Durango is home to some of the most beautiful rivers in Colorado. With the mighty Animas River flowing right through town- it's hard not to recognize the importance of Durango's water supply. Besides the Animas River, Durango has several lakes and reservoirs that all feed into the local watershed.

Water is Durango's lifeline and we all have a responsibility in keeping it healthy and clean! Whether you're a visitor or a long-time-local, we all need to do our part to take care of the water system.

Hesperus Mountain During Summer

Here are 10 simple ways to protect La Plata County’s rivers, lakes, and streams:

#1 Don't Dump or Litter Anywhere Around Durango

This is a given, but so many people seem to forget it. Even the smallest amount of trash left on the ground eventually makes its way into Durango’s waters, polluting it. Durango has plenty of trash and recycling receptacles. Take just a few seconds to dispose of it properly.

#2 Don't Pick Flowers, Grass, or Weeds Along the Rivers

Maintain the native local vegetation, which acts as a natural buffer, reducing pollutants in the water and preventing erosion. You can do this by leaving it alone entirely. Those pretty flowers may tempt you to pick them as a souvenir, but please don’t! Instead, take as many pictures of them as you like.

Durango Botanic Gardens

#3 Cut Down Your Water Usage

Year over year, areas all over the country are experiencing increasingly drought-like conditions. Maintain good water supply levels by reducing your water usage. It’s easy to do with just a few simple habit changes: don’t leave faucets on when not immediately in use, take shorter showers, and only water the lawn when absolutely necessary and in the evenings. 

#4 When Out, Only Order Water When You're Going to Drink It

When in a cafe or restaurant, many of us tend to order water simply out of habit along with our other favorite drinks. Then we tend to focus on the other drink and not take a sip of water. Be conscious of this and only order water when you know you’re going to drink it. 

#5 Pick Up Your Pet's Waste

Many people think that pet waste is a natural fertilizer, but this is a big myth! Just like human waste, pet waste is full of bacteria, and when you leave it on the ground, it eventually seeps into the soil and ultimately into the water supply. Yuck! Always be sure to bring pet waste bags and take just the few seconds needed to pick them up and dispose of it properly. 

#6 Keep Track of Your Items When Outside (So They Don't Blow Away)

When out picnicking and enjoying nature, the soft breeze can kick up your paper plates and wrappers easily, blowing them away. If those items are left, they’ll eventually find their way in or near a water source, causing litter. Keep track of everything and pack out what you pack in.

#7 Pick Up Trash Along the Riverbed

When out hiking or enjoying time out next to a river, if you see trash someone else has left behind, pick it up! Many people already do this, and if everyone pitches in, our natural areas will not only look so much better, but it helps the health of the water and overall ecosystem.

Buck Deer on the Animas River

#8 Don't Pour Oils, Chemicals, or Medications Down the Sink or Toilet

All of our wastewater plumbing eventually ends up where? You guessed it, in our community waters and into the surrounding soil. Remember to dispose of hazardous liquid in a sealed container, then throw them in the trash. Don’t pour them down the drain or toilet where it will only pollute the local waters.

#9 Stick to Maintained Trails to Reduce Erosion

Trails are created for a reason - a place for people to enjoy the great outdoors without harming the delicate balance of the surrounding ecosystems. You can do your part by keeping yourself, your family, and your pets on the trails and don’t wander off of them. This is for your safety as well as that of the wildlife and vegetation. 

#10 Check the Conditions to Avoid Muddy Outdoor Areas, Trails, and Parks

Before going out on a hike or enjoying Durango’s parks, check the weather forecast and avoid going out during inclement weather. Similarly, if you know it has rained recently, chances are trails and other areas will be muddy. Try to avoid being in wet muddy areas, as sloshy conditions tend to make the nearby water muddy too, adversely affecting the water supply.


With these simple practices, all of us can easily help protect Durango’s precious water supply and water sources. After a while, these practices will become second nature to you. You will feel good knowing you are doing all you can to protect Colorado’s water for generations to come.