Urban waterways provide a potential source of recreation, transportation, and economic development to some of Denver’s lowest-income neighborhoods, yet many are both polluted and inaccessible due to railroad tracks, industrial zones, busy streets, and other physical barriers. We build partnerships to address watershed issues, developing and continuing to implement a watershed plan for Bear Creek, volunteer activities to improve riparian corridors, and improving access to the South Platte River.
Groundwork Denver and Bear Creek
Groundwork Denver’s water program began simply – youth teams removed invasive species and picked up trash along the South Platte River and Bear Creek. Today, the program reflects a comprehensive, multi-partner collaboration that is actively improving the recreational use of urban Bear Creek.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment funded Groundwork Denver to create a Watershed Plan because the creek was/is contaminated with E.coli. This bacterium indicates there is fecal contamination in the water and may make it unsafe to swim or play in. The Watershed Plan was completed in 2014 and identifies best practices for the protection of water quality in Bear Creek.
Among the work Groundwork conducts relating to Bear Creek is investigating potential water quality impacts from septic systems. The City of Sheridan and Tri-County Health provide outreach materials and financial assistance options for residents interested in connecting to the sanitary main.
Groundwork Denver also chairs the Water Quality Assessment Workgroup. This dedicated group of scientists created the South Platte Water Quality Assessment Tool in 2016. The tool includes interactive maps and graphs which help students, the public and researchers understand pollution trends throughout the South Platte River basin.
Water Quality Sampling
Groundwork Denver partners with the following to collect and analyze water samples for E. coli and other pollutants.
- Denver Environmental Health
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Metropolitan State University’s Biology Department
- Water Quality Control Division
- River Watch
- Denver Water
In addition to water quality sampling, Groundwork Denver takes measure to help residents conserve water. Since 2010 GWD has installed over 1,000 low-flow energy-saving showerheads and over 300 low flow aerators in Denver households and the surrounding metropolitan area. Additionally, 2017 marked the beginning of our free sprinkler audit program where Groundwork Denver Water staff fixed up leaky and poorly adjusted sprinklers. These conservation programs save residents money through reduction of energy and water use and help decrease urban runoff which can carry pollutants into nearby waterways.
Do you want to get in the water and learn a little science? Join us each month for River Watch sampling on Bear Creek! Contact Melake Getabecha at Melake@GroundworkColorado.org for more information.