Category Archives: Staff

Watersheds are for Learning

By Sarah Johnson, MAEd, Water Educator Network Coordinator, Colorado Foundation for Water Education

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I love to teach. I am a connector. Thinking like a watershed is my nature, not my job. Rivers connect us to each other across communities, landscapes and time. We are part of our watersheds and influence our rivers; not separate. It is our profound responsibility to live and model stewardship of our waters ensuring their healthy existence for time to come. Now more than ever, it is critical that we work collectively to increase understanding of watershed systems, river science, water conservation, and climate literacy, and encourage participation in public life. And so, I am a watershed educator.

Fostering relationships with colleagues: veteran educators, emerging professionals, university students, water resource managers, urban leaders, rural experts and others across Colorado and beyond for the past two years has been a tremendous joy. Celebrating the success stories, listening to the learnings, and together sourcing and implementing proven resources and tools to increase effectiveness in meeting water education and outreach goals of organizations and agencies across the state has been energizing.

Learning from these experiences of offering workshops, building a network of educators, and sharing proven resources a few strong themes have emerged that may guide the future of water education across Colorado.IMG_3120

  1. Educators are Experts – Educators are experts at teaching, connecting with learners, and making content relevant to various audiences. Educators are professionals who have committed their lives to life-long-learning and are always seeking new ways to teach and reach their students of all ages. Learn from them how to turn our libraries of water information into relevant and accessible knowledge for communities. Leverage educators’ expertise often.
  2. An Abundance of Water Information and Content—Water Resource Managers and policy experts have oodles of water related data, information and content. These professionals need strategies, mechanisms and tools to share their data and content appropriately with their audiences and methods for making the content relevant to their learners. Share information effectively.
  3. Building Long Lasting Communities of Practice—To successfully transform educators’ and outreach professionals’ practice, continual support from colleagues and resource experts is necessary. Building collegial communities of practice among mixed groups of master educators, less experienced educators, water resource managers, and professional development coordinators can be powerful mechanisms to support increasing effectiveness of water education across Colorado. Foster strong learning communities.
  4. Direct Water and Snow Experiences—I came to love rivers, lakes and snow because I experienced them directly going fishing, floating, swimming, picnicking, spending time streamside pondering life’s biggest questions, cross country skiing, shoveling the drive, and embarking on backcountry hut trips. Always conduct water education experiences near a body of water (frozen or liquid) and include a quality direct experience during your program no matter how long or short. It is the direct experiences that typically have the strongest memorable impact while offering a bit of inspiration and fun. Get outside.

Coordinating the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Water Educator Network has significantly impacted my career trajectory and for this I am forever grateful. I will continue to connect people to people and people to projects across Colorado and beyond. I am committed to life-long learning and am addicted to exploring and implementing the newest best practices. Creating programs and opportunities based in places, and sharing watershed stories with learners and colleagues energizes me. There is currently great momentum and opportunity to prioritize working collectively to increase watershed literacy in the headwaters state and across basins. Let’s work together to see what more we can create to increase our collective effectiveness.

I will continue to reside in the Crystal River Watershed on Colorado’s Western Slope. Follow my latest projects and endeavors with Wild Rose Consulting as you may find yourself attending (or supporting) the 2nd Annual Educator River Institute at Western State or the Grand County River Workshop in 2018 among other projects that are to come.

IMG_4126Sarah R. Johnson coordinated CFWE’s Water Educator Network February 2016 – June 2017. Learn more about her current projects at www.wildroseconsult.com and reach her at wildrosewatereducation@gmail.com.

 

In a June letter to CFWE’s Water Educator Network members, Stephanie Scott, CFWE’s program manager, wishes Sarah the best:
 
The Water Educator Network would not be what it is today without the amazing Sarah Johnson. I am so thankful that she has been on board with us to help get the program started. It is no secret to anyone who has attended one of Sarah’s workshops that she gets a little more than excited about water education!! Sarah will continue to share her passion for water education here in Colorado and across the country as she has done with us. Thank You Sarah, for all the guidance for the Water Educator Network!!

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Thanks for the Memories: A Farewell Message from Your CFWE Intern

logo_tagline_color_small copyToday is my final day as the Communications and Operations Intern for the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. Am I ready to leave? Not really—I want to stay forever. In the past when I got to the point of leaving a job, I really wanted to leave, so this is a new experience for me. Is it time for me to leave? Absolutely.

Is it time for me to leave? Absolutely.

diploma-152024_1280Not only am I graduating with my second bachelor’s degree on Friday, but I’ve also landed a fantastic full-time position as the Engagement Coordinator for the University Advancement/Alumni Relations Department at Metropolitan State University of Denver (Go Roadrunners!)! It is definitely time for me to settle into a non-school centric routine and allow another student to take advantage of the opportunities that I have had while working with the amazing women of CFWE.

I have learned so many things since I began working with CFWE last October—some about water, some about life. The blog posts that I have written during my time here reflect what I’ve learned about water, so for the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on the other lessons I learned during my time at CFWE.

RTD_TheRide_bus_6020,_route_0,_Englewood_StationOne of the biggest lessons was learning how to ride the bus. Laugh if you will, I’d never ridden the bus; my use of public transportation was limited to the lightrail. I know that it isn’t that difficult (now), but it felt intimidating none the less. Now, I can cross that off my “to do” list!

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Photo Credit: Nick Daws

I also learned that track changes can be a good thing. I spent many years being fearful of edits. Writing, even when informational or academic, is deeply personal. Something inside says that if you don’t like my writing, there must be something wrong with me. When a professor used to hand back a graded paper, I would look at the grade and quickly put it away, never exploring the possibility for improvement. This position forced me to face that fear and embrace a page full of red slashes and suggestions. With every acceptance of an insert or deletion, I better understood what I could do to make my writing stronger. I finally realized that, even when track changes make something look bad, it probably isn’t really that bad—like a lot of things in life.

Most importantly, I learned that the nonprofit/public sector is where I want to be—it gives me a feeling of purpose when the work I am doing is impacting someone or something in a positive way.

 

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Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee

So now, I pass the proverbial baton on to the next intern: You’ll cut your hands stuffing envelopes, stare at a screen filled with edits from Caitlin and suffer from writer’s block. In return, you will have the opportunity to speak with experts in the water field, write about topics that you are passionate about, learn things about water that you don’t yet know, publish your writing and support/be supported by a staff that cares about the future of Colorado’s water. I hope that you appreciate and enjoy the opportunity because it will be over before you know it!

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Photo Credit: CedricTheCat

Finally, I want to say “thank you” to everyone who has taken the time to read my blog posts and to those who took time out of their busy schedules to allow me to interview them so that I could write those posts. Writing them has been a fantastic experience. I have had the pleasure to speak with people in the water industry across the state of Colorado, to learn about topics that I knew virtually nothing about and to see how much hard work is being done to inform and educate the public about Colorado water.

I am eternally thankful to Jennie, Jayla, Stephanie and Caitlin for hiring me, for training me and for all of the time that was spent reading and editing my writing. I am so grateful that I got to be a part of your team! I am certain that I would not be where I am in my professional and personal life without your guidance and without this experience.

I am confident that, together, we will create a bright future for Colorado water!

Best,

Lynne Winter

P.S. Future Intern: Don’t try to fold more than two pieces of paper in the letter folder—I promise you’ll regret it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s New Executive Director, Jayla Poppleton! — Greg Hobbs

CFWE is proud and excited to announce Jayla Poppleton as our new Executive Director!

Coyote Gulch

Sometimes you go
round and round,

search and search,
and come back

home!

jaylapoppletonviagreghobbs

Greg Hobbs 1/11/2017

From email from Eric Hecox:

I am pleased to share the exciting news that the Colorado Foundation for Water Education has a new Executive Director, and we welcome our very own Jayla Poppleton into that leadership role.

Many of you know Jayla as the longtime editor of Headwaters magazine. As senior editor for Headwaters since 2009, Jayla’s vision, creativity, and dedication to excellence have made CFWE’s flagship publication an invaluable resource for Colorado’s water community. In addition to Headwaters, Jayla previously oversaw CFWE’s full suite of print and digital content. During her tenure with CFWE, Jayla has established a significant network in Colorado’s water community, building relationships with members and fostering partnerships and donor relationships. She has continued to play an increasingly valuable role in strategic organizational decisions for the Foundation.

Last year, Jayla…

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Successful Implementation of Colorado’s Water Plan Requires a Data-Driven Mindset

nicolebc2014webNicole Seltzer, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s former executive director moved on last week from her position at CFWE to pursue a personal goal of spending more time enjoying Colorado’s mountains. While working at CFWE, Nicole led the organization through a period of growth by doubling staffing levels, diversifying programs, and increasing the budget by over 60 percent. She has become a strong voice and leader for Colorado’s water community. Although she hasn’t gone far to her new home on the West Slope, we’ll miss Nicole at CFWE. Before leaving, Nicole wrote a number of letters to impart some of her wisdom—read some thoughts from the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s December newsletter, on data-driven water education:

In the 15 years that I’ve conducted water education and outreach in Colorado, I’ve learned that the conversation never stops at water. To have an intelligent conversation about water, I also need to understand western history, ecology, forest health, economic development, recreation management and so much more. There are thousands of public policy issues you can connect back to water.

I think this is why I’ve so appreciated my time as the executive director of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. As someone who enjoys making connections between people and issues, CFWE is the perfect home to explore meaningful topics through a lens of water. Even seemingly disconnected topics like leadership skills or behavior change are absolutely relevant to water conversations.

I’ve recently had the pleasure to work alongside Colorado Water Conservation Board staff to discuss implementation of the education and outreach strategies in Colorado’s Water Plan. The conversation initially focused on the actions outlined in Chapter 9.5 to examine current gaps in water education, and use that information to support dedicated funding for outreach activities statewide. This is sorely needed, and will be a great starting point.

The plan contains much to be proud of, from goals around municipal water conservation to integration with land use planning to stream health to funding mechanisms. While they are wide ranging and diverse, I believe there is a common thread that connects them. None, in my opinion, are achievable without dedicated outreach and engagement strategies that have clear goals and metrics to measure success.

Good water education increases awareness of the severity and complexity of water issues, creating concern and the desire to get involved. Good water education broadens perspectives and helps us walk a mile in another’s shoes, developing compassion for other viewpoints and a willingness to explore rather than disengage in the midst of disagreement. Good water education widens the number of people invested in our water and river systems, producing collaborative solutions that meet multiple needs. Good water education promotes uncommon alliances by connecting people around common interests instead of dividing them with their differences.

How, as the Colorado water community, can we support the CWCB as it seeks to implement these goals we’ve adopted together? From my vantage point, I see one fundamental priority that would put us on the right path. Adopting a data-driven mindset about water education would immediately increase the amount, quality and effectiveness of these programs, which is a backbone of water plan implementation.

Our profession is driven by and beholden to numbers: gallons per capita per day, milligrams per liter, pounds per square inch. But we rarely apply the same logic to outreach and education programs, or if we do, it is through proxies like the number of people at an event or how many factsheets were handed out. What if we began to hold ourselves to a higher standard? Instead of collecting no or loosely relevant data, we clearly identified the outcomes we sought, and developed robust mechanisms to track them?

Two actions would help us move in the right direction, both of which are currently being considered by CWCB as they work to prioritize implementation of water plan goals.

First, the development and funding of a centralized, regularly repeated statewide survey of public knowledge, attitudes and values. We need a baseline as a state against which we can measure the success of education and outreach programs. There are numerous surveys that have been completed in the last 5 years, but most seek to answer a narrow set of questions, are limited to a certain geography and are never repeated. Just like we track the water quality in a stream before, during and after a project, we should measure shifts in public opinion and knowledge on water. To be truly useful, this undertaking must be a statewide partnership that is developed, funded and used by a wide variety of entities. And it must be repeated on a regular basis to have lasting value.

Second, we must create a set of consistent metrics that water education professionals could opt to use to gauge their effectiveness. You cannot understand that which you do not measure. A standardized set of metrics that can be used by all outreach and education programs in Colorado will help us set collective goals, hold ourselves accountable to meeting them, and create an ethic of outcomes-based success that does not currently exist.

CFWE has already taken several strategic steps that align well with water plan goals. These include fostering our Water Educator Network to increase the amount, quality and effectiveness of water education programs in Colorado, developing our Water Fluency program which empowers community leaders who are not currently engaged in water to critically think about these issues, and focusing our print and online content to examine a wider array of public policy issues through a lens of water. We also collect a large amount of both quantitative and qualitative data on the impact of our work, and use that to regularly reflect and improve upon our programs.

As Colorado’s leader in water education, CFWE is excited to be CWCB’s partner in the planning and execution of these important and far-reaching goals. Though I will step down as executive director in December, CFWE will remain committed to its core values of maintaining an unbiased, objective viewpoint that encompasses diverse perspectives on water resource issues and producing high‐quality educational tools and experiences. We will use our expertise to help lead the way in implementing Colorado’s outreach and education goals, and foster the conversations necessary to get there. And of course, we’ll do all of this while also having a good time.

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A New Partnership Means More Water Education for Colorado!

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Governor John Hickenlooper, CFWE’s Nicole Seltzer, Nivin Elgohary and Chris Shaffner from CoBank, and Board President Eric Hecox take a moment to celebrate

At CFWE’s recent President’s Award Reception, I was pleased to join Nivin Elgohary, Senior Vice President at CoBank, to announce a new partnership between our organizations.

CoBank, as an integral member of the United States’ Farm Credit System, serves as a dependable provider of credit and other financial services to benefit rural America, and is based in Denver. We speak the same language: CoBank is committed to supporting knowledge-sharing on current trends to its customer base in rural America, and CFWE realizes that the scarcity of water requires high-quality and far-reaching education. Together, we will raise the water literacy of community members, professionals, and decision-makers by providing meaningful engagement opportunities about Colorado water.

Our partnership started because CoBank recognized the value of CFWE’s high-quality water information programs. We’ve since worked on reports focused on managing water scarcity for agriculture and the Colorado River basin. The funds from CoBank provide much needed support for CFWE’s peer-reviewed journalism on water. Since then, our partnership has grown to include support for increased public radio programming and ensuring Colorado’s water educators have the tools they need to do their jobs well.

By supporting CFWE, CoBank makes a  commitment to Colorado’s most valuable resource and a significant contribution to collective understanding of its future. We are gearing up for more reports in the coming months, and I look forward to working more closely with their water team based in Denver.

 

 

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A Citizen’s Perspective on Her Water Utility

By Kristin Maharg

As a professional working to educate Coloradans on the value of water resources, I’m drawn to public process. How are we exposed to civic issues, why should we care about community planning and what are meaningful ways to participate in decision-making? These are powerful questions that can lead to a more engaged citizenry and hopefully, a more sustainable future. So when the opportunity to serve on Denver Water’s Citizens Advisory Committee came to me six months ago, I was eager and honored to dive in.

Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee.

Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee.

The CAC was created in 1978 as a result of public concern about growth issues and environmental impacts, forming a citizens group charged with representing public interests. There are ten of us from the West Slope, city and suburbs of Denver, amongst others, that advise the Board of Water Commissioners on matters of citizen participation. One of our biggest topics this year has been Denver Water’s new rate structure stakeholder process. I had no idea how involved and complicated this could be! Now when I open my water bill, I appreciate what it all means for a utility’s cash flow, conservation incentives and customer affordability.

On top of Strontia Springs dam with Denver Water and Aurora Water intake structures in the background.

On top of Strontia Springs dam.

Instead of our typical monthly meeting, in July the CAC went on a full day tour of Denver Water’s East Slope infrastructure. How nice it was to sit back and let someone else direct a water tour! As a record-breaking wet spring, I wondered how the challenges of a water provider would be different than in a drought year…

After stopping at the historic Kassler Treatment Plant where water passed through giant open sandboxes to filter debris, we traveled up Waterton Canyon where families of bikers, hikers and anglers enjoyed the beauty of the South Platte River… while looking out for bighorn sheep! At the top we reached Strontia Springs Reservoir, which serves as the final vessel for raw water supply distribution to Marston and Foothills treatment plants. In somewhat of an art deco design, Strontia was spilling for another record of 56 days this year… all that water unusable to Denver Water, closing the canyon below for safety, blowing out the wooden High Line diversion and ultimately filling up Chatfield Reservoir. Later we’d have lunch around those flood waters and get a glimpse of what Chatfield Reallocation will look like as the water level increases from 5332 to 5344 feet.

Dave Bennett and Scott Roush over lunch at Chatfield.

Dave Bennett (Denver Water) and Scott Roush (Colorado Parks and Wildlife) over lunch at Chatfield.

The CAC also talked about emerging water quality issues on our field tour. Most fascinating was the piece about managing flows for fisheries 100 miles up the watershed between Spinney Mountain and Elevenmile Canyon reservoirs. Trout prefer low flows when they spawn in the spring, which is clearly not when our rivers are low. Strontia Springs is apparently one third full of sediment as a result of the Buffalo Creek and Hayman fires, resulting in operational and treatment challenges. Interestingly, when those pine needles burn, manganese is released as a by-product. Down at the Foothills Treatment Plant, we met with a modest yet enthusiastic staff, who turn that murky runoff into crystal clear drinks. Another treatment challenge is the sheer scope of their distribution system… keeping out pathogens for the two weeks it takes for a drop to arrive at DIA.

Double Curved Arch dam releasing 1250 cfs

Double-curved arch design from 1980s, releasing 1250 cfs on July 16, 2015.

Whatever city or watershed you consider yourself a citizen, the key take-away for me as a CAC member is to promote cooperative and creative solutions for our future water demands. When our water utilities explore regional planning, direct potable reuse and more aggressive rate structures – all the while considering the technical and legal constraints of our water right system – we have a role as consumers of that resource to understand the implications of those solutions. What will it take to ensure healthy water supplies for all users? What are you willing to do to bring water to your tap? Share your thoughts and ideas!

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Tickets on Sale Now for The Great Divide Film Premiere

great divideThe Great Divide, a feature length documentary exploring the historic influence of water in connecting and dividing an arid state and region, will premiere at the University of Denver’s Newman Center for the Performing Arts at 7 p.m. on Thursday, August 6, 2015. Tickets cost just $20.00 and are on sale now.  Proceeds will place the film in all public schools and libraries across the state. Can’t make the premiere? CFWE, with the Colorado Water Congress, is working with Havey Productions to take the film on tour around the state this fall. Stay tuned for dates to see the film in your corner of the state.

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The Great Divide is being produced by the Emmy award-winning team at Havey Productions, in association with Colorado Humanities.  The crew has filmed in every corner of Colorado and all of its major river basins. Millions of people, billions of dollars and an enormous amount of economic activity across a vast swath of America from California to the Mississippi River are all dependent on rivers born in Colorado’s mountains.  In a time of mounting demand and limited supply, the need for all citizens to better understand and participate in decisions affecting this critical resource is paramount.

“The water we take for granted each and every day gets its start here in our state,” filmmaker Jim Havey said. “Our goal for this film is to raise public understanding and appreciation of Colorado’s water heritage and we hope to inspire a more informed public discussion concerning the vital challenges confronting our state and region with increasing urgency.”

From Ancestral Puebloan cultures and the gold rush origins of Colorado water law to agriculture, dams, diversions and conservation; the film reveals today’s critical need to cross “the great divide,” replacing conflict with cooperation. An advisory council comprised of a diverse statewide group of water experts, including the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s executive director Nicole Seltzer, has helped to ensure an accurate portrayal of Colorado’s water heritage.

“This film offers a very promising way to restore or create an appropriate sense of wonder over the arrangements that support human settlement in this state,” said Patty Limerick, Faculty Director at the Center of the American West.”

“Water is precious and very few people really understand where it comes from. Appreciating its importance, the limitations on water quantity and the significance of water quality are all critical areas for the citizenry of Colorado to really understand.” stated former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar.

Watch the film trailer here:  www.thegreatdividefilm.com.  For more information on how you can get involved, call Havey Productions at 303-296-7448.

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