The spring runoff has started and this exciting time of year offers a great reminder to consider ways to protect, preserve and enjoy our creeks and rivers. These finite resources are the lifeblood of our community. Gore Creek is one of the defining features of Vail, running through the community from Vail Pass to Dowds Junction, where it meets the Eagle River. The Eagle is a tributary of the Colorado River, which supplies much of the water the American West depends on.
Over the past two decades, we’ve seen declining snowfall and water supplies in the region. As we watch the water in our rivers and creeks start to rise this spring, it’s important to remember that our region had an average snowfall this winter. It felt like we had a lot of snow, but we were back to historically average conditions. One good snow year won’t be enough to resolve the water quantity issues that have been facing the West since this drought began in 2002.
Spring runoff is a great opportunity to remember ways residents and visitors can safely recreate while protecting and preserving this natural resource.
- Safety first: Don’t underestimate the power of rivers. We anticipate a big runoff this season. Small to medium size creeks can see 60% of their annual water volume in the 6-8 week spring period. For example, Gore Creek runs at about 10 cubic feet per second (cfs) at low points in January but at runoff it can peak as high as 2,000 cfs. Water conditions can change from day to day so make sure you know the flow of the river before making plans to recreate. People need the right skills and equipment to safely play in and along our waterways. Dry and wet suits and personal flotation devices are a must. If you aren’t an experienced boater, book a trip with one of Vail’s many outfitters who are professionally trained to navigate mountain waterways. Keep an eye on children and pets around water — it’s not only swift but incredibly cold this time of year.
- 10 Feet for the Creek: A new ordinance in the town of Vail was created that impacts landscaping near Gore Creek. 10 Feet for the Creek is a new rule that creates a 10-foot buffer zone where mowing and vegetation removal are not allowed. The ordinance is designed to protect plants that live in and along the creek, filtering runoff, shading the creek, creating habitat, and preventing erosion.
- Protect our waterways: The Eagle River Watershed Council’s (ERWC) mission is to advocate for the health and conservation of our waterways in Eagle County. This local nonprofit organization provides locals and visitors with several ways to get involved to help protect, clean and mitigate impacts to our local streams. Visit ERWC.org to learn more about ways to get involved that range from the annual highway and river cleanup events to volunteer planting and restoration activities.
- Use water wisely: The ERWC, Eagle River Water & Sanitation District and Eagle County Conservation District all offer water efficiency resources and programs. In our area, less than 20% of water used for irrigation is returned to our streams. The Water & Sanitation District recommends conducting an outdoor water audit to determine the efficiency of your irrigation system. They provide step-by-step guidelines on their website to help residents better understand how efficiently they are using their water and how they might be able to save more water and spend less money on irrigation.
- Fresh rocky mountain tap water: As a headwaters community, Vail has some of the best drinking water in the world — visitors and locals alike are encouraged to ditch single-use plastic water bottles and opt for fresh Rocky Mountain tap water.
Each spring as the snow melts, our community reawakens as a summer playground for rafting, biking, hiking and so much more. These practical tips not only help us protect where we play but remind us of important ways we can shift our daily practices to protect our natural resources for locals and guests to enjoy long into the future.