Eagle River Watershed Council: 12 ways to protect water in the new year | VailDaily.com

Eagle River Watershed Council: 12 ways to protect water in the new year

Rose Sandell
The Current
Rose Sandell

2023 is here. With a new year comes new resolutions — like eating healthier, spending more time with friends, or reading more. To assist in the creation of your list, we’re sharing some resolutions here that will protect our watershed and beyond for you to consider as we enter 2023 and year-round.

Caring more about our water

  1. Make an active effort to explore the Eagle River Watershed. Our watershed is 970 square miles and extends from outside Camp Hale to the confluence of the Colorado and Eagle Rivers in Dotsero. There are many activities to do. You can go look at fens in the Homestake Valley, snowshoe to Upper Piney River Falls, hike to Missouri Lakes or enjoy a nearby stream or river. Exploring is an important part of understanding the beauty and importance of our watershed.
  2. Learn about where your water comes from. Ask yourself — do you know what river or stream your water comes from? Create a connection with the resource that flows from your taps by finding out. We receive our water from local rivers such as Brush Creek, Gypsum Creek, Gore Creek, and of course, the Eagle River.
  3. Ensure only water enters storm drains. In most cases, our storm drains lead directly into a nearby waterway. Anything that enters them will end up in our rivers — including oil, soap, salt, waste and litter. All of these negatively impact water quality and the health of water ecosystems. Help protect our watershed by picking up any litter that you see, ditching excessive use of salt and ice-melt, fixing leaky cars and washing your car at a car wash that recycles or treats the water.
  4. Pick up dog poop. Going along with stormwater pollution, please, please pick up your dog’s waste. Besides being unpleasant for others enjoying trails and open spaces, dog waste contains a lot of nitrogen and phosphorus that can be harmful to fish populations and overall water quality.
  5. Build a rain garden. Plants can naturally filter out pollutants and slow runoff. By building a rain garden, you can help reduce the amount of runoff that flows into our storm drains and filter out pollutants from your yard before they enter storm drains.

Conserving water:

With reports of widespread drought and reservoir levels like Lake Powell dropping, conservation efforts are top of mind for water users all over the West. You may be thinking, “Yes, I know, but I don’t have the time, interest or skills to transform my lawn.” Luckily, there are many options short of alpine-scaping that are incredibly efficient and will likely save you money in the long run.

  1. Check your irrigation system. These systems can leak, or be aimed at surfaces that don’t need to be irrigated — like your driveway. Both of these can waste a lot of water (and money). If you have a leak, it is a good idea to call an irrigation specialist.
  2. Keep your grass long. If you have Kentucky bluegrass and do not want to get rid of it yet, a tip to conserve water is to keep the length of the grass at least 3 inches. This promotes healthy root growth, which will reduce the amount of water needed to keep the grass healthy.
  3. Water in the evening or early in the morning. The best times to water are either at dusk or dawn. Watering in the middle of the day can shock your grasses, causing stunted growth. It will also reduce the amount of water lost due to evaporation. Be sure to check with your water provider on their rules surrounding when you can use water outdoors.
  4. Water only when needed. By looking for signs of wilt, your lawn will tell you when water is needed. If footprints remain on your lawn for a half hour or more, irrigation is needed. It’s important that your soil dries between irrigation applications — water-logged soils inhibit proper root growth and create thirsty lawns.
  5. Build or buy a rain barrel. Since 2016, Colorado law has allowed rain barrel use which can save up to 1,300 gallons of water per year. Before installing rain barrels on your property, be sure to understand the rules and regulations surrounding them.
  6. Work on replacing your non-native grasses and plants with native vegetation. These plants have adapted to be more drought-tolerant and will likely thrive with less work and money in the long run.
  7. Talk to a QWEL-certified landscaper to create a landscape plan. Many landscapers offer landscape assessments to help homeowners water more efficiently. Implementing these plans will likely save you money. It is hard to know how to water your lawn and landscapers can help you determine how to water more effectively. Visit qwel.net/hire-a-qwel-pro for a list of local QWEL-certified landscapers.

For more information on how to conserve water and get involved with the Eagle River Watershed Council Clean & Flowing Rivers Program, visit ERWC.org/usewisely.

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Rose Sandell is the Education & Outreach Coordinator for Eagle River Watershed Council. The Watershed Council has a mission to advocate for the health and conservation of the Upper Colorado and Eagle River basins through research, education, and projects. Contact the Watershed Council at 970-827-5406 or visit ERWC.org.

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