Water Quality Monitoring 101

Interested in water quality monitoring, but not quite sure why people do it, where to start, or who to look to for help? Take a look at the resources below for more information. If we missed something you're looking for or if you are interested in even more information, email mailto:info@coloradowater.org and we will be happy to assist you.

Topics covered on this page:

  1. Why Monitor?
  2. Monitoring Efforts Throughout Colorado
  3. Data
  4. Resources/Toolbox

Why Monitor?

Colorado has a lot of water quality monitoring occurring throughout the state. Everyone from Federal, State, and local agencies, interested individuals, watershed groups, companies, and even schools monitor the rivers and streams in their watershed. Each group or individual that monitors their local rivers and streams has a different reason for doing so, and this generally tailors the type of monitoring they conduct and who they collaborate with to continue monitoring. Overall, monitoring can tell us how well a river is functioning and if it's healthy or at risk.

For more information from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on why groups and individuals monitor, CLICK HERE. More information can also be found from River Watch Sampling Plan's section on monitoring and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment's webpage on Colorado's waters.

Some examples of different monitoring efforts across the state are included below.

  • Measurable Results Program (MRP): In 2010, the Colorado Watershed Assembly partnered with the Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) Colorado Nonpoint Source Program (NPS) of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to implement the Measurable Results Program as a project of the NPS. This program was created specifically to conduct monitoring for restoration projects previously funded by the NPS, which works with the EPA to fund a number of watershed planning and restoration projects throughout the state. The MRP assists local watershed groups by documenting the effects of restoration efforts while helping to enhance the overall quality and quantity of stream restoration monitoring data.
  • Colorado River Watch Program: For over 25 years, River Watch has been working with volunteers across the state to monitor Colorado's waters. The program takes interested citizens, teachers, and students and provides them with the necessary equipment, supplies, and training to conduct EPA and State approved water quality monitoring protocols. The data these volunteers collect has been important in providing sound science to support the decision-making processes of the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (CWQCC). Not only is the program important for water quality throughout the state, but River Watch also fosters environmental stewardship in all of its volunteers, including the hundreds of middle and high school students that take place each year. For more information go to River Watch.
  • Local Watershed Groups: Contact your local watershed group for more information about what they are working on and how you might collaborate to get the information you both need. A list of watershed groups throughout the state with their contact information can be found here.


If you're interested in data on a certain segment of a river or stream, there are a few different places you can go to find what you're looking for.

  • Colorado Data Sharing NetworkThe Colorado Data Sharing Network, created by the Colorado Water Quality Monitoring Council, is a water quality data management system whose goal is to meet the needs of the Colorado NPS Grant program and local data providers.
  • STORET/WQX: STORET and WQX is the EPA's data warehouse for water quality, biological, and physical data and is used by state environmental agencies, EPA, and other federal agencies, universities, private citizens, and many others.
  • Water Quality Portal (WQP): The WQP is a cooperative service sponsored by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the EPA, and the National Water Quality Monitoring Council (NMQMC).
  • Colorado Parks and Wildlife: Colorado Parks and Wildlife houses data for the River Watch program as well as other sites that state employees collect data for.

River Watch Sample Plan: