Rivers of Doubt
As “The Year of Water” wound down, a trip to the Cache la Poudre made me realize how much work remains if we truly want to save our waterways.
One benefit of last year’s string of wildfires, Waskom says, is that they finally drew much-needed attention to the plight of our rivers and watersheds. “When folks saw the Poudre running dark molasses brown and the black mess fouling the stream banks, it got their attention,” he says, even though “it will take time to restore the watershed and the aquatic environment.”
In addition to just hoping for a return to a more average snowpack and a wet spring in the lowlands, there are other things we humans need to do. It’s clear that big changes are ahead for Colorado’s rivers. We’re going to have to tackle every issue that impacts them, not just water law and property rights, but tangential concerns such as growing populations that strain water supplies, fracking operations that are largely reliant upon massive water usage, and of course, the ongoing debate over climate change and what we can do about it. We need institutional courage, and it will be up to us regular Joes to educate ourselves, become more engaged in the policy process, and insist that our political players address these problems by coming up with feasible solutions and innovative ideas.
Frankly, I’d rather ignore all this and hang out by the river, fishing and splashing and swimming. But it is possible that, somewhere down the line, such activities will no longer be possible—either for me or, especially, for these middle school kids wading through the silty Cache la Poudre. That’s why I’m going to do my best in 2013 to understand what I love, dry topics and all. Maybe efforts like these eventually will make The Year of Water designations unnecessary, because we’ll be focusing on saving our rivers all year, every year.