What is River Watch?
River Watch began in the spring of1989 as a program to collect quality water data that could be used for high levels of decision-making. At first, it consisted of two-hour trainings at six schools along the Yampa River. The State Water Quality Control Commission was charged with making decisions regarding how much pollution would be allowed in Colorado’s waters. However, they only had one data point, or no data at all. Thus "The Rivers of Colorado Water Watch Network" was created with the philosophy of training private and public school teachers and students to collect and analyze samples. The partnership works well because schools are a large part of each community, and teachers need interactive exercises to teach concepts related to river ecology.
The program began because of the passion of a teacher, Ed Hayne from Oak Creek, Colorado, who threatened to start something like this if the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) did not. Carol Bylsma, the Project Wild Coordinator for the CPW at the time, found funding for a River Watch Project. She engaged Barb Horn, a CPW Water Quality Specialist, to develop and implement a River Watch Program.
The program launched with two primary goals that remain steadfast today:
Provide a hands-on experience for individuals to understand the value and function of the river ecosystem.
Collect quality aquatic ecosystem data over space and time to be used for the Clean Water Act and other water quality decision-making processes.
Today, River Watch has achieved its original goals and continues to grow with the dedication and commitment of thousands of volunteers. Markers of achievement and growth include:
Expansion from the original six schools to coverage of all watersheds in Colorado as well as 350 schools
Involvement of over 60,000 individuals in Colorado since 1989
Data collected on 3,000 stations, covering over 300 rivers
Involvement of individuals, watershed groups, and other entities (besides schools)
Expansion to include biological and physical habitat parameters
Piloting of a volunteer lake and wetland monitoring program
Some students receiving college credit for their River Watch skills, others acquiring water-related employment from their interest and work in River Watch, and most carrying their knowledge and passion for the river environment wherever they go