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Operation Dry Water

Operation Dry Water: CPW Cracks Down on Boating Under the Influence This Fourth of July

DENVER, COLORADO — Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) is ramping up its efforts to ensure a safe and enjoyable Fourth of July holiday by enforcing boating under the influence (BUI) laws as part of the national Operation Dry Water campaign. Starting July 1, boaters will notice an increased presence of CPW officers patrolling Colorado’s waterways.

Operation Dry Water, an annual initiative, aims to educate boaters about the severe dangers of boating under the influence. “Boating is a favorite pastime of Coloradans and visitors alike, but we want to make sure that everyone is enjoying their time on the water responsibly,” said Flatwater Criminal Investigator Brian Phillips. “Alcohol use is one of the leading contributing factors in recreational boating deaths in the country. We encourage boaters to be boat smart, boat safe, and boat sober.”

Risks of Boating Under the Influence

Boating under the influence significantly impairs judgment, balance, vision, and reaction time, which can lead to increased fatigue and higher risks of cold-water immersion. Furthermore, the boating environment—characterized by sun, wind, noise, vibration, and motion—intensifies the effects of alcohol and drugs. It’s important to note that one drink on land is equivalent to three drinks on the water. Intoxicated passengers also face dangers such as slips, falls overboard, and other accidents.

Enhanced Patrols and Penalties

During Operation Dry Water, CPW officers will conduct increased patrols and checkpoints. Boaters caught with a blood alcohol content (BAC) above the state limit of .08 will face fines, potential jail time, boat impoundment, and loss of boating privileges.

Water Safety and Life Jackets

CPW emphasizes the importance of wearing life jackets. This year, most water-related fatalities involved individuals not wearing them. With over 20 water-related deaths already reported in 2024, CPW stresses the life-saving impact of life jackets. Last year, Colorado saw 32 water-related fatalities, down from a record 42 in 2022.

CPW officers are issuing tickets costing over $100 for boaters and paddlers not wearing life jackets. They recommend the following safety tips:

  • Always wear a life jacket.
  • Dress appropriately to protect against cold water shock.
  • Recognize that paddleboards and kayaks are vessels and require life jackets.
  • Check river flows at due to rapid water level changes from heavy rain or snowmelt.
  • Boat and paddle with a buddy, especially during high flows.
  • For those uncomfortable with challenging water conditions, CPW recommends hiring a licensed river outfitter guide.


Life Jacket Loaner Program

For those without a life jacket, CPW offers a loaner program at various stations across the state, including Rifle Gap, Chatfield, Mancos, Navajo, and Cherry Creek State Park.

For more information on boating safety, visit or download the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Boating Handbook.

Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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