Category Archives: Staff

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



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!


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.


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:  For more information on how you can get involved, call Havey Productions at 303-296-7448.

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Increasing consciousness: Arizona’s investment in water education

CFWE's executive director, Nicole Seltzer

CFWE’s executive director, Nicole Seltzer

I spend a fair amount of time in the Phoenix area visiting my sister and her family.  The warm winter days are a great alternative to blocking the cold drafts that sneak through my 100 year old windows in Denver.  I visited last fall and was happy to attend a luncheon panel on the Colorado River presented by Arizona Forward which my sister’s law firm sponsored.  At that event, the Arizona Community Foundation launched its Water Consciousness Challenge, a project within the New Arizona Prize.  The challenge sought to create meaningful

Water flows near Phoenix, AZ. Tim McCabe / Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service., via Wikimedia Commons

Water flows near Phoenix, AZ. Tim McCabe / Photo courtesy of USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service., via Wikimedia Commons

opportunities to raise the public’s consciousness about water scarcity, motivate people to become more educated and compelled by this future threat, and ultimately drive the development of new and innovative solutions to Arizona’s water consumption needs.

The funding partners put up a $100,000 prize to implement a creative and compelling digital content strategy that will drive broad public understanding of water scarcity issues and move these issues to the forefront of Arizonans’ minds.

The winner of the $100,000 prize, Arizona filmmaker Cody Sheehy, was just announced, and I am excited to follow the progress of the team’s project, Beyond the Mirage: Arizona’s Water Reality.

From a recent AZCentral article:

Website visitors will find hundreds of clips on a variety of topics including legal structures that govern water rights, information on monsoon rain and winter snowpacks, how water consumption among lower-basin states is intertwined and steps the state may need to take to avoid a crisis, Sheehy said.

Users will be able to select clips and make their own mini-documentaries using editing tools on the website. The aim is that they share it with their friends, and their friends get inspired to make their own videos.

The idea is that the design matches how young people want to learn and experience the Web: to not passively read or watch content, but to interact with it, search it and create something from it, Sheehy said.

I love the idea of community leaders stepping forward to support the use of creativity and technology to solve societal problems.  I applaud the Arizona Community Foundation and its partners for investing in water awareness tools.  We have a strong track record of public funding for water education in Colorado, but our state’s private foundations and business groups have yet to invest in a meaningful way.  I believe that Arizona’s Water Consciousness Challenge is also a challenge to other states in the Colorado River Basin to examine and prioritize water education.

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Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions: Perspectives

“The interesting thing about all of these tunnels is you look through them and you can see a pinpoint of light at the end,” says Wayne Vanderschuere, the general manager for water and wastewater planning at Colorado Springs Utilities.  Vanderschuere was talking about transbasin diversion tunnels.

Participants on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education's transbasin diversion tour hear from Lynn Brooks with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District beside the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Reservoir.

Participants on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s transbasin diversion tour hear from Lynn Brooks with the Eagle River Water and Sanitation District beside the outlet of the Homestake Tunnel near Turquoise Reservoir.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education returned from our transbasin diversion tour last week, exploring the Fryingpan-Arkansas, Twin Lakes, and Homestake projects with experts and a great group of about 30 tour participants from different organizations, interests and geographical locations. Find photos here.  We heard about and saw the sights and workings of these important and major water diversion projects. Reporter, Dennis Webb with the Grand Junction Sentinel joined us and, in an article published this week, wrote:

Those interests met in the middle here last week, at this point where the Ewing Ditch crosses the Continental Divide, on a transbasin diversion tour presented by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education. It was a chance to consider the past of water development in Colorado while also pondering its future. And where better to look back at the history of transbasin diversions than at Ewing Ditch, the oldest diversion of Western Slope water to the Eastern Slope?

This straightforward, unassuming dirt conduit seemingly defies gravity, diverting water from Eagle River tributary Piney Gulch just a short walk from Tennessee Pass, and just high enough up the gulch that the water can follow a contoured course crossing basins and head into the Arkansas River Valley.

“It’s simple, but I love simplicity. It fits my mind,” Alan Ward, water resources manager with the Pueblo Board of Water Works, joked about the ditch, which the utility bought in 1955.

Buried in Snow

Alan Ward stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate,

Alan Ward with the Pueblo Board of Water Works stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate.

It was built in 1880 and also is called the Ewing Placer Ditch, which Ward believes suggests early use of the water in mining.

As transbasin diversions go, it’s a minuscule one, delivering up to 18.5 cubic feet per second, or an average of about 1,000 acre-feet in a year. It diverts about five square miles of melt-off from snowpack that can leave the ditch buried beneath 10 to 20 feet of snow in the winter. David Curtis is in charge of clearing that snow and maintaining and operating the ditch during the seven months out of each year that he works out of Leadville as a ditch rider for the utility.

The utility says Ewing Ditch is about three-quarters of a mile long.

“I think it’s a little longer,” Curtis said, adding that at least it seems that way when he and others are busy clearing spring snow.

A chartered bus delivered more than two dozen tour participants to view the ditch, including Boulder County resident Joe Stepanek. He found last week’s two-day tour to be highly informative. He’s interested in Colorado’s history of water development, and is retired from a U.S. Agency for International Development career that had him traveling abroad.

“I come back and join this water tour and learn a lot about Colorado,” he said.

Sonja Reiser, an engineer with CH2M HILL in Denver, likewise was finding the tour to be eye-opening.

“I’m learning so much about how complicated Colorado water law is,” she said as the tour bus moved on from this tiny diversion point to the outlet of the five-mile-long Homestake Tunnel, which goes under the Continental Divide from Homestake Reservoir in Eagle County and is capable of delivering a much more massive 800 cubic feet per second to help meet municipal needs in Colorado Springs and Aurora.

CFWE published the new Citizen's Guide to Colorado's Transbasin Diversions last month. flip through or order your copy .

CFWE published the new Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions last month. flip through or order your copy.

Read another tour participant’s impressions and thoughts from the tour on the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments’ Water Quality and Quantity Blog.

For me, just being around the diversions was exciting. Only a month ago, CFWE released it’s newest publication, the Citizen’s Guide to Colorado’s Transbasin Diversions–  I wrote much of it. After reading about these projects, pouring over maps trying to understand collection and distribution systems and working with the Division of Water Resources to determine how much water flows through these projects, I was seeing some of them, and hearing about them again.

The guide explores the history, negotiations and future of water supply planning in Colorado. It’s a lot of information condensed into 32 pages and drawn largely from other great resources including the three books and author perspectives found at the end of the guide. And it comes at an important time, as the draft of Colorado’s Water Plan collecting input and nearing completion, water supply and the history of water supply planning in Colorado are particularly relevant. But what didn’t make it in the guide, primarily because it is a reference guide and there was an abundance of other content, were the many great interviews I conducted with water managers, leaders, planners, advocates and others about projects all across the state. The tour brought life to the Citizen’s Guide, just like those interviews, as will our upcoming webinar series (more about that two paragraphs down).

These are such important stories, and interesting people who told them,  so CFWE will be publishing excerpts from those interviews here on the blog. If you have a piece of the story that needs to be told, or wish we spoke with someone different, let us know– we welcome additional posts.  Stay posted for a great series of interviews and additional transbasin diversion programming.

If you want to hear from experts yourself, register for one or all of our upcoming transbasin diversion webinars, hosted in partnership with Colorado Water Congress. The first of the series will be held on November 12 from 9-10 am on the Technical, Political and Environmental Requirements of Transbasin Diversions. Learn more and find out how to register here.

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