Category Archives: Water Education and Resources

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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Eric Kuhn, 2017 Diane Hoppe Leadership Award

TONIGHT, Friday, May 12th, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education will celebrate water education and water leadership at its annual President’s Reception.  Each year, CFWE honors the work of a Coloradoan who has a body of work in the field of water resources benefiting the Colorado public, a reputation among peers and a commitment to balanced and accurate information, with the Diane Hoppe Leadership Award. This year, CFWE will recognize Eric Kuhn with the Colorado River District with this award.

Register here to attend the President’s Reception tonight at 6 p.m. at the Denver Art Museum. We’ll enjoy refreshments, a fun evening with friends, and our first ever LIVE AUCTION. We can’t wait to see you there!

Eric Kuhn, 2017 Diane Hoppe Leadership Award Recipient

By Greg Hobbs

Eric Kuhn WEB 1Eric Kuhn, “big thinker, deep thinker,” is how his colleague Jim Pokrandt describes him. Thirty-six years ago, in the spring of 1981, Kuhn moved from southern California to join the Colorado River District’s staff as assistant secretary engineer. As an electrical engineer, he served as a Navy submarine officer, earned a master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University, and worked with Bechtel Corporation’s power group on the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station.

One of then-secretary engineer Rolly Fischer’s “greatest accomplishments” was hiring Kuhn, writes George Sibley in Water Wranglers a 75th anniversary history of the River District. “Whatever Kuhn might have lacked in water experience, he more than made up with a quiet and quick creative intelligence.” Another district colleague, Chris Treese, credits him with “maintaining harmony” in a 15-county district “naturally divided between tourism-dependent headwaters counties and more traditional ranching and mining counties.”

Harmony? Well, yes, maybe, for sure, and at times! The River District’s 15 board members are appointed by the boards of county commissioners representing a huge expanse of western Colorado, from west of the Divide to the Utah border, from the north slope of the San Juans to the Wyoming border. Differences are sure to arise given the changing needs and desires of sub-basins therein, but having common forums like the River District board is a good way to hash them out.

In 1937, just for such a purpose, the Colorado General Assembly created the Colorado River Water Conservation District together with the Colorado Water Conservation Board and the Water Conservancy District Act. The River District’s statutory mission is to “safeguard for Colorado, all waters to which the state of Colorado is equitably entitled under the Colorado River Compact.” In my preface to Sibley’s book, I describe this legislative charge as “an unusual example of tucking the outside skin of the fruit into its core and exposing its flesh to potential consumers.”

On becoming the River District’s general manager in 1996, succeeding Rolly Fischer, Kuhn assumed the neck-wrenching duty of keeping one eye on six downstream states and the Republic of Mexico, while keeping his other eye roving up and down Colorado’s Front Range spotting opportunities to protect western Colorado water. When he’s at home in Glenwood Springs, he focuses both eyes on an early morning bike ride along the Roaring Fork River and the Colorado River.

It’s at the conjunction of waters Kuhn works best. As a young River District engineer, he constantly hit the road to becoming an intrastate and interstate water diplomat. As a member of the Western Slope Advisory Council, Kuhn helped former Governor Richard Lamm’s Metropolitan Water Roundtable examine possible alternatives to Denver Water’s proposed transbasin diversion, Two Forks Dam and Reservoir.

Parked in No-Go throughout the 1980s, one of the project’s alternates was an exchange of water up the Blue River through the West Slope’s more senior Green Mountain Reservoir (1935 priority) to Denver’s junior Dillon Reservoir (1946 priority), for transport through Denver’s  Robert’s Tunnel. After the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Two Forks veto in 1991, this exchange materialized as a separate project with construction of the River District’s Wolford Mountain Reservoir on Muddy Creek north of Kremmling, completed in 1996. Some of this water goes to protect the endangered Colorado River fish while some goes to Denver by exchange. Some is for West Slope use. Kuhn and former River District engineer Dave Merritt collaborated with Denver Water’s Manager Chips Barry, to get this joint-use project up and running.

The key to the deal was keeping intact the senior downstream Shoshone hydroelectric water right in Glenwood Canyon (1902 priority), in the face of Denver’s multidecadal, unsuccessful federal court effort to assert a domestic preference for the water over West Slope uses. Denver Water and Northern Water’s Municipal Subdistrict (in mitigation for the Windy Gap Project at the junction of the Fraser River and the Colorado) contributed funds to Wolford Mountain Reservoir’s construction and subsequent operation.

None of this was any more complicated than any other matter involving the Colorado River. Protecting Colorado’s water allocation under the 1922 Colorado River Compact requires an ongoing all-Colorado commitment to preserving Lake Powell’s water delivery equalizing function with Lake Mead, while implementing the Upper Colorado River Endangered Fish Recovery Program. Not to be forgotten in this milieu of water governance and politics is the cooperation of environmental groups, the Colorado Water Congress, the Bureau of Reclamation, the seven Colorado River Basin states, the Republic of Mexico, and the U.S. Congress. Healthy-as-can-be riparian habitat up and down the Colorado River, as it runs from Rocky Mountain National Park to the Sea of Cortez through Lake Powell and Lake Mead, is a goal worth pursuing. But achieving this in the midst of wicked drought, like the one we’ve just seen, is daunting.

Colorado’s new water plan, coordinated through the Colorado Water Conservation Board, nine local basin roundtables and a statewide Interbasin Compact Committee, aspires to many more collaborative agreements, like the Wolford Mountain agreement and the more recent Colorado River Cooperative Agreement that Denver Water, the River District and a score of others have entered into. When planning future projects, failure to take into account the risk of even greater droughts risks the state’s future.

This is why Kuhn rides his bike, gaining both a physical workout and thinking time. The Colorado River’s been good to him. He met his wife, Sue, in Glenwood Springs. They’ve raised their beloved daughters Hallie and Kenzie there. It’s a brainy, nuclear family composed of engineering, medical laboratory, bio-tech, climate change problem-solving geeks.

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Preventing Water Pollution Starts in Your Backyard

USDA

Photo Credit: USDA

Agricultural runoff is a prominent source of excess nutrients in water sources, but this nonpoint source of water pollution can originate with excess fertilizer being used on urban landscapes as well.

On April 13, 2017, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education was joined by Steve Lundt with the Barr Lake and Milton Reservoir Watershed Association for a webinar about cyanotoxins, algal blooms, public health and efforts to reduce nutrients in our water. 

“[BMPs] apply to your own lawn, just as they do on a corn field in Weld County,” says Lundt. “Don’t [fertilize] before a storm event and do soil testing—you may not even need phosphorus to grow your lawn.”

Sam DeLong

Photo Credit: Sam DeLong

So, what can an urban lawn owner do when they want to grow a vibrant, healthy, lawn without contributing to nutrient pollution? The following blog post by American Turf & Tree Care discusses ways that people can reduce phosphorous pollution in Colorado’s water sources by ensuring that the way they care for their yard benefits not only their lawn, but also the environment.

 

Preventing Water Pollution Starts in Your Backyard

By American Turf & Tree Care

JasenMiller

Photo Credit: Jasen Miller

There are a number of reasons why Denver and surrounding cities are among the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, but certainly, one draw is the immense natural beauty of Colorado. Beautiful mountains and flowing streams make our area an outdoorsman’s paradise—tourists and Colorado residents alike flock to the area for hiking, camping and a chance to take in the scenery.

With the uncertainty that accompanies recent EPA spending cuts and policy changes, many people in the area rightfully have concerns regarding sustainability and important environmental regulations that protect these natural resources. In light of this, it becomes ever more important for businesses and individuals to make responsible decisions about actions that may impact the future health and beauty of our area.

Mike Sinko

Photo Credit: Mike Sinko

Improper management of industrial waste, sewage and agricultural runoff are some of the worst offenders when it comes to pollution, but there are still a number of actions individuals can take to preserve Colorado’s water. Mindfulness, when it comes to the products you use in your backyard, can be a first step toward fighting pollution.

Phosphorus Pollution: Too Much of a Good Thing

Kevin Dooley (2)

Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley

Phosphorus is a natural ingredient found in soil that promotes root development and helps trees, shrubs and other plants mature and thrive. But if your lawn already has a sufficient level of phosphorus in the soil, fertilizer treatments can actually have a detrimental effect on the health of your grass and can lead to pollution.

Phosphorus works by attaching itself to soil particles, which are then absorbed by plants during their life cycle. When strong fertilizers are used in your lawn or garden, it can slow down the absorption process. In the meantime, heavy rains can wash phosphorus from your yard into ponds, streams, rivers and lakes nearby.

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Photo Credit: Dr. Jennifer L. Graham

Phosphorus contamination can kill fish, cause algae to grow at alarming and dangerous rates, turn water green and lower water quality, leach into drinking water and eventually contribute to “dead zones” in the ocean. The good news is that this pollution is largely avoidable, as most excessive phosphorus present in the environment is washed into natural bodies of water as the direct result of human activities.

Regulation Is Only the First Step

Boston Public Library

Photo Credit: Boston Public Library

The damage caused by phosphorus pollution is so severe that many states, Colorado included, have enacted laws to limit the use of phosphorus-heavy fertilizers. The Colorado Fertilizer Law, as enforced by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, regulates fertilizers and soil conditioners sold in Colorado for agricultural and residential use. The law requires that fertilizers be properly labeled with their tested nutrient levels – but these limitations only work if businesses and homeowners share a commitment to choosing fertilizers with low to no phosphorus.

“Pay attention to the three number label on the fertilizer you buy,” says Brad Woods, owner of American Turf & Tree Care in Greeley. The first number is nitrogen, the second is phosphorus, and the third is potassium. “You want to look for a bag where the second number is a zero or is low.”

How You Can Go Phosphorus-Free

You may not need additional phosphorus in your lawn. “Most lawn care providers offer complimentary soil testing and they can tell you what nutrients you need to restore balance to your lawn,” says Woods.

“One common mistake homeowners make is trying to fertilize dormant grass. When grass looks like it’s dying, but it’s just at the natural end of its growth cycle for the year, dumping fertilizer on top will actually do more harm than good,” says Woods. “If your soil is lacking phosphorus, a lawn care company can help you fix it in a way that is safe for your family and the environment.”

There are also some techniques you can use as part of your normal lawn maintenance routine to keep your yard naturally rich in phosphorus without the use of fertilizers, including:

  • NancyBeeToo

    Photo Credit: NancyBeeToo

    Composting: There is no better source of natural phosphorus than composted fruits and vegetables.

  • Tapping Organic Sources: If you need phosphorus and do not have access to compost, bone meal, manure, bat guano or soy meal will also do the trick! These materials are rich in nutrients and release phosphorus slowly, without the risk of contaminating water.
  • Mowing: When you mow your lawn in spring and summer, don’t bag the clippings! Grass clippings are high in phosphorus, and as long as they don’t mat the grass and block sunlight and oxygen from reaching your soil, they can be helpful in returning nutrients to the soil.
  • Don’t Overwater: Not only is overwatering bad for general lawn health, but it increases the risk of washing phosphorus out of your landscape.
Zach Dischner

Photo Credit: Zach Dischner

Don’t wash the natural beauty of Colorado down the drain! Water pollution is far-reaching, and contamination can hurt local wildlife, impact the health of you and your family, and disrupt the environment at large.

Being conscientious about the products you or your lawn care team uses in your yard is a simple way to fight back against pollution and protect your local ecosystem.

American Turf & Tree Care is a locally-owned company in Colorado on a mission to educate the local community on the impact their lawn care products have on the environment.  For more information about American Turf & Care, please visit http://www.americanturfandtreecare.com/.

Listen to the recording of the April 2017 webinar presented by the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and offered in partnership with Colorado Water Congress with support from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Read more about agricultural runoff as nonpoint source pollution in the CFWE blog post, The Runoff Conundrum.

hw_fall_2016_final_coverFind further coverage on these topics in the Public Health Issue of Headwaters Magazine and learn more about water quality in CFWE’s Citizen’s Guide to Colorado Water Quality Protection.

Not a Headwaters subscriber? Visit yourwatercolorado.org for the digital version. Headwaters is the flagship publication of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and covers current events, trends and opportunities in Colorado water.

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What’s in the Water?

 

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Photo Credit: Jonas Bergsten

There is a high likelihood that at some point in your life, you have used a product containing fluoride. Many of us have memories of fluoride treatments at the dentist’s office—either in the form of a goopy gel oozing out of ill-fitting trays or as a liquid rinse. Even as adults, most people brush their teeth twice a day with toothpaste containing fluoride; all in the interest of keeping their teeth in tip-top shape.

But, did you know that there is a good chance that fluoride is also present in your tap water?

Almost all water has naturally-occurring fluoride. Fluoride is a mineral—like Vitamin D or calcium—that is released from rocks into our air, soil and water; however, depending on the source of the water, fluoride is not always present in concentrations that would be optimal for preventing tooth decay. It is also possible for levels of fluoride to be too high, which is why water providers test  fluoride levels in tap water, allowing them to make adjustments based on current levels.

Fluoride research began in 1901, in Colorado Springs. Initial research was conducted by dental school graduate Fredrick McKay, and in 1909, he was joined by dental researcher, Dr. G.V. Black. Upon arriving in Colorado Springs, McKay noticed that Colorado Springs natives had brown-stained teeth. Having never seen this type of tooth stain before, McKay asked Black to join him so that together, they could determine the source of “Colorado Brown Stain.”

What they discovered was a connection between fluoride in water and dental health. In Colorado Springs, the cause of stained teeth in locals turned out to be dental fluorosis, a cosmetic result of excessive fluoride consumption due to high levels of fluoride in the local water.

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Photo Credit: Matthew Ferguson

According to WebMD, dental fluorosis is caused by overexposure to fluoride—sources include water, toothpaste, mouthwash, etc.—during the first eight years of life, when permanent teeth are being formed. Discoloration can range from lacy white markings to yellow or brown stains and may include surface irregularities, including severe pitting. McKay and Black determined that the high levels of fluoride not only caused the staining, but also provided an unusually high resistance to tooth decay.

In 1931, the first fluoride studies were conducted by Dr. H. Trendley Dean. Based on previous research done in the field, he hypothesized that it was possible to have fluoride levels in water that were low enough to be safe for consumption and avoid dental fluorosis, yet high enough to help prevent tooth decay.

In 1945, his hypothesis was put to the test in Grand Rapids, Michigan; the first city in the world to fluoridate its drinking water. Over the course of 15 years, 30,000 school children were monitored for tooth decay. After 11 years, the caries rate (the rate of tooth decay) was down 60 percent. The study results indicated that tooth decay could be preventable.

running-waterDean’s study spurred a national movement to add fluoride to community water systems and more than 70 years later, the majority of the U.S. population is receiving fluoridated water. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2014, 66.3 percent of the total U.S. population and 74.4 percent of the population receiving water from a community water system were receiving fluoridated water. 74 percent of Colorado residents are receiving fluoridated water, falling in line with the rest of the country.

Many people receive fluoridated water, but wonder if it’s safe to consume. Everyone has the right to know what they are ingesting and how it will impact their health—check on the fluoridation status of the water that you are receiving at My Water’s Fluoride. Learn about  other contaminants that may naturally occur in your water, or additives like fluoride, and how your water provider addresses them by finding your local Consumer Confidence Report on the Colorado Water Quality Control Division’s website here.

Some people are opposed to the addition of fluoride to public drinking water. Opponents of fluoride in drinking water are troubled by the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) classification of fluoride as a drug for safety testing purposes. They see the addition of fluoride to water as being for the sole purpose of preventing tooth decay, as opposed to improving water quality, making it a medical treatment that is being imposed on them without consent.Another concern includes the inability of an individual consumer to regulate their fluoride dosage. Opponents worry that someone who drinks more water than someone else may receive a higher dosage of fluoride. In this vein, the dosage in a single glass is the same across the board, regardless of the needs of the person ingesting fluoride.

In 2013, Portland, Oregon voters rejected a ballot proposal to add fluoride to their drinking water, making it the largest U.S. city without fluoride in their water, or plans to add it. Opponents of the measure echo the belief that fluoride as a chemical will ruin the city’s pristine water supply, and that adding fluoride violates an individual’s right to consent to medication. From a USA Today article:

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Photo Credit: The.Rohit

“I don’t want chemicals in my water,” Sarah Lazzaro said after voting Tuesday. “I know that there are really no known health risks with it, but there’s a lot of things we find out later in life really do have health risks.”

During the summer of 2015, both Snowmass, Colorado and Denver Water debated the practice of adding fluoride to their public water systems. Initially, the Snowmass Water and Sanitation District decided to discontinue adding fluoride to their water; however, in October 2015, under public pressure, the board reversed their decision, and will not discontinue the procedure. Denver Water also found themselves at the center of the fluoride debate, and while they have reduced the dosage of fluoride, per the recommendation of the U.S. Public Health Service, they too, continue to add fluoride to the water they provide. Many who disagree with fluoride being added to drinking water stand firm in their position, keeping the conversation flowing between them and those who view it as beneficial.

The U.S. Public Health Service recommends a fluoride concentration of 0.7 mg/L, or 0.7 parts per million (ppm), to maintain the benefits of reducing the risk of tooth decay, while also decreasing the possibility of dental fluorosis. The U.S. Environmental Protection Association regulates fluoride contamination in drinking water with an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 4 mg/L, or 4 ppm and an unenforceable secondary standard set at 2 mg/L. Other agencies including the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Public Health Association (APHA), the World Health Organization (WHO) and other major health organizations in the United States, believe that community water fluoridation, in recommended low quantities, is safe.

Having clean, safe, drinking water is important to the health of individuals and the environment. Knowing what is in your water and how policy maker decisions can affect public health is the first step in making decisions that will have a positive impact on your personal well-being.

hw_fall_2016_final_coverRead more about water and its connection to public health in the latest issue of Headwaters magazine, “Renewing Trust in the Safety of Public Water”.

Not a Headwaters subscriber? Sign up here, or visit yourwatercolorado.org for the digital version. Headwaters is the flagship publication of the Colorado Foundation for Water Education and covers current events, trends and opportunities in Colorado water.

 

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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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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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Filed under Events, Water Education and Resources

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.

Mighty Mountains

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.

2014.05.01 BMS 5 Coal Basin Placita Geomorphology Field Trip by C. Medve...

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.

 

A12 - Fryingpan Dawn by Mark Fuller

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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Filed under Colorado Foundation for Water Education, Events, Water Education and Resources, Water Supply, Watershed Groups