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Every year our family celebrates the Fourth of July at the mercy of fun-loving, masochistic, small town firefighters.

Ouray firefighters line up on either side of Main Street and blast each other with hoses while thousands of tourists cheer at the annual Ouray 4th of July celebration.

A staple of the annual Ouray 4th of July Parade, half a dozen firetrucks inch their way down Main Street with the fire hoses blasting the crowd. Kids dressed in red-white-and-blue Dr. Seuss wigs and dooly boppers and blingy t-shirts load up their puny water guns and take on the professionals. This year, my son is 16 and muscly, and he was strong enough to rush the trucks with entire buckets of water. Three thousand people cheer the kids on, futilely hovering under umbrellas and rain ponchos.

Water is a precious commodity in Colorado. “When you touch water, you touch everything,” is the slogan here in this desert state. The Ouray 4th of July Parade is sopping, soaking reminder that it’s patriotic to hold water as precious, to enjoy it, to keep it clean, to value and respect it.

Water deserves to be protected, and I’ve been thinking about that this month. So I hopped online and looked for things I could do as a patriotic Coloradoan to protect water.

What I found was it’s more than just taking short showers and turning off the tap while you brush your teeth, although those are great starts. It means being aware that I’m not the only one using water and I need to be mindful what I

Never flush leftover medications down the toilet. Mix them in sand or kitty litter, place in a zip close bag, and throw away in the trash. Even better, ask your local pharmacy about a take-back program.

put in it. Anti-bacterial soap, for example. Who knew that dumping enough into our waterways creates “superbugs” impervious to death? Old motor oil is not something I’m likely to dump down a water way since anything car-related is beyond me, but I am guilty of owning outdated medications, and it turns out flushing them down the toilet is putting poison in the water. Weedkillers, fertilizers, and harsh cleaning agents—things hardworking Americans use everyday—tend to concentrate in runoff and harm our waterways.

Limiting your use of fertilizers and harsh cleaning agents, or even better, finding natural and organic alternatives, really makes a difference.

Higher than average snowfall this year means western Colorado rivers and lakes are ripe for water sports. It’s more important than ever to keep the water clean.

Being a good steward of our water is being a patriotic citizen. This July, amidst firecrackers and picnics, parades and summer fun, remember how precious our clean water is, from sea to shining sea.

What do you do to protect and conserve water? Tell us in the comments, below.