We are all members of the Colorado River Basin community. Whether you live within the watershed geographic boundary or if you rely on the resources from within the Basin, we are all connected members and consumers of the Colorado River.
Living in the headwaters of the Colorado River Basin we have tremendous responsibility to protect this water source:
Rising Demand, dwindling supply creates a wicked problem across the West. Dramatic population growth in the region, the fastest in the U.S, is increasing water demand at the same time drought and warming temperatures are diminishing supply. By 2050, the region’s population is projected to grow to 50 million, further increasing demand.
Native fish and birds are already in decline, and cities and farms often struggle with reduced water supply. The ultimate testament of the demands on the Colorado, the river no longer reaches the sea.
At the same time, our youth are quickly growing up into our complex overwhelming world of problems as well as opportunities. Their creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit give us real hope for tackling the challenges of today and the future. We must create opportunities for them to understand the complexities of today’s wicked problems, create their own voice, gain confidence to stand for what they believe, and articulate their evidence based ideas for change. Most of all, the adult community of professionals (water resources leaders, decision and policy makers, community leaders, and elected officials) must be open to authentic listening and learning from our youth.
The Youth Water Leadership Program is a multifaceted participant driven program for middle and high school students. The education experience is intended to increase water literacy and specifically Colorado River water management knowledge of students. The program inspires meaningful dialogue and community engagement between students, their teachers, and water resource professionals. Students and teachers engage in project based learning to create unique, student designed water stewardship research projects and evidence based action plans pertaining to a specific area of water and river management in the West. The student action plans promote confidence, critical thinking, and leadership skills applicable and tools necessary for the 21st century workforce.
Local Colorado River Watch student groups participate by posing a complex question relevant to their stream sampling. They are investigating the question and then using creative techniques to share the unique features, data, and stories of their stream site. The student suggested action plans include existing and future concerns for their sites such as upstream uses, diversions, and pollutants.
The Youth Water Leadership Program connects students with the best available water resource and stream management information and exposes them to experts in the field as well as introduces future career possibilities. These experiences can include: bicycle ditch tours to understand the flow of water from the headgate on the river to the agricultural ditch on the school’s property with the local water commissioner and hydrologist; finding the spring that feeds the water features on the school property, roll playing water manager careers and making tough water supply decisions, simulating the prior appropriation water rights system in the West, and exploring how the plumbing of the Colorado River system works as well as its limitations.
During the culminating annual Youth Water Summit, students present their action plans and suggestions to water resource professionals (local water resources leaders, decision and policy makers, community leaders, and elected officials) as well as their peers from other schools.
This mini-conference for students and by students allows students the opportunity to come together from up and down the valley and share their science, exploration, research, and suggestions with each other and the community. The students need to be heard by adults who care about their work.
Come see on Tuesday, October 31, 2017 in Carbondale, Colorado. Learn more.