The Stream Management Academy

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August 15, 2019

What is the Stream Management Academy?

At the MIle High Flood District (MHFD) our mission is to protect people, property, and the environment along thousands of miles of streams throughout the metro area. With a staff of just 35 that is no simple task! Luckily, our employees are always working to educate the public and our fellow stormwater professionals so they can help us accomplish this mission. Barbara Chongtoua, our South Watershed Project Manager, runs a program that helps with exactly that.

The Stream Management Academy is a program led by MHFD, the Colorado Riparian Association, and the Colorado Association of Stormwater and Floodplain Managers that provides continuing education related to watershed and stream functions – functions that should be considered for any urban stream project. The classes are held once a month over a nine-month period and are intended for public works professionals, water resources engineers, land development engineers, landscape architects, environmental scientists, and planners.  In addition to training the students on the technical aspects of watershed and stream functions, classes also include leadership development and opportunities to network with professionals from a diverse cross section of the industry. 

Why should we be interested in Watershed and Stream Functions?

Historically, urban streams have been designed primarily around large but infrequent flood events.  While flood conveyance is of the utmost importance in order to protect people and their property from flood damage, we’ve found over time that smaller more frequent floods actually create the most stream instability, triggering the need for expensive maintenance and restoration. 

Stream instability issues start in the watershed with land planning decisions that impact hydrology.  Runoff produced by watershed hydrology drives stream hydraulics, which can then impact stream geomorphology, vegetation, and aquatic habitat.  Through better understanding of these functions our hope is to influence land use decisions to achieve healthier watersheds, and to facilitate more thoughtful stream design that mimics natural stream processes. 

By working better with nature both throughout the watershed and in the stream, we can create higher functioning and lower maintenance streams that:

  • Improve Public Safety
  • Reduce Life Cycle Costs
  • Promote Natural and Beneficial Floodplain Functions
  • Improve Stream Function for the Full Range of Flows
  • Age Well Aesthetically (Mimicking Nature is Timeless)
  • Optimize the Stream as a Resource for the Community

In short, better understanding of watershed and stream functions will help us keep people and their property safe, save taxpayer dollars, and create healthier and more beautiful streams that improve our communities. 

What does the Stream Management Academy teach?

The Stream Management Academy aims for its students to:

  • Understand the key watershed and stream functions that drive natural processes
  • Integrate runoff reducing practices and high functioning low maintenance stream designs into land use decisions, planning, design, construction, and maintenance.
  • Lead multidiscipline projects and teams

Over the course of the program students will learn how to design and implement strategies and technologies to achieve healthy and sustainable streams, from the source of runoff in the watershed all the way to the stream itself. 

The Stream Management Academy classes are structured as follows:

  • Class 1 Reducing Runoff:  The Role of Hydrology
  • Class 2 Reducing Runoff:  Master Plans and Conceptual Designs
  • Class 3 Reducing Runoff:  Preliminary and Final Designs
  • Class 4 Reducing Runoff:  Working with the Concepts Learned
  • Class 5 Low Maintenance Streams:  How to Mimic Natural Streams
  • Class 6 Low Maintenance Streams:  Practical Concept Designs
  • Class 7 Low Maintenance Streams:  Integrating Life and Social Systems
  • Class 8 Low Maintenance Streams:  Final Design
  • Class 9 Working with all the Concepts Learned

Leadership training is also included in each of the classes, covering such topics as interpersonal communication, change management, collaboration, personality type, and risk management.At the end of the Stream Management Academy, students are given the title “Stream Ambassador,” which shows that they have taken the course, that they understand the elements required to create, maintain, and sustain healthy watersheds and streams, and that they will promote the values put forward by the Stream Management Academy.

Can I get involved?

Yes! The Stream Management Academy is an enriching and fulfilling experience for public works professionals, planners, engineers, scientists, architects and anyone else involved in maintaining healthy watersheds and streams in their area.

If you’re interested in this nine-month course that meets from October through June, please contact Barbara Chongtoua at

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