Protect Colorado drinking water and waterways

Why is this important to Colorado?

  • Drinking water in Colorado is safer than it’s ever been.
    • It’s been 10 years since we’ve had a waterborne disease outbreak (the longest streak since at least the 1970s when recordkeeping began) and E. coli violations are about a quarter of what they were in the 1990s.
  • Clean water is critical to public health and the well-being of all Coloradans. Pollution mitigation is increasingly important to protect our fish and wildlife. 
  • Clean water is a basic requirements of human health and well-being.
  • Clean water is cherished by Coloradans and are central to the Colorado way of life.
  • As Colorado’s population continues to grow, preserving water quality becomes increasingly important.
  • Colorado’s plants and animals also depend upon a clean and healthy environment.
  • Poor air and water quality tends to affect disadvantaged communities disproportionately.
  • Preventing waterborne disease outbreaks and maintaining water quality is necessary to protect public and environmental health, and also important to Colorado’s economy as evidenced by the grave impacts of drinking water outbreaks.


How do we measure success?

  • The percent of total miles of rivers and streams meeting quality standards in June 2015 were 51.6%. By 2018, we plan to increase the total miles of rivers and streams meeting these standards to 58.6% of Colorado’s rivers and streams.
  • In June 2015, 30.1% of total acres of lakes and reservoirs in Colorado were meeting quality standards. By 2018, we plan to increase that number to 42.1% of lakes and reservoirs in Colorado meeting quality standards.
  • Prevent waterborne disease outbreaks with a goal of zero. In 2008, there was 1 such outbreak, but Colorado has had no such outbreaks since 2008 in public drinking water systems monitored by Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).
  • Increasing the percent of population served by community public drinking water systems that meet all health-based standards. For the five-year average ending in 2015, 97% of the population was served by community public drinking water systems that met standards.
    • However, in 2016, federal and state standards improved to proactively protect public health (applied in 2017) and this measure now reflects more external factors than just the safety and quality of water.
      • Past standards covered only violations that directly jeopardized drinking water safety. Current standards are more strict, including administrative violations like expired operator certifications) that do not directly impair actual drinking water safety.
    • As a result of these changes to the current outcome measure, a revised measure to better reflect actual drinking water quality is proposed by CDPHE in October 2018: 
      • The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) proposes to update this measure in 2019 to the Percent of community drinking water systems in compliance with all drinking water safety requirements. This new measure will be incorporated starting with CY2019.
Status Outcome Measure 2015 Outcome Baseline 2016 Actual 2017 Actual 2018 Actual 2018 Outcome Target

On Track.png

Rivers/streams meeting health and administrative standards 51.6% 59.0% 59% 58% 58%


Lakes/reservoirs meeting health and administrative standards 30.1% 33.13% 33.13% 34% 42.1%

On Track.png

Waterborne disease outbreaks (Dec 2008) (2009-2015) 0 0 0


Public drinking water systems meeting health and administrative standards* 97% (2010-2015) 97% 91% See Narrative 98.0%

Source: CDPHE

*Note: 2016 changes to federal & state water systems standards have become more stringent and expansive and the department has improved business processes for identifying and issuing violations. As drinking water continues to become safer, this measure decreases for while, likely a few years. 

What actions are we taking?


Colorado implements multiple strategies designed to meet or exceed all applicable federal and state water and air quality standards. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) implements the federal Safe Drinking Water and Clean Water Acts in Colorado and improved the ability to identify and issue violations that can cause waterborne disease outbreaks. CDPHE provides a broad range of assistance and oversight to entities in Colorado that must comply with these laws. Specifically, CDPHE provides one-on-one assistance and training to public drinking water systems and CDPHE samples water quality in rivers and lakes to determine problem areas and focus restoration efforts. Finally, CDPHE is working with the United States Air Force, USEPA, and drinking water systems near the towns of Security, Widefield and Fountain to help address the discovery of the per-fluorinated compounds known as PFOS and PFOA in the local groundwater aquifer. All of the impacted drinking water systems have implemented changes so that the public has access to drinking water that meets EPA’s health advisory levels for PFOS and PFOA. In addition to this, the department continues to:

  • Strive to improve the performance of our core work including inspections and follow-up, assistance including infrastructure reviews and financing, and routine compliance assurance efforts especially that public notice requirements are implemented.
  • Launch training and financial assistance program to support implementing the storage tank and cross connection control rules (as funding allows).
  • Support state water plan implementation by continuing efforts to develop an effective regulatory framework for direct potable reuse.
  • Stay abreast of information about emerging issues like perflourinated compounds, cyantoxins, legionella and manganese and respond if issues occur in Colorado.