Group wants public to get their feet wet in water policy
As snow fell in Glenwood Springs Friday, a lot of people’s thoughts probably turned to buying snow tires, or maybe a new snowboard.They probably didn’t think about how much of a claim residents of metropolitan Denver have to the water in that snow. Nor did they likely look at the storm as a hopeful sign of a moisture-filled winter that might help replenish Lake Powell and enable Colorado to meet its obligation to deliver water to California.Some 30 people meeting at WestStar Bank in Glenwood Springs Friday took this broader view of the snowstorm, and asked themselves how they might get more people to do the same.A variety of people interested in water policy came together at the behest of the local 2003-04 class of the nonprofit American Leadership Forum. The 17 members of the class hail from as far away as Steamboat Springs and Breckenridge. Class members from the Roaring Fork Valley and Vail area are taking on the project of trying to boost public education about issues involving water quantity and quality, make them more aware of the efforts of various agencies working on these issues, and get them more involved in seeking solutions.”We believe we need to engage the citizens in what you all are doing,” class member Louis Meyer told Friday’s participants. “There’s really a gap that we’re trying to close here in terms of water issues.”Participants Friday agreed with Meyer about the difficulty of boosting water awareness among the public.John Cerise, a member of the Basalt Water Conservancy District board, cited as an example the calls by some people to drain Lake Powell. Without that reservoir, he said, Colorado wouldn’t be able get the water to California that is promised under an interstate compact.”Everybody needs to have a basic understanding of where their water comes from,” he said.Participants pointed to the efforts of organizations such as the Roaring Fork Conservancy and Colorado River Water Conservation District in promoting education about water among both adults and children.Peter Roessmann, educational specialist for the river district, suggested some ways that awareness could be expanded, from working with the media, to conducting focus groups, to holding what he called “water festivals.” He said these festivals have proven successful elsewhere, and involve having elementary school students take a field trip to learn about water.A speaker series also was suggested. In Eagle County, something similar takes place, under the name of Water-Wise Wednesdays.Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt said it’s one thing to get the public involved in talking about water. “But do we have any good solutions?” she asked.She said it’s hard to talk about conserving water in a time of drought, for example, when state water law conflicts with conservation. That law is sometimes described as “use it or lose it,” and encourages water consumption to preserve water rights.Cerise expressed frustration over the fact that the heavily populated Denver area holds the political power in Colorado, making it difficult to keep it from diverting water from the Western Slope.But Kitty Sweeney, a former executive director of the American Leadership Forum’s Rocky Mountain Chapter who now lives in the Denver area, said Eastern Slope residents also appreciate the importance of keeping enough water in the mountains to preserve their scenic beauty.”We’re all Coloradans, we have to figure it out,” she said.Frank Taverna, another of Friday’s participants, said the answers to Colorado’s water problems can’t come too soon.”It just starts to overwhelm you that we have an urgency to do something about it,” he said.Contact Dennis Webb: 945-8515, ext. email@example.comGet involvedAnyone interested in finding out more about the efforts of local American Leadership Forum graduates to increase public involvement in water issues may contact Louis Meyer at 945-1004, or firstname.lastname@example.org.Anyone interested in finding out more about the efforts of local American Leadership Forum graduates to increase public involvement in water issues may contact Louis Meyer at 945-1004, or email@example.com.
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