The kids in the river were collecting bugs and testing pH balances and measuring turbidity. I was there last fall as a parent volunteer to help with “River Week,” which at first consisted of yelling at kids to quit throwing rocks and telling them that yes, they were supposed to have worn shoes that could get wet.
But once they were all busy filling up their buckets and measuring temperatures, I had a moment to stop and take in the preteens stepping on black-encrusted rocks as they waded through the silty Cache la Poudre River. Still murky from the fires and low because of drought, it looked about as unbeautiful as a river can, and I was struck by how 2012—formally declared “The Year of Water” by Governor John Hickenlooper—had gone so poorly. In many respects, it had become the year of troubled waters—and in all likelihood, things will only get worse.