Protecting Denver's Water Quality

During storm events, the new detention pond at the Joe Shoemaker School at Cherry Creek and Havana provides treatment for water quality prior to discharging to Cherry Creek Denver’s goal is to have fishable and swimmable waters in all our lakes and streams. DDPHE, Denver Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), and Parks and Recreation are all working hard to ensure the city meets that goal. Here are a few things the city is doing to improve water quality:

  • DDPHE samples the South Platte River and its tributaries to determine the impact of urbanization on water quality.  Monitoring is also conducted to determine if there are any public health risks associated with recreating in streams and lakes in Denver. Additional sampling of Denver’s lakes informs maintenance and management decisions. 
  • DDPHE assess the effectiveness of actions taken by other city agencies to improve water quality.  Information from those assessments ensures that actions are effective, helps improve the design of future water quality interventions, and provides a better understanding of maintenance requirements.
  • DOTI performs routine maintenance on storm and sanitary sewers to eliminate cross connections and remove blockages. To date, the program has successfully reduced the amount of bacteria entering the South Platte River from the city’s storm sewers.
  • DOTI has identified areas where more facilities are needed to ensure storm water runoff is adequately treated to remove sediment, trash, and other pollutants. That information has been used to develop an implementation plan which describes and prioritizes opportunities for installation of water quality treatment facilities. Learn more about Green Infrastructure in Denver. Information about facilities which have already been installed can be on the Green Infrastructure Story Map.

examples of green infrastructure

  • Parks and Recreation manages most of the city's lakes. Parks has many initiatives to improve water quality.  Those initiatives include:
    • Reducing fertilizer use to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus in runoff from parks,
    • Installing water column aeration systems in lakes to improve habitat for fish and to reduce the impacts of algal growth, and
    • Planting vegetation and implementing no-mow zones along lakes and streams to provide water quality treatment for runoff.

Things You Can Do to Protect Water Quality

Keeping Denver's lakes and streams clean requires everyone’s help. Runoff carries oil, chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, pet waste, debris and sediment directly into storm sewers, streams and lakes without treatment. Residents can help by taking a few precautions and changing habits in small but noticeable ways. Every individual action adds up, and every individual can make a difference. 

Here are things residents can do to help keep Denver's streams and lakes clean:

infographic on how to keep water clean
View an accessible PDF version of this graphic(PDF, 801KB)
(en español(PDF, 175KB))

Here are some links you may need:

River Redevelopment Plans

In 2014, the City’s Department of Parks and Recreation began work on an ambitious plan to improve the parks along Denver’s river corridor. Since then, improvements have been made to Lakewood Gulch, at the confluence of Weir Gulch and the South Platte River, Johnson Habitat Park, a stretch of river between Overland Pond and Pasquinel's Landing, Globeville Landing, and Confluence Park.

The city is also working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on a plan to re-envision parts of the South Platte River, Weir Gulch, and Harvard Gulch. More information about that project can be found on the Denver Urban Waterways webpage.

All of the projects include improvements that will benefit water quality in the South Platte River.