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Water Pollutants and Pollution


ederal and state law broadly define “pollutant” to include any substance that will adversely affect water quality or impair the desired uses of that water. Examples of common pollutants include metals, nutrients (phosphorus and nitrogen), ammonia, pathogens (disease-causing bacteria, viruses), sediment and salinity. Metals or ammonia can kill fish, nutrients can cause a reservoir to fill with algae, pathogens can cause human illness and sediments can smother aquatic habitat. Even heat is considered a pollutant— elevated temperatures can harm aquatic life. “Pollution” is defined even more broadly, as the man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological integrity of water.

A trout from Summit County’s Tenmile Creek has been impacted by

Blake W. Beyea, EscaPhotography (2)

poor water quality.

Safe water to play in is easy to take for granted. Behind the scenes, an extensive system of water quality standards and regulations works to protect human health and the environment.

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C o lo r a d o F o u n dat i o n


W at e r E d u c at i o n

Citizen's Guide to Colorado Water Quality Protection  

Curious as to how the state decides what rivers are healthy for fish, or what lakes are safe for swimming? This desk reference tackles the c...