As the summer heats up and more people get out on the state’s waterways, boater safety and BUI enforcement are high priorities for Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW). The agency will be participating in the annual Operation Dry Water heightened awareness and enforcement weekend July 5-7, a national effort to encourage safe boating practices on the water. 

Though Operation Dry Water is a year-round educational effort, the three-day heightened enforcement is designed to educate boaters and reduce the number of accidents and deaths related to alcohol and drug use on our waterways. The enforcement period is timed to coincide with July 4th weekend celebrations on the water, a holiday known for drinking and boating.

“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 Grant Brown, boating safety program manager with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. “Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in recreational boating deaths. Making the decision to boat under the influence is reckless; boat smart, boat safe, boat sober.”

Operation Dry Water’s mission is to raise awareness among recreational boaters about the dangers and consequences of boating under the influence, which include:

  • The federal BAC legal limit for operating a vessel under the influence is .08. 
  • Alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgment, balance, vision and reaction time.
  • If you boat under the influence your voyage may be terminated, the boat may be impounded and the operator may be arrested. Penalties vary by state but can include fines, jail and loss of boating or even driving privileges.
  • Sun, wind, noise, vibration and motion —“stressors” common to the boating environment— intensify the effects of alcohol, drugs, and some medications.
  • Alcohol use can increase fatigue and susceptibility to the effects of cold-water immersion.
  • Alcohol is dangerous for passengers too. Intoxication can cause slips, falls overboard and other dangerous accidents.
  • If you boat under the influence of drugs or alcohol you are endangering your life and the lives of others.

Operation Dry Water enforcement will include increased patrols, breathalyzer tests, and checkpoints as well as boater education and outreach. However, fellow boaters remain one of the most important tools on the water. If you suspect a boater is under the influence, do not hesitate to contact the authorities to help keep everyone on the water safe from someone’s bad decision.

The dangers of operating under the influence of marijuana are the same as those from alcohol, and the penalties are identical for either substance.  Additionally, many lakes, reservoirs and rivers in Colorado are considered public property, so open display or use of marijuana is illegal and may result in additional consequences.

While out on the water this summer, remember to stay sober and help keep the water a safe and enjoyable place for everyone. Three things to remember from Operation Dry Water before heading out on your boat is to boat sober, always wear a life jacket and take a boating safety course to set yourself up, and everyone around you, for a fun and safe boating experience.

Boaters can take the pledge to boat sober and find more information about boating under the influence at To learn more about boating in Colorado, visit