Category Archives: Events

In Bloom

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Ferril Lake Without Algae                  Photo Credit: Rolf Krahl

Ferril Lake in Denver’s City Park is a favorite summer stop for those looking to relax in the sun or take a trip around the lake in a paddle boat. Last summer, a perfect storm of heat and increased nitrogen from goose droppings allowed algal blooms to thrive. Blooms of up to 10 feet thick sprung from the lake’s bottom and, at one point, coated nearly ninety percent of the surface—sidelining paddle boats, releasing a foul stench, destroying the aesthetics of the lake and causing additional ecological issues below the surface.

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Photo Credit: Justin Henry

The presence of blue-green algae, known as cyanobacteria, in Ferril Lake is not uncommon. An increase in nutrients—nitrates and phosphates—along with increasingly warm temperatures, encourage the growth of cyanobacteria in lakes, streams, ponds and other surface waters. For years, the city of Denver has been looking for solutions to the now annual, and growing, issue.

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Urban Runoff                         Photo Credit: Robert Lawton

In the case of Ferril Lake, the algal bloom is a result of non-point pollution sources—urban runoff (grease, oil and chemicals) from Denver’s streets and the aforementioned goose droppings. Other non-point pollution sources include the excess use of fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides from large-scale agriculture, as well as home gardens, energy production and sediment.

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Photo Credit: Hans W. Paerl

The presence and exponential growth of algae blooms in water sources deplete the water of dissolved oxygen, killing aquatic plant and animal life that depend on specific oxygen levels for survival. Without an increase in oxygen through treatments or during seasonal turnovers, lakes overrun with algae blooms will eventually “die,” unable to support life again.

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Photo Credit: Mary Cousins

 

In certain conditions, the cyanobacteria will also produce cyanotoxins, which are harmful to the environment, animals and humans, whether through direct contact, inhalation and/or ingestion. Human symptoms range from headaches, stomach cramps and allergic reactions to more severe cases of seizures and respiratory arrest. In the most extreme cases, contact with cyanotoxins can also lead to death. Coloradans in rural and urban areas are working together to monitor and address these threats to our water quality and public health.

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Photo Credit: Grendel Kahn

Learn more about cyanotoxins, algal blooms, public health and efforts to reduce nutrients in our water with a FREE webinar tomorrow Thursday, 4/13, at 9 a.m. Hear how municipal recreational lakes are monitoring and working to reduce algal blooms, learn about agricultural producers coming together and implementing best practices to minimize nutrient runoff and discover the basics of toxic algal blooms. Come ready to ask questions!

Offered in partnership with Colorado Water Congress with support from Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

Register here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/82877169749383938

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Water Leaders for Colorado’s Future

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December is full of holiday celebration, time with friends and family, and for the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (CFWE); it is the time when applications open to one of our flagship programs, Water Leaders.

The Water Leaders program is recognized as the premier professional development course for the water community in Colorado. Each year, 15 water professionals from across Colorado are accepted to the program. These individuals will spend seven months together traveling the state, meeting face to face four times and expanding their leadership skills together. The course has been uniquely designed to cover water management topics, while at the same time, honing in on each individual’s leadership skills.

While everyone is making their list and checking it twice for the holidays, potential Water Leaders will also be working on their applications. Applications for this program opened December 1 and will be accepted through January 13, 2017.

Today at 12:30 pm, we are hosting a webinar for interested applicants to talk through the program in more detail and answer any questions. Register for this webinar at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8332492019955043587. If you are unable to attend the webinar, you can request a copy of the recording to be sent to you. To request a copy of the webinar or for additional questions about the program please contact Stephanie Scott, Stephanie@yourwatercolorado.org or 303-377-4433.

Learn more about the program and apply here.

Also, CFWE has a similar program called Water Fluency, which focuses not on leadership skills but on building knowledge of water resource and policy issues for local decision-making processes. This year, Water Fluency will be held in the Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs corridor of Colorado. Stay posted and look for program dates, curriculum and registration opening soon.

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It’s Colorado Gives Day!

facebook-badge-i-gaveSurely you’ve heard by now and hopefully you’ve already supported your favorite nonprofits in Colorado…but if you didn’t know, today is Colorado Gives Day!

For about 9.5 hours more, until midnight tonight, Dec. 6, Coloradans across the state are invited to give where they live by donating online through coloradogives.org. But it’s more than just one day, it’s a movement that inspires and unites donors to support their favorite causes online. Plus, a $1 million incentive fund boosts every donation so there’s a benefit for all participating nonprofits.

At the Colorado Foundation for Water Education we hope you’ll remember us today, but also encourage you to support all the water organizations that matter to you—from local watershed groups to statewide advocacy groups and everything in between. There are a lot of great nonprofits doing important work in Colorado water and we all depend on your support.

CFWE remains Colorado’s only non-biased nonprofit water education organization that brings people together statewide to facilitate meaningful learning and purposeful dialogue about our water. We like to work with individuals, stakeholders, and organizations on all sides of any water issue—every voice is important. Support today on Colorado Gives Day allows us to continue bringing together diverse perspective about water and building relationships where uncommon allies work together. Through collaborations, publications like Headwaters magazines and Citizen’s Guides, resource materials, online learning, public presentations, community tours, workshops, hands-on experiences, the Water Educator Network, the Water Leaders Program, the Water Fluency Program, and Connecting the Drops radio shows, CFWE is bringing water education to thousands of people across Colorado. But with more resources, we can do so much more. Support CFWE on Colorado Gives Day here.

Celebrate philanthropy, make your voice heard by supporting the organizations you stand behind and join thousands of Coloradans in donating on Colorado Gives Day!

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Learning to practice effective collaboration for better water decisions

Collaboration! view_across_independence_pass_from_north-600x600Everyone seems to be talking about it. Most everyone in Colorado’s water community agrees we are at a juncture where it is critical for us to collaborate. But what does this mean? How is this lofty idea actually put into practice? How is collaboration different from its distant cousin—compromise—in which all parties give up something and no one ever emerges very happy?

True collaboration takes a whole new way of looking at things.

We all worked hard to craft the voluminous Colorado Water Plan. Now it is time for the challenging conversations and decision making among the diverse stakeholders in our state to put it into practice. Maybe we have the motivation to do that, and even the energy. But do we have the know-how and the skills to practice effective collaboration?

For those who want to gain that know-how and those skills, or to practice and fine-tune what they already know in theory or from past experience, Colorado Water Institute at CSU is once again teaming up with CDR Associates to offer a hands-on workshop on ‘Strengthening Collaborative Capacity for Better Water Decisions.’  This fall’s training will take place November 9-11 at the Sylvan Dale Guest Ranch, west of Loveland. It is the second such workshop CSU and CDR have offered, following a similar workshop last fall in Palisade.  One participant from the Palisade training said, “Given the complex water issues we face in Colorado, it’s inspiring to learn skills to help transcend the polarized positions of different geographic and stakeholder sectors.  I can’t wait to apply these new tools to improve collaboration as I approach water challenges in my work.”  Participants came from state and federal agencies, ditch companies and conservancy districts, basin roundtables, and non-governmental organizations.

“That mix of sectors involved in water throughout Colorado is a real strength of the training,” says MaryLou Smith of the Colorado Water Institute. Participants are able to jump right in, bringing with them their real-world challenges and some success stories. “They bring their own set of experiences and issues that provide really good material for us to work with,” Smith says. Smith, along with CDR’s Ryan Golten, and the Colorado River District’s Dan Birch, will staff the training.

The retreat-style workshop is an opportunity for “collaboration in action,” as participants learn right off how to establish trust and relationships critical for collaboration—not by just hearing about it, but by practicing it.  The workshop offers a dynamic blend of discussions, presentations, practice and role playing.  Key topics include understanding the dynamics of conflict; moving from positional bargaining to interest-based thinking; when and under what circumstances collaborative processes are most effective; and the mechanics and skills-building of designing, facilitating and/or participating in collaborating in problem-solving processes. The workshop offers participants a greater toolbox, concrete skills, and confidence in their collaboration practice, whether as conveners, facilitators or stakeholders. “This is very much hands-on training,” Smith says, “which is what makes it so valuable. Attendees practice role-playing in which they’re challenged to come to agreement in a collaborative setting.”

Learn more and register here to attend November 9-11

Colorado’s Water Plan has a subtitle: “Collaborating on Colorado’s Water Future.” The first page of the executive summary says “This is the beginning of the next phase in Colorado water policy, where collaboration and innovation come together with hard work to meet and implement the objectives, goals, and actions set forth in Colorado’s Water Plan.”

Register now to get some down-to-earth instruction and practice in collaboration and innovation critical to Colorado’s water future. For questions, contact MaryLou at MaryLou.Smith@colostate.edu.

hw_winter_16coverRead more about collaboration in the Winter 2016 issue of CFWE’s Headwaters magazine “The Collaborative Alchemy Around Water Today.”

And join CFWE on Monday 9/12 to learn about collaborative water management on a tour throughout the Roaring Fork’s watershed. Learn more and register here.

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Accurately Estimating Evapotranspiration: The Third Colorado ET Workshop

By Tom Trout, USDA-ARS-Water Management Research

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Tom Trout checking out the CoAgMet weather station instrumentation. Credit: Peggy Greb

Water rights transfers in Colorado are based on consumptive use. A city or company that purchases water from a farmer can only use the amount of water that the farmer has historically consumed—that is, the water that actually evaporated and transpired from the crop and soil. Thus, they must estimate the evapotranspiration, or ET, for the fields that had been irrigated. The method to estimate ET commonly used in Colorado is an old method developed over 50 years ago called the Blaney-Criddle method. The method is based only on temperature and is simple, but not very accurate.

Much more accurate ET calculation methods are now available. ET weather station networks in Colorado—Colorado Agricultural Meteorological Network (CoAgMet), and Northern Water’s networkhave been collecting detailed weather data for over 20 years that can be used to calculate reference ET using globally-recognized standardized methods. Satellites have been collecting images of farm crops for over 30 years. These technologies can be combined to improve ET estimates over the past month or season or several years.

Learn about these newer technologies and the advantages and disadvantages compared to current methods at the Third Colorado ET Workshop. The workshop will present ET estimation methods and the information required to use them, including weather and satellite data. Presenters will also describe the latest research in ET estimation for both well-irrigated and deficit-irrigated crops. They will discuss how these methods could be used for more accurate and standardized consumptive use calculations for both permanent water transfers and alternative temporary transfers.

The Third Colorado ET Workshop will be held in Fort Collins on October 13, 2016. Workshop organizers include USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Colorado State University, Colorado Division of Water Resources, and Colorado Water Conservation Board.

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The workshop is part of the Ninth International Conference on Irrigation and Drainage organized by the U.S. Committee on Irrigation and Drainage (USCID) taking place October 11-14 at the Fort Collins Hilton. The theme of the USCID conference is:

Improving Irrigation Water Management—Latest Methods in Evapotranspiration and Supporting Technologies

The conference will include many presentations on the latest ET research. The recently published ASCE Manual “Evaporation, Evapotranspiration, and Irrigation Water Requirements” will be introduced at the conference. Participants can register for the whole conference, or just the Thursday Colorado ET Workshop. Learn more and register here.

Read more about Tom Trout’s cover_webrecent work in “The Ever Evolving Farmer” in the Fall 2012 issue of Headwaters magazine.

 

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Collaborative Watershed Management Highlights in the Roaring Fork Basin

By Chelsea Congdon Brundige, Public Counsel of the Rockies

In Colorado, everyone from irrigators and municipalities, law-makers and water districts, regulators and conservationists are scrambling to find ways to restore and protect the state’s over-tapped rivers. A top priority of the 2015 Colorado water plan is to balance the needs for water in agriculture, cities and industry with the need for water to protect healthy rivers and the iconic wildlife, recreation and alpine landscapes that sustain Colorado’s values, lifestyle and economy.

As director of the Water Program of Public Counsel of the Rockies, I have been working in the Roaring Fork watershed to design and implement projects that improve efficiency, accountability and collaboration in water management. Public Counsel brings strategic leadership to these projects, focusing on opportunities to leverage our local successes in the Roaring Fork watershed so they can serve as templates for efforts in other basins. I am thrilled that we will be able to share this work as part of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s Collaborative Water Management Tour on September 12, 2016  so that participants can learn what we are doing and can take some ideas home.

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Installing the gauge in Aspen.

Our projects address several “gaps” in Colorado water policy and management. For example, while the water plan prioritizes finding ways to balance the allocation of water between consumptive and non-consumptive uses, for the most part, stream flow gauges are not in place to record baseline flows or support administration of instream flows. Without accurate measurement, there is no way to know if instream flow rights are being met, how proposed water diversions might affect healthy baseflows, and how changes in flow are correlated to changes in stream health.

In Aspen, we partnered with Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (ACES) in 2014 to address the need for greater accountability and transparency in water management through better gauging and data collection. To this end, we helped site and install a prototype stream flow monitoring gauge on the Roaring Fork River in the heart of Aspen. The new gauge records and transmits data on flow, and captures pictures of the river corresponding to those flow levels. The data are accessed remotely and published by ACES. Plus, a City of Aspen interpretative sign at the river’s edge in the John Denver Sanctuary describes the issues of river health and benefits of monitoring flows.

This gauge is the first of several that can be installed as part of ACES’ Forest Health Index to collect data to support stewardship of our forests and watershed. Data from the gauge helps us correlate the condition of our rivers with the condition of our forest, and provides a baseline for resource management decisions. As importantly, the gauge is strategically located to allow water rights administration and water accounting for several imminent projects designed to deliver water to this distressed reach of the Roaring Fork to enhance instream flows. We have worked with many partners to bring this stream gauge prototype project to fruition including: ACES, City of Aspen, the Colorado Water Trust, the Colorado Water Conservation Board, and the Colorado River District. Here is a link to the streamflow data.

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A reach of the Crystal River.

Colorado’s Water Plan identifies stream management planning as critical for 80 percent of priority river basins in the state, and identifies the need for greater stakeholder engagement around water management—but there are few examples to draw on. Beginning in 2012, Public Counsel began working with Roaring Fork Conservancy and Lotic Hydrological to plan, fund, and lead a state-of-the-art stream management plan for the Crystal River, from Marble to the confluence with the Roaring Fork. During drought years, the combined demands for water in irrigated agriculture and demands for water in the Town of Carbondale for municipal use and irrigation of parks and open space lead to water shortages for some agricultural producers and impairment of river and riparian health. This plan, completed in December 2015, provides a detailed, science-based assessment of the “health” of the river, meter by meter and reach by reach, based on dozens of metrics. Our team developed an Ecological Decision Support System (EcoDSS) to evaluate countless water management and restoration options (including costs) for restoring this river. Beginning in October 2015, Public Counsel launched and professionally staffed a collaborative process with all irrigators and other stakeholders on the Crystal to prioritize projects that can be implemented to restore the River.

This project is one of the first stream management plans in Colorado. Our approach, modeling and stakeholder process are serving as blueprints for planning efforts just getting off the ground in the San Miguel watershed, the Gunnison, the Upper Roaring Fork through Aspen, and the Upper Colorado River basin. Building on our work on the Crystal River, Public Counsel is poised to leverage our successes and “lessons learned” to advance stream management planning and stakeholder collaboration around water management. Find the Crystal River Management Plan here

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On the Crystal River.

Finally, Public Counsel has been working on behalf of the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus in a multi-decade effort to guarantee the maintenance of healthy stream flows in Snowmass Creek. Snowmass Creek supplies water for agriculture, municipal uses, domestic needs and snowmaking in two basins, the Snowmass Creek basin and the Brush Creek basin (where the Town of Snowmass Village is located). The history here is long, but in recent years, the caucus developed a sophisticated analysis enabling water managers to project future instream flows in the Creek as a function of growth, climate change and other factors.

This analysis has informed the efforts of the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District (in the neighboring Brush Creek basin) to operate Ziegler Reservoir and other components of their water infrastructure to help buffer Snowmass Creek from diversions during periods of low flow. The district has aggressively invested in leak detection and other measures to dramatically reduce treated water losses and increase water conservation. The caucus, in turn, has used the same analysis to develop water conservation guidelines for residents in the Snowmass Creek valley and has published a Water Users Guide for Protecting Flows in Snowmass Creek—find a link to the guide here.

On September 12, CFWE is hosting a tour so that participants can see and learn first-hand about these and other exemplary collaborative water management projects throughout the Roaring Fork watershed. I look forward to the opportunity to share these projects in person. Don’t miss it… come ready to learn, ask questions and discuss. Find the agenda and register here.

Learn more about collaborative work in the Roaring Fork watershed in August 2016 blog post, “A rancher, a scientist, an angler and a conservationist walk into a room.”

CCB on AJAX2 Chelsea Congdon Brundige is a water strategist with Public Counsel of the Rockies engaged in developing collaborative and innovative practices to improve the long-term stewardship of western rivers. Since 2012, Chelsea has been working in partnership with local watershed organizations and hydrologists to design highly visible and replicable projects in the Roaring Fork watershed that improve accountability and stakeholder engagement around water management. This work focuses on distressed river reaches in the Roaring through Aspen, on Snowmass Creek, and on the Crystal River. In December 2015, Ms. Brundige — working in partnership with Roaring Fork Conservancy and Lotic Hydrological — completed an 18-month stream management plan and stakeholder process to characterize the health of the Crystal River and prioritize restoration options.

Ms. Brundige’s work with Public Counsel of the Rockies draws on her 2 decades of professional experience as a water resource specialist with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in California and Colorado, and her work in communication as a writer and producer with First Light Films, an independent film and television company based in Snowmass, Colorado.

Chelsea graduated from Yale University in 1982, magna cum laude.  She earned a M.A. from the Energy and Resources Group at the University of California in Berkeley in 1989. Chelsea served as a member of the National Academy of Sciences Committee on the Future of Irrigation from 1994 to 1996. She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Western Resource Advocates, Colorado Rocky Mountain School, and the Snowmass Capitol Creek Caucus.

 

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A rancher, a scientist, an angler and a conservationist walk into a room…

By Christina Medved, Watershed Education Director and Heather Lewin, Watershed Action Director at Roaring Fork Conservancy in Basalt, CO.

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Spring at Mt Sopris Colorado. The Roaring Fork River is in the foreground and located just outside Carbondale CO. Credit: Steve Wiggins

A rancher, a scientist, an angler and a conservationist walk into a room… “Wait a minute,” you say, “I’ve heard this one before! Something about water being for fighting, right? Remind me the punchline again?” Well, this isn’t the same old story with the same old punchline. Roaring Fork Conservancy (RFC), currently in its 20th year, is working with an empowered group of stakeholders to rewrite the story of water in the Roaring Fork Valley. The privilege of living with ready access to cold mountain streams, abundant trout, vibrant agriculture and spectacular scenery is one we do not take for granted which is why we continue to work to bring together the diverse groups invested in their protection.

If you have not encountered us before, RFC is a local watershed organization, bringing people together to protect our rivers from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork high above Aspen to its confluence with the Colorado River in Glenwood Springs, from the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan River, to the banks of the free-flowing Crystal River, we continually assess and work to improve the health of our rivers, and we empower the community and next generation to do the same—reaching over 100,000 individuals since our inception.

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A geomorphology field trip with the Roaring Fork Conservancy. Credit: Christina Medved

Inspiring people to take action requires not only scientific knowledge, but also experiential knowledge and a common ground, or common water in this case! Through our work with the recreational and agricultural communities, our knowledge is enhanced. Learning from the people who are working the land and on the rivers each day (as sometimes we wish we could be!) provides insights that might not be documented anywhere except the mind of the water user. By working with these stakeholders, we are able to craft studies to address real needs with real benefits to the river. In turn, we are able to share our learnings with the greater community through adult and school programs throughout the year.

Through proactive science and watershed planning, RFC helps inform decision-makers at the municipal and county levels and direct on-the-ground improvement and restoration projects. All of RFC’s endeavors—scientific studies, restoration project, policy work and educational campaigns—are rooted in the Roaring Fork Watershed Plan published in 2012, and focus on water quantity and quality and riparian health. The thread through all of our projects is building relationships with each stakeholder. Here are some examples of RFC’s work in action:

Crystal River Management Plan: During the 2012 drought, the Crystal River experienced significantly low flows, to the tune of 1 cubic foot per second (cfs) in the lower reach where the instream flow right is 100cfs. The Crystal Valley, mecca for both ranching and recreation, was feeling the demand gap of the drought. How could it be possible to look out for the interests of all water users involved, including the river? You listen to the concerns from stakeholders and work together to answer the tough questions about how to efficiently and fairly use and share the invaluable water resource. To tackle this complex issue, RFC partnered with Public Counsel of the Rockies and Lotic Hydrological to produce the Crystal River Management Plan, one of the first stream management plans in Colorado.

The Crystal River Management Plan relies on a robust science-based and stakeholder-centered approach to consider complex interactions between the physical components driving watershed structure; the biological components of riverine ecosystems; the social context of competing perspectives, needs, and values; and the existing legal and administrative frameworks governing water use in an effort to identify and evaluate management and structural alternatives that honor local agricultural production, preserve existing water uses, and enhance the ecological integrity of the river.

Stakeholder meetings held throughout the planning process served to clarify outstanding questions, summarize results from previous studies, refine planning goals and objectives, and evaluate the feasibility of various management alternatives.

The Plan combines river science and community values to offer feasible and effective water management alternatives for improving ecological health of the Crystal River recognizing the competing demands for water to sustain agricultural and municipal needs as well as other environmental and recreational values in the community.

 

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The Fryingpan River. Credit: Mark Fuller.

Lower Fryingpan River Comprehensive Study: Citizens and angling guides approached RFC with concerns about low winter flows, formation of anchor ice, and an abundance of algae, we would later come to name Didymosphenia geminata—better known as didymo or “rock snot”—on the Gold Medal waters of the Fryingpan River. Concerned about these potential impacts on the river resource, interested citizens along with RFC voiced these concerns to the Bureau of Reclamation, who manages the flows on the Fryingpan. From these encounters, RFC partnered with the Natural Resource Management Program at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Dr. Bill Miller, Delia Malone, and the Economics Department at Colorado State University to develop a scientific study to evaluate the macroinvertebrate population, water temperature, didymo, American Dipper population, and the economic impact of the Fryingpan Valley.

Here are a few highlights from the study:

  • The macroinvertebrate population indicates a healthy river system.
  • Didymo prefers oxygenated (moving) water and its presence declined after high flows.
  • The Fryingpan Valley is sustaining 28 mating pairs of American Dippers. Their success is dependent on 50m of undisturbed riparian habitat upstream and downstream of nesting sites.
  • The economic impact of fishing the Lower Fryingpan River is $3.8 million annually and contributes to 38.3 jobs to the region!

For details about this study and additional results, please click here.

So, a rancher, a scientist, an angler and a conservationist walk into a room… with a shared love and desire to protect western Colorado’s most precious resource: water. Please join us on the Colorado Foundation for Water Education’s tour of the Roaring Fork watershed on September 12 to see these one-of-a-kind areas for yourself and learn about the benefits of RFC’s work and partnerships. Learn more and register here.

For additional details about Roaring Fork Conservancy please visit www.roaringfork.org .

Medved HeadshotChristina Medved, Watershed Education Director
Christina calls Cleveland, OH, her hometown and the infamous Cuyahoga River her home watershed. Having spent a lot of time on lakes as a child, she quickly fell in love with rivers while working as a Field Instructor within Cuyahoga Valley National Park near Akron, OH. She then became the Education Programs Manager and Leaf Pack Network® Administrator at Stroud Water Research Center, near Philadelphia, PA. During that time she coordinated two watershed treks which gave high school students a full-immersion experience in tracing the drinking water supply of New York City and Wilmington, DE, and, had the opportunity to teach stream ecology workshops across the United States as well as in villages of Costa Rica and Peru. Christina has a B.S. in Environmental Science from Ashland University in OH and an M.A. in Communication Studies from West Chester University in PA. When not teaching or on the river, Christina enjoys cooking, biking, snowshoeing and dabbling in photography.

Heather Lewin photoHeather Lewin, Watershed Action Director
Heather has worked with Roaring Fork Conservancy in the areas of land conservation and policy since 2010. She has B.S. in biology from Providence College and a Master’s in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins University. She has also completed a residency in environmental education at Teton Science School. With Roaring Fork Conservancy, Heather is working on Colorado 303d water quality listings, land conservation efforts, and policy issues. Heather is also a certified raft guide and ski instructor.

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