GarCo continues funding for Cattle Creek water quality studies

May 15, 2018

A major diversion structure in Missouri Heights pulls water out of Cattle Creek. Diversions, agriculture, residential septic systems and commercial development all impact the water quality of the creek.
Credit Elizabeth Stewart-Severy / Aspen Public Radio

At a meeting this week, Garfield County Commissioners agreed to continue funding ongoing work to improve the health of Cattle Creek.


A long stretch of Cattle Creek near Glenwood Springs is on Colorado’s list of impaired rivers, called the 303(d) list. State testing shows that populations of aquatic insects are not as healthy as they should be, which indicates low water quality.

Roaring Fork Conservancy has been studying the creek since 2015, and water quality coordinator Chad Rudow told commissioners Monday that research shows parts of the creek are healthier than the state thought.


“We’re pretty excited and pretty hopeful that at least a section of Cattle Creek will come off of that 303(d) list,” Rudow said.

Roaring Fork Conservancy has submitted its data to the Colorado water quality division, which will analyze it this year.

Garfield County agreed to Roaring Fork Conservancy’s request for $10,000 to continue studying water quality and take steps to improve it. Rudow said the studies have identified some clear trends.

“What we’re basically seeing is a gradual degradation of the health of the creek as we work our way downstream,” he said.

There isn’t just one culprit; diversions, agriculture, septic systems and commercial development all contribute.

Roaring Fork Conservancy is working with landowners to better manage riparian areas and septic systems, and Rudow said continued outreach is key.

Because there are many diversions on Cattle Creek, the stream doesn’t see a typical spring runoff flow, which clears out pollutants and sediments. So Roaring Fork Conservancy is also working with water rights owners to discuss a pulse flow to mimic spring runoff.