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Volunteers celebrate World Water Day with cleanup

The Silver City Watershed Keepers, Gila Resources Information Project and volunteers celebrated World Water Day on Saturday morning by meeting at the Murray Ryan Visitor Center and teaming up to work on restoration along San Vicente Creek.

The annual United Nations observance has been ongoing for nearly 30 years, and takes place every March 22 as a way to draw attention to issues related to fresh water and provide the opportunity to raise awareness of its significance. This year's focused on how one values water in their community. “Water is life, and a very small percentage of the Earth’s water is in a form that we can drink,” said Allyson Siwik, director of the Silver City Watershed Keepers. “So people value it for drinking, for agriculture and even culturally, too — there’s religious uses of water. Water is just so important in all aspects of our life.”

The community action day entailed trash cleanup, water monitoring and planting of native trees and shrubs.

“I pretty much always show up to these things,

and I’m always down here cleaning up,” said Juniper Bowers, one of the volunteers. “I live two blocks away, and I’ve come down here and I love it, but it’s so sad and depressing. I watch it continually get more and more disgusting. I love that these guys are doing this, but it takes more than one person — it needs to be a committee.”

Silver City Watershed Keepers Coordinator Leigh Jenkins spent the morning monitoring the creek for pH, dissolved oxygen, turbidity and electrical conductivity. While the water usually tests fine, she said, she has found traces of fecal coliform.

“It’s probably mostly caused by dogs, and people not picking up after them,” Jenkins said. “There’s a lot of urban runoff. So if you think about all those neighborhoods, and the people walking their dogs, it all eventually ends up down here, and that is a problem. This is a wildlife corridor, and we want to keep it clean so the wildlife have a place to come and drink.”

According to Siwik, plants also play a vital role in a healthy watershed and a happy ecosystem — especially native plants. Pollinators, including insects, animals and birds, all evolved with these native plants, and restoring ecological balance involves getting rid of some nonnative plants and replacing them with natives.

“The number one thing I’m most excited about is seeing if the plants will grow better and attract people, so that way they’ll spend more time” in the Big Ditch Park, said Ameila Ellis, a volunteer with the Youth Conservation Corps. “I’ll come down to hang out, and there’s not really a lot of people down here, especially right in front of this amazing mural. So I think the plants will attract butterfly life, other wildlife, and I think it’ll just attract more people.”

Siwik said San Vicente Creek and the Big Ditch Park are major assets in town, and that Silver City is lucky to have such a beautiful spot right in the middle of town for wildlife and tourists to visit.

In connection with Saturday’s community action day, there will be a virtual community conversation about the value of fresh water this afternoon from 3 to 5 p.m., hosted by the Bayard Public Library.

Annastashia Goolsby may be reached at anna@scdai lypress.com.

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