I have recently purchased my very first paddleboard. I can ride rivers, stretch out into yoga poses and sometimes just coast as I fish the waters. We are so blessed in the mountains to have these beautiful lakes and streams. What can I do to help protect them?
— Samantha, Dillon
Stand-up paddleboarding is the fastest growing sport in North America. Like kayaking or sailing, SUPing is a wonderful way to appreciate wildlife as a quiet observer. Rather than increasing your ecological footprint by using a motor-powered vessel, you can get around while getting in shape.
Our amazing waterways can provide anything from an escape into nature via paddleboard to an action-packed rafting adventure. In addition, the local economies and ecosystems depend upon our healthy waters as they harbor biodiversity and thriving aquatic communities that translate up the food web.
Like our native black bears, fly-fishers gather in masses to catch trout in the mountain lakes and rivers. Water supports sustainable agriculture, and fresh clean water is a necessity for life. Even small-town Colorado microbreweries and distilleries will attest that quality beers and spirits can be directly attributed to the water they use in production processes.
Living at the headwaters, some of us may not realize how imperative water conservation is for the sustainability of our planet. As stewards of the water that will be used by future generations, we are responsible for preserving the integrity of this limited resource. Impressively, the snowmelt from the peaks of the Continental Divide provides drinking water for 18 states west of the Mississippi River.
Each of us should feel empowered to take steps in our daily lives to conserve water: Choose to participate in water sports with less of an environmental impact. Use biodegradable and environmentally friendly toiletries, cleaners and laundry detergents. Properly dispose of pet waste. Take runoff and neighboring ecosystems into consideration while doing yard work and watering gardens. I can’t begin to tell you how often overwatering occurs, specifically at this time of year when afternoon showers often are enough to quench thirsty plants.
Unfortunately, watering your yard less won’t cure all our water worries. Neighbors are at odds over water rights, and large-scale polluters still manage to sneak through loopholes in the Clean Water Act. In 2012, Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. was the biggest polluter in Colorado, according to EnvironmentColoradoCenter.org. The corporation dumped 462,608 pounds of toxic pollution into the South Platte watershed. Not only was the company the largest polluter in Colorado at the time, it was also the fourth-largest polluter in the country.
Environment Colorado mentioned that legal “loopholes” leave 68 percent of Colorado’s streams and millions of acres of wetlands vulnerable to unchecked pollution and development. Kim Stevens, campaign director with the organization, explained that the drinking water of 3.7 million Coloradans is at risk unless we act now. For this reason, the Environmental Protection Agency is moving forward with rule making to restore the Clean Water Act protections for our waterways. To support the initiative and the EPA’s measures to restrict water pollution, join the conversation and be a voice for the babbling brooks of Colorado. Visit http://tinyurl.com/mx6slr2
As Boulder City Councilman Tim Plass has said, “whether for drinking water, biodiversity or for recreational purposes, having safe clean water is one of the core environmental values of our community.”
Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at email@example.com.