Jackson, we have a water problem

JACKSON, Wyo. — Clean mountain air, wide-open spaces, beautiful natural scenery, and clean water seem to be characteristics of living in the Tetons.

But guess what, Jackson? We have a major water quality problem.

The Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition was formed to address Jackson’s water quality issues, with the vision to improve and protect Jackson Hole’s surface and groundwater quality. Improving our water quality is vital to clean drinking water, healthy aquatic ecosystems for fish and wildlife, and quality of life for our current and future generations.

In 2017, the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality found that sites on Fish Creek and Flat Creek exceeded E. coli concentrations deemed safe for full body contact recreational activities. That means it is dangerous to dunk your head underwater in our creeks or even let Fido drink from them!

What is E. coli exactly? Escherichia coli (E. coli) is a group of bacteria commonly found in the intestines of warm-blooded animals, including people. E. coli is measured in freshwater because it is an indicator of the presence of pathogens from animal or human feces.

Basically, there is a lot of poop in our water. The JH Clean Water Coalition believes that we need to take a holistic approach in solving water quality issues. Picking up dog waste is one action you can take.

PAWS has long been part of the local conversation pertaining to dog waste and we are partnering with the JH Clean Water Coalition to urge folks to make some important changes in order to reverse this contamination. While dog poop is a big contributing factor to water quality, dogs are not the problem, the problem is lack of action. PAWS promotes scooping the poop through community outreach and consistent advertising, as well as through our Mutt Mitt program. PAWS initiated the Jackson Hole Mutt Mitt program in 2001 as a response to the growing population of dog owners and dog waste on our trails and pathways. PAWS manages 23 stations located on high-trafficked dog-friendly public lands throughout Jackson. The mutt mitts are free to anyone who would like to use them.

Our trails look pretty good right now, but as the snow melts, the problem will once again be revealed. The waste left behind will wind up in our water systems when the springtime melt occurs. We need to scoop poop both on and off the trail. You may not like going off-trail to scoop your dog’s poop, but the community doesn’t like drinking it either. The self-proclaimed Jackson Hole Poop Fairy asks everyone to “pick up one pile for each dog you bring onto the trail. It doesn’t matter whose poop it is…”

If we all abide by this motto, we will improve water quality.

Join the Poop Fairy Brigade: jhpoopfairy@gmail.com.

While dog poop is a major contributing factor, it’s not the only controllable substance contaminating our waters. To learn more about how you can help bump up our water quality, visit Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition’s website.

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