The Boulder Area Sustainability Information Network (BASIN): One Community’s Approach to Providing Public Access to Environmental Information.

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by Sheila Murphy, Research Analyst, City of Boulder

 


Boulder area residents posing the questions “Where does my water come from?” “How am I impacting the water I use?” “What happens to the water downstream?” now have a website designed specifically to answer those questions. BASIN — the Boulder Area Sustainability Information Network — provides a variety of environmental information about the Boulder area to its inhabitants. Information about the Boulder Creek watershed, as well as other local environmental data, can be found on the internet at www.BASIN.org.

BASIN is committed to providing public access to time-relevant local environmental monitoring information. Originally funded by a grant from the EPA, the project is administered by the City of Boulder. BASIN is a collaborative effort that brings together the resources of a number of local and regional organizations. Collaborators include the City of Boulder, Boulder Community Network, University of Colorado, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), Enfo.com, Boulder Creek Watershed Initiative and others.

Monthly water quality data for Boulder Creek is available for seventeen parameters (water temperature, flow rate, pH, specific conductance, alkalinity, hardness, turbidity, total dissolved solids (TDS), total suspended solids (TSS), nitrate plus nitrite, nitrite, ammonia, total phosphate, orthophosphate, fecal coliform, dissolved oxygen, and total organic carbon). The parameters have been temporally and spatially analyzed. Graphs and interpretations of the data, along with background information and water quality standards for each parameter, can be found in the Water Quality section of the BASIN web site <www.basin.org/watershed/wqhome.html>. In addition, BASIN has recently expanded the geographic scope of water quality data to South Boulder Creek, Boulder Reservoir and tributaries, and the St. Vrain River. The data were contributed by Denver Water, the City of Boulder, and the City of Longmont.

In addition to posting data collected by other agencies, BASIN organized a collaborative water quality investigation with the USGS and the City of Boulder, entitled “The Boulder Creek Millennium Baseline Study.” Stream chemistry is controlled by natural and human inputs, as well as by chemical reactions that influence the fate and transport of these inputs. Detailed water quality sampling of Boulder Creek, including the main stem and major tributaries, allows the determination of sources and sinks of chemical constituents. The relative importance of different sources varies seasonally, and therefore high- and low-flow sampling was an important step in characterizing the watershed. Water quality sampling of Boulder Creek from upstream of the town of Eldora to below the confluence of Boulder Creek and Coal Creek was carried out in June and October 2000. A variety of measurements were performed on the water samples, including pH, dissolved oxygen, and major element, metal, pesticide and pharmaceutical concentrations. This study will provide a baseline data set for constraining future impacts. More information about the study can be found at http://bcn.boulder.co.us/basin/.

Another feature available on the BASIN website is a bibliography consisting of over 400 reports that discuss some aspect of the Boulder Creek Watershed. These reports were found by searching various library catalogs, including university libraries, Boulder County public libraries, and the U.S. Geological Survey. The bibliography includes journal articles, government publications, consulting reports, and graduate school theses, regarding subjects including air quality, flora and fauna, geology and mining, groundwater, history, general information, hydrology and flooding, water supply and treatment, and water usage. This database can be searched on the BASIN website by subject, title, author, or keyword. For each report, information is given on the author name(s), the year of publication, and where to find the report. The bibliography is located on the internet atwww.basin.org/biblio/.

A feature relevant to all citizens is BASIN’s Personal Action section. BASIN has compiled an extensive list of household cleaners, the harmful human and environmental effects of these cleaners, and safer, reliable alternatives (see www.basin.org/local/houstext.html). Over 50 cleaning substitutes for products such as general household cleaners, metal cleaners and polishers, oven cleaners, dishwasher detergents, laundry and stain removers, and insecticides and insect repellants are listed. Many commercial cleaning products are corrosive, poisonous or harmful to the environment. These alternatives provide safer and effective options. Most of the alternative cleaners are simply combinations of common household items, such as vinegar, lemon juice, milk, baking soda, and even tap water. Not only are they safe and effective, they’re considerably less expensive than commercial brands. Other information on the personal action page includes information on what individuals can do to protect water quality in streams and rivers; waterwise landscaping; and essays on sustainability.

BASIN is interested in feedback not only from Boulder area residents, but also other watershed communities. Please visit www.basin.org and let BASIN know what you think!