The Snake River originates on the western side of the continental divide in Colorado and terminates in Dillon Reservoir, a primary drinking water source for the Denver metropolitan area. Land uses in the watershed are varied and include extensive US Forest Service lands used mostly for dispersed recreation, two internationally renowned ski resorts, the small town of Montezuma, considerable residential development in unincorporated areas, and a multitude of historic mining sites.
Mining began in the Snake River watershed with the discovery of silver in 1864. Large-scale mining of lead, silver and zinc occurred in the watershed primarily until the turn of the century, with a short resurgence of lead production during World War II. A result of this historic mining activity is significant water quality impairment associated with acid mine drainage in the Snake River watershed. Peru Creek is essentially devoid of aquatic life. The Snake River has aquatic life that is limited in diversity and abundance and found only in the lower reaches.
In recent years there have been a substantial number of investigations of the sources, fate and effects of heavy metal concentrations in the Snake River watershed. Findings of some of these studies include the characterization of background sources, examination of the extensive impact to aquatic life from heavy metals, and the identification of certain discrete sources of metals. There has not been, however, a comprehensive evaluation of the metal loadings or potential measures to reduce the environmental consequences of acid mine drainage within the watershed.
The Snake River Basin Task Force is a voluntary collaborative effort initiated by those concerned about water quality of the Snake River to gather more information regarding sources of water quality problems and identify opportunities to improve water quality in the watershed. The Task Force has met several times to share information about the basin and establish a direction, a mission and ground rules.