BASIN Text Image
Current Theme: Learning
Water Quality Monitoring - Snap-shot In Time


The Boulder Creek Watershed is comprised of Boulder Creek, its hundreds of tributaries, numerous wetlands, lakes, and reservoirs. Select an appropriate water body for monitoring. You can monitor more than one station, or at least put your data on the Boulder Creek web page so other classes can see your results.

Just as we test our blood to monitor our body's health, so must we test the waters to evaluate the health of the land. Our rivers, streams, and wetlands are the arteries that provide essential functions of our ecosystem. Scientists, cities, and citizens use water testing as an indicator of how much life a stream may support, to determine if pollution is effecting the waterway, and how seasonal effects may change water quality. Many of the waterways are linked with groundwater that is often used for drinking water supplies. Unfortunately, it is financially impossible for government agencies to monitor every waterway in the state. It is up to citizens (including this class) to observe their local water, and records developed as part of this assignment will be used to evaluate environmental health.


To contact the Water Resource Educator who can set you up with the materials, call (303) 413-7365 or send an email.

  • RiverWatch Kit or use the BVSD Pond Study Kit
  • Sample bottles
  • Sample labels
  • Journals
  • Camera


Before actually going out into the field to monitor water quality, you can learn more about the importance of and methods used to measure various water quality indicators. Take a look at Water Quality information developed for the WatershED program, and also be sure to look at the Water Quality information on the BASIN website.

The water quality sampling procedures described in this activity are based on the RiverWatch Program developed by the Colorado Division of Wildlife. If you are a participating RiverWatch school your program contact will be familiar with the sampling activities and can help with initial activities.

If you are unfamiliar with the procedures it is recommended you pre-lab some of the tests. All of the procedures are very basic, it just takes a little time to get comfortable.

You will work in groups to measure various water quality parameters. This is an inquiry based activity, there are no pre-determined answers. You must work within your community/group to obtain relevant information and develop a description of waterway health

Water quality sampling can take anywhere from 25 minutes to over an hour (this does not include the amount of time necessary to get to and from your site). In order to minimize the time sampling and analyzing the samples it is suggested that the class be broken up into three groups (A, B, C).

The following parameters will be evaluated:

  • pH (Group A) Alkalinity (Group C)
  • Temperature (Group A) Hardness (Group C)
  • Dissolved Oxygen (Group B)

Additionally, depending on available materials it may be possible to monitor for additional parameters.

Water Quality Issues

Water quality varies seasonally and is influenced by human activities throughout its watershed.

NOx and sulfates are transported by "the Brown Cloud" and deposited as precipitation in the upper alpine reaches of the watershed. These various forms of nitrogen can influence the nutrient cycle and pH of the lakes. The high mountain lakes have little buffering capacity because of the predominately granitic bedrock. As of yet, acidification of the streams has not effected any of the observed lakes.

U.S. NOx Emmissions
(1992, 23.2 Million Tons)

U.S. SO2Emmissions
(1992, 23.7 Million Tons)

Return to top
Next Activity
Return to WatershED Table of Contents

INVITATION BASIN is a community project actively seeking public participation. We appreciate all feedback and welcome comments, suggestions and contributions. To find out more about how you can be involved, click here. Help BASIN serve your needs, take our "10 questions in 10 seconds" survey.

BASIN is supported by the US EPA, the City of Boulder, the Keep it Clean Partnership, BCWI and BCN

Home | Site Map | Glossary | Bibliography | Contributors
About BASIN | Attribution | Feedback | Search
Last Page Update - Tuesday December 27, 2005