Making Denver a vibrant and healthy place to live, work and play are an important aspect of "Greenprint Denver", the Mayor’s bold action plan to provide a strong environmental and economic legacy for Denver. Greenprint Denver recognizes that watersheds, especially the South Platte River that drains the length of the city, are precious amenities that connect land and water and provide important wildlife habitats. As part of the vision of Greenprint Denver, in 2004, Mayor John W. Hickenlooper directed several City departments to work regionally on a watershed basis to improve water quality in the South Platte River and Cherry Creek. Known as the Mayor’s Water Quality Initiative, this cooperative effort between the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Environmental Health’s Environmental Quality Division, the Department of Public Works Wastewater Management Division and City Engineer’s Office, and Denver’s Parks and Recreation Department use aggressive intervention measures, monitoring, and public education to clean Denver’s signature waterways.
The Mayor’s Water Quality Initiative team has identified three target contaminants of concern: Escherichia coli, nitrate, and sediment. The goal of the initiative is to yield decreases in levels of all three of these target contaminants through a coordinated effort consisting of the following activities:
- Improve the quality of effluent from storm sewer outfalls in the City;
- Increase public awareness of water quality issues;
- Improve flow conditions within the South Platte and Cherry Creek;
- Make habitat improvements along the South Platte and Cherry Creek; and
- Make management changes to prevent discharges of contaminants from City facilities.
During 2006, the primary focus of the Mayor’s Water Quality Initiative was on addressing discharges from three problem outfalls in an effort to reduce elevated levels of the target contaminants. Efforts focused on maintenance activities within the storm basins draining to the three priority outfalls and on identifying potential problem areas within the storm basins. Maintenance activities included the inspection, cleaning, and repair of sanitary and storm sewers. Other efforts that were initiated or continued in 2006 include:
- Identifying small-scale water quality improvement projects for pilot testing;
- Researching bacterial source tracking techniques;
- Developing a City-wide environmental management system for all water quality related activities;
- Engaging interested parties in a stakeholder process; and
- Developing a public education and outreach program.
Over time, efforts will be expanded to work regionally on a watershed basis to improve water quality in the South Platte River.