Our View: Increased monitoring is step in right direction | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Increased monitoring is step in right direction

Increasing the number of water quality monitoring sites along the Yampa River is a prudent step for local governments to take, particularly in the wake of increased energy development interests in Routt County.

Five local agencies have signed off on their financial support to increase the number of monitoring sites along the Yampa River to six. There currently only is one site — the Yampa River at Fifth Street in downtown Steamboat Springs — where water quality has been regularly monitored.

That changes this month, when samples will be taken from a half dozen points along the river and analyzed for chemical content, nutrients, E. coli and alkalinity, among other properties. The new monitoring sites include upstream of Stagecoach Reservoir; at the Chuck Lewis State Wildlife Area; at Milner; at the confluence of the Elk and Yampa rivers; and downstream from Hayden.

We agree with Routt County Department of Environmental Health Director Mike Zopf that the existing water quality monitoring effort wasn't sufficient.

"The basic premise is that you cannot manage what you don't measure," Zopf said this week. "We felt it was wholly inadequate to have one station to monitor roughly 1,700 square miles of the Upper Yampa River Basin."

Efforts to increase monitoring sites along the Yampa have been discussed for at least the past decade. It's now possible thanks to an $18,250 project match from the U.S. Geological Survey and approximately $32,000 from local governments including the city of Steamboat Springs, Routt County, the Upper Yampa Water Conservancy District, the Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District and the Morrison Creek Water and Sanitation District.

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The timing of the monitoring expansion mostly is coincidental as it relates to increasing energy exploration activities in Routt County. But given the oil and gas plays taking place here, the timing is right. Improved and expanded water data collection will provide protection for industry and our communities. The monitoring will establish baselines to better determine how, and potentially why, our water quality might change throughout time. And that fact will remain true with or without oil and gas exploration.

There is no natural resource more important to our communities than clean water. A better monitoring program for ensuring the safety of that water is a no-brainer. Kudos to the local government agencies that have provided funding to make the expanded monitoring program a reality.

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