Lets Clean Up The Creek!
Restoring and protecting clean water in Fountain Creek has been a Sierra Club priority for more than a decade. Fountain Creek is about 75 miles long and is fed by a 927 square mile watershed along Colorado’s central Front Range. It drains south into the Arkansas River at Pueblo, where it divides downtown Pueblo from the city’s east side.
Fountain Creek and its watershed experience extremes in flow rates, temperature and precipitation, steep gradients, diverse ecosystems, and many water uses. Portions of El Paso, Teller, and Pueblo Counties in Colorado make up the watershed, which encompasses the municipalities of Pueblo, Colorado Springs, Fountain, Manitou Springs, Green Mountain Falls, Woodland Park, Palmer Lake, and Monument.
In 2004 the Sierra Club sued the City of Colorado Springs in federal court for repeated violations of the Clean Water Act, and won in 2009. In 2006 the Sierra Club approved an application from the Sangre de Cristo Group for a new Fountain Creek Water Sentinels Program. In 2007 a Fountain Creek Vision task force was convened and in 2009 they issued a report including a proposal for creation of a watershed district to oversee continued progress toward improving the watershed. In 2009 this watershed district was approved by legislation. In 2013 the local watershed district was suspended when the club’s national Water Sentinels Program lost its funding.
In 2014, voters in El Paso County rejected a stormwater measure which would have created a stormwater agency and provided funding through a county-wide stormwater fee, to make stormwater improvements. A notice of intent to sue has been filed against the City by the Lower Arkansas Water Conservancy District, citing Colorado Springs’ reduction in stormwater funding, deterioration of infrastructure, failure to control structures, failure to reduce discharge of pollutants and failure to prevent discharges that could affect public health.
The watershed has suffered significant damage from two major forest fires in 2012 and 2013 that have left major burn scars that result in more rapid stormwater runoff and an increase in stormwater-related pollutant loads in Fountain Creek. Its low-to-moderate natural flows are augmented and often overwhelmed by multiple sewage discharges and significant stormwater runoff. The creek is listed by the State of Colorado as impaired in all of its regulatory segments for e.coli or selenium or both.
The watershed currently provides about 15% of the drinking water for Colorado Springs. It has served as a major recreational resource for children and adults for generations and is critical for agriculture in the dryland farming areas of southeastern Colorado and western Kansas. These issues make this valuable natural amenity a serious environmental justice problem.
The Pikes Peak and Sangre de Cristo Groups, with the cooperation and support of the Rocky Mountain Chapter, are determined to convert Fountain Creek into the community asset it could and should be, for everyone who lives, works and plays along its banks. Clean water is “Job One”.
We are looking for volunteers to help us keep Fountain Creek Watershed clean and safe!
For more information on the Fountain Creek Watershed go to fountain-crk.org.