Published: Feb. 8, 2017
Woman dips drinking cup into fresh water source

For many of us, clean water is so plentiful and readily available that we rarely, if ever, pause to consider what life would be like without it.

Environmental Health and Safety (EH&S) at the University of Colorado Boulder is tasked by state and federal agencies with ensuring everyone on campus does their part to keep our water clean by preventing chemical wastes and other pollutants from being disposed of into storm and surface water conveyances such as storm drains, parking lot runoff, sewer lines and gutters, which lead directly to creeks and rivers.

Protecting waterways is a fairly modern concept. American lawmakers first took major steps to keep water clean with the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. But once the Environmental Protection Agency opened in 1970 and people became increasingly aware and concerned with water quality, the law was rewritten in 1972 and became known as the Clean Water Act. Since then, it has been a constant battle to keep our fresh-water supply clean for aquatic and human life.

To put it in perspective, approximately 40 percent of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life or swimming.

So how can you help? Simple things like picking up after your pet, maintaining your car (one quart of oil can contaminate 250,000 gallons of water or cause an oil slick that is two acres in size) and speaking out when you see others pollute can go a long way in protecting our waterways.

As a large, eco-conscious community here at CU Boulder, we have the great opportunity to become educated and work together to reduce our impact on storm water. Small amounts of contaminants from all over the land add up to cause pollution in our water; it is important to remember even the little things matter. You will make a difference, no matter how small, if you can adopt simple habits and change the way you look at water quality.

Visit the Stormwater Guideline page for more information about the regulatory requirements everyone at CU Boulder must follow to protect our waterways. You can also contact EH&S at 303-492-6025 or for advice on how to properly dispose of materials and keep our water systems free from pollutants.