Mar 10, 2020

Dillon Reservoir Programs Undergoes Changes

The Dillon Reservoir water monitoring program is changing

water quality monitoring

A program that protects the Dillon Reservoir from the excessive phosphorus levels and algae growth is undergoing changes and scaling back its monitoring.

The Summit Water Quality Committee’s monitoring program is losing the lab services of University of Colorado Boulder professor William Lewis. Lewis is also the director of the Center for Limnology and said he doubted he could reorganize and modernize his lab as needed to keep up with university requirements for such programs, given his age and the lab’s budget, reported Aspen Journal

“The university continually works to develop and maintain best practices to ensure proper stewardship of equipment, personnel and resources,” said CU spokesperson Deborah Mendez Wilson. “Subsequent to that review, Professor Lewis decided to close the service center and lab that performed analyses for various entities.”

According to an April 24, 2018 memo obtained through a Colorado Open Records Act request, the Campus Controller’s Office reviewed the Center for Limnology’s financial activities after a whistleblower complaint about the relationship between the center and Western Environmental Analysts, a private consulting company Lewis owns. 

The Campus Controller’s Office recommended an investigation to determine if financial misconduct occurred, according to the Aspen Journal.

Lewis plans to stay active with the Summit Water Quality Committee, which remains focused on limiting phosphorus pollution and the excessive algae growth caused by eutrophication. He is also helping to investigate trout-fishery declines in a formerly Gold Medal stretch of the Blue River downstream of Dillon Reservoir. 

As a result of this, the Summit Water Quality Committee’s watershed-monitoring program is continuing but scaling back. 

Partners are contracting with the U.S. Geological Survey to sample and analyze Dillon Reservoir six times a year from June through October, as well as contracting with High Sierra Water Laboratory in Tahoe City, California to help analyze samples, according to Lane Wyatt, the Summit Water Quality Committee administrator and watershed-services director for Northwest Colorado Council of Governments.

That monitoring will show whether Dillon Reservoir’s phosphorus standard is being met, according to the Aspen Journal. The program will no longer monitor the reservoir the rest of the year and no longer monitor Green Mountain Reservoir.

Approximately two dozen tributary sites will be monitored monthly for phosphorus, nitrogen, algae and other measures, which is down from 15 to 17 times a year. The changes will not result in additional costs for Summit Water Quality Committee partners, so the total annual cost will remain between $80,000 and $90,000. Denver Water and Climax Mine will help pay for the monitoring program.

“When you have 30 years of data, we have a sense we don’t need to collect those samples at this time, a higher level of comfort,” said Wyatt of the committee’s decision. “So we’ll do this for one to three years and see how it goes.”

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