If a manufacturing company announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters to Grand Junction, but that one of the reasons it was interested in Grand Junction was because it intended to dump excess nitrogen and phosphorus directly in the river every day throughout the year, even the most pro-business supporters would tell the company to look elsewhere for a new home.
We depend on our rivers for drinking, irrigation, and recreation. Not to mention sensitive wildlife can’t thrive when rivers are full of chemicals. Residents and visitors alike value clean water that’s free from unwanted toxins and pollutants, supporting both people and wildlife.
Unfortunately, some residents are inadvertently dumping nitrogen and phosphorus in the Colorado River system every time they over-fertilize the lawn, fertilize when the forecast says it’s going to rain and wash their vehicles and send dirty, soapy water into storm drains. Dog owners who take their dogs for walks but don’t pick up the poop are also contributing to the problem, as are homeowners who allow leaves and grass clippings to make their way into the stormwater system.
In the Grand Valley, storm drains do not lead to treatment plants, but go directly back into the river. Homeowners, dog owners and anyone washing a car can effectively become that manufacturing company that no one welcomes to the Grand Valley if they’re not conscientious.
Phosphorus in grass clippings, dog waste and soaps, as well as nitrogen from excess fertilizer and dog waste, all lead to algae bloom in the rivers and in lakes, and are the third greatest cause of lake deterioration in the United States. Algae removes oxygen from the water, which threatens fish and the entire aquatic ecosystem, as well as drinking water quality. No one likes to see the tell-tale sign of algae bloom in our rivers and lakes, and while it’s easy to shake our heads and mutter about climate change, here in the Grand Valley, we can all make a few simple changes to our behavior that will help alleviate some of the water quality issues.
- Read the instructions and don’t over-fertilize.
- Make sure not to fertilize if there’s a storm coming and rain could wash it down the storm drain.
- Compost or bag leaves and grass clippings.
- Don’t blow grass clippings onto the street, where they could end up in storm drains.
Washing a car:
- Wash the car on a porous surface.
- Take the car to a commercial car wash that recycles and sends the water to treatment facilities.
- Dump your soapy bucket in the sink.
For dog owners:
- Pick up dog waste and dispose of properly.
The Mesa County Department of Public Works Stormwater Division was created in 2020 to ensure compliance with the Federal Clean Water Act under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System and the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. One of its main goals is to educate the public about water issues and the health of the Colorado and Gunnison River systems.
There is still time to take the Mesa County Stormwater Assessment: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/mcstormwater, and those who participate in the assessment are eligible to enter the Colorado River Basket Giveaway.