WATSONVILLE — The Pajaro Valley thrives on its water. From creeks and rivers to sloughs and beaches, water sustains the region for its residents, wildlife and agriculture.
Which is why, Watsonville Environmental Projects Coordinator Rachel Kippen explained, it is crucial for that water to be protected.
“It doesn’t matter where you live, either in the middle of the city or right on a creek,” Kippen said. “We all need clean water.”
As part of National Water Quality Month, the City of Watsonville is reaching out to residents for help in curbing watershed pollution — primarily, illegal dumping.
An alert posted to the city’s website last week announced that Watsonville is seeking “water quality watchdogs” — residents who will keep an eye out for people in the act of vandalism, littering or dumping in the Pajaro River. Watchdogs are urged to report these acts by calling the city’s non-emergency response line at 471-1151.
Recently, Senior Water Operator for Public Works Mike Molfino and his crew discovered vandalism and toxic dumpsites just upstream of the city’s Corralitos Water Filtration Plant. Everything from spray paint canisters to alcohol containers were found, much of it floating in the water or stuck in the muddy bank.
“Dumping is not a new issue,” Kippen said. “It’s an ongoing problem. But sometimes we come across something like this that really makes us worried.”
Kippen added that they understand many people who dump aren’t doing it maliciously — they might just be unsure of how else to get rid of certain items.
“This is why it’s so important to spread knowledge,” she said. “We do have legal and clean ways to dispose of pretty much anything.”
One place is the city’s Waste and Recycling Drop-Off Center, located at 320 Harvest Drive. The facility is open to residents living within Watsonville’s city limits.
“It’s a great resource that everyone should be using,” Kippen said.
As for the new water watchdog program, Kippen hopes that community efforts like this can make a difference in the long run. River clean-ups, though helpful, are challenging and more of a last-ditch effort.
“We’ve cleaned up the Pajaro River over and over,” she said. “What we really want is for us not to have to. To discourage it from happening in the first place.”
For information, visit cityofwatsonville.org.