPA Volunteer Monitoring Program was discontinued in late 2015.