Your Watershed column: Water Summit about keeping state’s water healthy |

Your Watershed column: Water Summit about keeping state’s water healthy

Erin Flaherty
Your Watershed
Erin Flaherty

Growing up in Colorado was a dream for me as a little kid. Bountiful forests and streams to play in, mud cakes to make, stick weapons with which to wage war against my older siblings.

The outdoors were, and still are, a second home to me. My relationship with nature has just matured from messing around with bugs to seeking a career protecting the outdoors. I joined a water quality testing group with the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, Colorado River Watch, and participate in community activities outside.

This past year I had the privilege to be part of the Youth Water Leadership Program’s Summit Leader Team, gathered together to assemble the Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit, which took place on Nov. 15. The side of me that is still a child was thrilled when we went rafting as a team, and the more “adult” side was equally excited to talk about invasive species and droughts.

Being a part of the Summit Leader Team not only gave me experience with the outdoors, but also let me take that experience and put it into a form that could be shared with others. I cannot take my colleagues with me when we analyze the quality of rivers, but I can take the information gathered and explain it to them. When I spoke at the Summit, I took my experiences with the Summit Leader Team, River Watch and MCWC, and childhood to the stage.

But the Summit wasn’t about me. It was about everyone else there, and hearing their stories about how much they loved being outside and the contributions they had made to keep Colorado’s water healthy. The guest speakers, Sarah Porterfield of Tributaries Consulting LLC and Christa Sadler of This-Earth, told us about their experiences with rafting, outdoor education, and history. It was inspiring to watch them speak about conservation and the history of water, and I learned from them that even when I’m an adult, I can still enjoy the outdoors.

In addition to the guest speakers, organizational booths were scattered around with representatives talking to kids. These organizations offered internships, summer programs, and activities for teenagers. Similar to the guest speakers, they offered valuable insight for youth looking for a future in environmental and natural science fields.

Through the Summit, myself and countless others who love the outdoors and science experienced that there are ways to apply what we are passionate about to real life. Pursuing a path that started when I first climbed a tree has brought me to the Healthy Rivers Youth Water Summit, and I hope it takes me to new people, new adventures, and new places to explore. I hope I can take what I learned from the Summit to help the environment of this planet. I’ve always loved being outside. Why not turn that love into something more?

Erin Flaherty attends Coal Ridge High School and is a guest writer for this month’s column with the Middle Colorado Watershed Council, which works to evaluate, protect and enhance the health of the middle Colorado River watershed through the cooperative effort of watershed stakeholders: anyone standing in the watershed. To learn more about the MCWC, visit You can also find the Council on Facebook at

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