February 1, 1998

Stream Teams’ keep local watershed clean, safe

BOULDER — It’s easy to take water for granted. Usually we’re only a few steps from a faucet, and a quick turn of the hand yields as much of the stuff as we want.

But in the arid West, water’s scarcity has made it harder to ignore its importance to everything we do. Two Boulder men started a program in 1996 that helps folks get involved in preserving water quality and appreciating human impact on water supplies.

With a $10,000 grant from the Denver Urban Resource Partnership and the federal Bureau of Reclamation, Mark McCaffrey and Jeff Writer began the Boulder Creek Watershed Initiative.

Writer, a teacher at Lafayette’s Centaurus High School, says the idea behind the initiative is to “educate people about watershed issues and also to provide a way for people to get out and participate in collecting samples and monitoring watershed resources.”

Boulder Creek’s watershed covers about 440 square miles and contains seven ecosystems in a span of 20 miles. It begins at over 13,000 feet, at North Arapahoe Peak, and drops more than 8,000 feet before emptying into the St. Vrain River.

People can understand how their own lives impact the watershed when they get involved with the group, Writer says.

“The Clean Water Act of 1970 allowed the government to go after industrial polluters,” explains Writer, “and that was real successful up to a point in cleaning up the nation’s streams. Now we’re to the point of diminishing returns with that.”

The next step in keeping water clean is keeping an eye on ourselves, he says. “It’s really the cumulative effect of all of us living in an area” that now impacts water quality in watersheds.

Through the Watershed Initiative, 15 “Stream Teams” clean up creek banks monthly and test water quality.

Teams are comprised of “people who make a commitment to a creek in their area,” says Tammi Laninga, Boulder water resource educator.

Volunteering for a Stream Team can mean stenciling storm drains with warnings of “Dispose No Waste; Drains to Creek.” Luninga says labeling drains is a kind of “productive graffiti; kids loving doing it.”

About 500 people are involved in Stream Teams, with students making up 12 teams. Some teams work on streams twice a week seeing first-hand what happens as refuse and other byproducts of human life makes its way into the watershed.

Water samples collected by Stream Teams are sent to the state Division of Wildlife to get an indication of water quality, Writer says. He hopes to expand the program in the future, getting teams more active in neighborhoods and schools.

“It’s a good opportunity for kids and adults to get out and do some science,” he adds.

Other plans for the Watershed Initiative include linking volunteers countywide through the Internet and offering a clearinghouse of information about the watershed. Writer would also like to see a “watershed center” come to life.

In addition to Stream Teams, the Watershed Initiative co-sponsors a monthly lecture at the Boulder Public Library on environmental topics. The Watershed Initiative also maintains a discussion group on the Internet, which can be reached at http://csf.colorado.edu/bew.

BOULDER — It’s easy to take water for granted. Usually we’re only a few steps from a faucet, and a quick turn of the hand yields as much of the stuff as we want.

But in the arid West, water’s scarcity has made it harder to ignore its importance to everything we do. Two Boulder men started a program in 1996 that helps folks get involved in preserving water quality and appreciating human impact on water supplies.

With a $10,000 grant from the Denver Urban Resource Partnership and the…

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