Roaring Fork Valley Youth Water Summit recap

The Roaring Fork River coursing down the Cascades, near the Grottos, on Independence Pass east of Aspen. The phoro was taken mid-day on June 15, 2017, the day after the Twin Lakes Independence Pass Tunnel that delivers water to the east slope was closed. Credit Aspen Journalism — Brent Gardner-Smith.

From Aspen Public Radio (Elizabeth Stewart-Severy):

Last month, students from across the Roaring Fork Valley gathered to discuss water. At the first-ever Youth Water Summit, teenagers presented their own white papers on everything from water rights to environmental activism…

Pitkin County’s Healthy Rivers and Streams Board sponsored the event, and hired Sarah Johnson of Wild Rose Education to organize it.

“We want these kids to have a stronger water ethic, and a stronger sense of water literacy and river literacy, you might say,” Johnson explained.

Students from local middle and high schools studied issues related to water management across the west at the summit. They learned from water experts and posed their own big questions: What are the effects of the Colorado River running dry? How are art, literature and film used for water activism?

“Watershed issues are not science issues by themselves, they’re very interdisciplinary, whole picture, watershed-wide problems – or opportunities,” Johnson said.

The kids spent months researching the context and the consequences of their chosen topics and presented their findings to classmates. This runs the gamut, as students explore the scarcity of fresh water, the ways graffiti have represented public opinion on dams and how much water is used for agriculture in the arid west…

Tasker said part of the goal is to encourage students to acknowledge the roles they play in the complex world of water management. For example, the Colorado Rocky Mountain School owns a water right on the Crystal River.

“They actually irrigate some fields on their property, and so they are part of the diversion system,” Tasker explained.

The event allowed kids to consider current issues in their own backyards and the bigger picture of water policy across the west. Tasker was particularly impressed with a presentation on the 1922 Colorado River Compact, which governs water rights in seven seven states across the west.

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