Roaring Fork Conservancy engages volunteers to measure stream temps during drought |

Roaring Fork Conservancy engages volunteers to measure stream temps during drought

Roaring Fork Conservancy’s Hot Spots for Trout program has engaged 50 volunteers to collect more than 440 temperature readings at 21 locations throughout the Roaring Fork Watershed in only six weeks.

The Hot Spots for Trout program was launched on June 28 in response to the severe 2012 drought, which continues to diminish flows and increase temperatures in local rivers. Collecting temperature data has assisted local wildlife managers in decisions to abate fishing in areas where fish and other aquatic life were already stressed.

During the week of Aug. 5, four monitoring locations exceeded the state temperature standard of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. These include the Crystal River near Colorado Rocky Mountain School in Carbondale, the Roaring Fork River near the Carbondale boat ramp, Brush Creek near the Snowmass Village Rodeo roundabout, and the Roaring Fork River in Aspen at the Hopkins Street footbridge.

Afternoon rains have helped to keep rivers cool.

The state standard for temperature in the Roaring Fork Valley is a maximum of 68 degrees. Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife is authorized to close sections of the river if the daily maximum temperature exceeds 74 degrees, or if the average daily temperature exceeds 72.

How hot or cold the water is determines what can survive in it. Aquatic species have evolved to live at certain temperatures ranges. For example, brown trout adults thrive at temperatures from 54-66.

In the upper and lower limits of that range, an organism becomes stressed, meaning it could be at a competitive disadvantage for food and more susceptible to disease or in extreme cases death.

In addition, temperature influences both water biology and chemistry. For example, temperature affects how much oxygen is in the water. Elevated temperatures lead to decreased oxygen levels, which in turn negatively impact aquatic plants and fish.

Increasing temperatures also promote growth of bacteria and algae, which can increase pH and use even more of an already depleted oxygen supply.

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