Outstanding Waters

Protecting Colorado’s highest quality waterways for future generations.

As we move into a future of climate uncertainty, development pressure, and as streams with exceptional water quality become increasingly rare, it will become more and more important that we protect the high-quality water that still exists in our mountains and forests.

The United States Clean Water Act gives individual states the authority to designate special protections on waterways to ensure water quality is not degraded further.

In Colorado, the decision to designate “Outstanding Waters” is made by the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission (WQCC) and depends on specific criteria like water quality standards, outstanding natural resource values (like aquatic habitat or recreational use), community support, and need for enhanced protection.The WQCC ultimately makes their decision regarding Outstanding Water designations during a hearing that culminates a review every three years of water classifications for each basin in the State of Colorado.

Right now, we’re in the middle of this review for the San Juan and Gunnison river basins, and a coalition of groups has begun the important work of identifying potential candidate streams, collecting critical water quality data, documenting natural resource values, and gathering community support for protecting high-quality water.

OW San Juan and Gunnison Proposed Candidate Reaches