2C. State’s Role (Quality)


Tasks to be completed:

  1. Complete presentations 1 through 4
  2. Complete the discussion prompt at the end of this page


  • Note taking materials

It wasn’t until 1998 that the EPA started looking into regulating nutrient pollution (like phosphates and nutrients) in bodies of water.  At that time, the EPA started working with states to develop numerical criteria for decreasing nutrient pollution found in our rivers, streams, reservoirs and lakes.  In 2008, Colorado set partial numerical criteria for total phosphates and total nitrates on lakes and reservoirs.  We will explore how nutrient pollution can affect us and our watersheds and explore what’s being done to address it.


1. What is nutrient pollution?

If you’d like to explore nutrient runoff, pour some water on bare ground (soil) near a sidewalk and make some observations as to where the water travels and what it looks like.  Is it clear?  Then, add some water to a patch of grass located near a sidewalk and make the same observations.  What do you notice?  This activity is optional.  The video above is required.

2. The Gulf Of Mexico’s Dead Zone – How local practices can lead to global issues

Feel free to check out this other video of an activity that explores erosion and soil.  It can be modified to explain nutrient run off and better management practices.

3. The River that Caught Fire – Before Regulation

4. Colorado’s Water Quality 10-year Roadmap – What is Colorado Doing About Nutrient Pollution?

Some of the primary sources of nutrient pollution are fertilizer runoff, animal manure, sewage treatment plant discharges, stormwater runoff, car and power plant emissions, and failing septic tanks. Pollution from agricultural operations is recognized nationwide as a significant source of nutrients that can have a negative impact on the health of watersheds. In Colorado, the current thinking is that agriculture is not as significant a source of nutrient pollution as in other parts of the country. However, in order to address all potential sources of excess nutrients, Regulation 85 encourages the WQCD to proactively collaborate with the agricultural community on voluntary nutrient controls, information and education campaigns about nutrients and monitoring of nutrients to better understand sources and effectiveness of nutrient controls. The WQCD is doing this in partnership with Colorado State University (CSU) through a number of projects.

– Water Education Colorado

Optional Videos and Resources:

Adorable Animation of A Polluted and Clean Water Drop

What Can You Do? (EPA)

A list of things we can do at home to keep our water clean (EPA).

How Water is Treated (Denver Water)

Check out this water cleaning activity from NASA.

The Importance for Upgrading Water Treatment Facilities

Additional Resources


  • Millions of Gallons Per Day (MGD) – Flow, or volumetric flow rate; volume of fluid that passes per unit of time. In water resources, flow is often measured in units of cubic feet per second (cfs), cubic meters per second (cms), gallons per minute (gpm), millions of gallons per day (MGD) or other various units.
  • Nutrient Loading refers to the input of nutrients into the ecosystem from numerous anthropogenic and non-anthropogenic sources. Population growth and development, particularly wastewater infrastructure, have increased the amount of nutrient loading.

Discussion Prompt:

Was there any information that was new to you or did this section serve as a refresher?  Let us know if any piece of information stood out to you.

wellwatchadminJuly 2C State’s Role (Quality)


Join the conversation
  • Andy Russell - July 27, 2020

    I knew of the river catching fire, but didn’t realize that had happened more than once. It’s always strange to think that it was the Nixon administration which created the EPA and passed the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act etc., but people in the 60s understood that water isn’t really supposed to burn. The regulations were all new to me before this week’s module.

    I had a decent understanding of the water treatment process, but the scale of it necessary to supply and treat the Denver metro area’s water was an eye-opener. As population grows, the need to upgrade facilities also increases, but the one thing everyone knows about infrastructure is that politically it’s difficult to fund improvements – just look at the state’s roads.

  • Benita Wilson - July 30, 2020

    I was familiar of the basic processes of wastewater treatment but didn’t know about the updates that need to be done to continue to perfect the efficiency of wastewater treatment.

    I also wasn’t aware of the lengthy timelines and back and forth communication that accompanies the formation of water quality regulations. It seems like this is a pressing issue, yet it takes years to research, draft and approve regulations and even more years to see the benefit of these regulations. I understand that these things take time a lots of money, I just wonder about the level of impact since we are still seeing the issue of Algae blooms to this day.

  • Abigail Seen - August 5, 2020

    When I hear the word nutrients, I always think of it as something good and positive. Nutrients can have diverse effects as well. It may not be immediate but can be gradual such as algal blooms and suck up all the oxygen in the water and kill fish, or produce toxins that can be bad to humans. Nitrate in water can cause blue baby syndrome. I’ve always wondered how “nutrients” are put under control. I am glad that they eventually EPA came up with standards to regulate the nutrient use.

  • Colette Hunt - August 11, 2020

    Most of the regulation stuff was totally new to me. I know clean water is important on many different levels, I just didn’t understand all that went into regulating the amount of nitrogen and phosphorous that gets released into our waterways. I didn’t know that a river caught fire because of pollution, but it was sad to me that it took multiple fires before anything was done about it. It was nice to see that today the river has recovered enough for fish to return and the water is no longer that severely polluted. I did know about waste water treatment and water treatment thanks to the Confluence Institute and the tours we took to those place. I did not realize that so many of these places need so many upgrades and how much all of that costs and takes.

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