The first half of June have been nothing but hot and dry for most communities in Colorado. On the Front Range, temperatures have soared into the high nineties, and in numerous places across the state, wildfires have flared, darkening the skies with smoke and threatening local economies as tourists remain at home. Across the state, we are seeing – and feeling – the impacts of our dry winter.
Rivers form the lifelines of Colorado’s economy, environment and lifestyle. They impact every aspect of our lives, providing most of our clean, safe and reliable drinking water, supporting thriving farms and ranches, and contributing to culture, heritage and recreation. During a dry summer like this, we can easily identify the impacts that healthy, flowing rivers have on our communities and quality of life.
Those who enjoy spending time on or near rivers have likely noticed the lower – and earlier – flows we experienced this year. The Colorado River peaked about 4 weeks earlier than normal, and at the GoPro Games in June, flows through Gore Creek were less than half of the normal discharge. On the upper Yampa above Steamboat Springs, fishing has been restricted below Stagecoach Reservoir to help protect fish in this reach. And farmers and ranchers are radically changing their normal operations to ensure they protect their livelihood at this time of dwindling irrigation water in their ditches.
As this summer presses on, we certainly will continue to be impacted by the dry year. But there is hope, and things each of us can do to help conserve our critical water resource, including reducing shower times, limiting outdoor watering, and educating yourself about the health of our rivers and streams – including ways you can support more conservation and flexibility across the state. It’s now more important than ever to increase your awareness about where your water comes from and how water moves throughout the state.
Earlier this summer, we produced an illustrated guide, called “Do You Know Your Water, Colorado?” to explain the long, complicated journey a drop of water takes from its home in a river to your tap. As a Coloradan, it’s our responsibility to understand how water is moved from place to place across our great state and the role we all have in protecting our state’s flowing rivers and the clean, safe, reliable drinking water they provide.
Always, but especially in a dry year like this, we must meet future water demands without sacrificing our rivers and everything they support. Our communities, economies, environment and drinking water supply depend on all of us working together. Can our rivers count on you to help move Colorado’s water future forward?