The connection between the activities that occur within a watershed and diminished water quality has been proven over and over. Negative impacts occur when few or no management practices exist and contaminants are improperly removed or released directly into streams that flow into a water supply. A primary component of watershed management is to prevent contaminants from reaching water resources and this is achieved through watershed planning, land conservation, aquatic buffers, better site design, erosion and sediment control, stormwater management practices, non-stormwater discharge, and watershed stewardship programs. Watershed protection efforts generally focus on human and animal contaminants, and they are tailored to address both the type of pollution source—point or nonpoint—as well as the way pollutants are transported across the landscape. With careful planning and communication, water quality can be protected while still serving other priorities.

Fichier:Gunnison County Colorado Incorporated and Unincorporated areas Crested Butte Highlighted.svgCrested Butte adopted the first ordinance on watershed protection in 1978. It was revised in 1996, and again, most recently, in 2008.

By establishing a Watershed Protection District consisting of the entire Town’s waterworks as well as areas five miles above its diversions points, the ordinance makes it illegal to cause a measurable increase in the pollution within the watershed and sets a permit requirement for any activity that could potentially degrade water quality. Such activities include residential construction, sewage treatment systems, road construction, logging, mining, or any disturbance of soil or water. 

The 2008 Watershed Protection Ordinance is more stringent than the older version and ensures a permit for development deemed to cause “major” impact thoroughly covers potential water quality issues.

Permit applicants must provide a detailed description of the activity, including all hazardous, toxic, and explosive substances to be used, transported, stored or handled; a description of reasonable alternatives; and a detailed description of the natural environment, potential environmental impacts, and proposed mitigation measures. A water quality monitoring plan may be required, and wastewater treatment facilities must meet specific standards.


Case Study Resources

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Resilient Communities and Watersheds


  • Challenges:
  • waterquality
  • State:
  • colorado
  • Scale:
  • site, community
  • Type:
  • urban, suburban