On Thursday, the Summit Reads program committee will host a panel discussion on water conservation and how our community can create a lasting water ethic. Moderated by Dave Koop, water foreman for the town of Frisco, and led by four other key faces in the world of water, the discussion will hinge on topics presented by this year’s Summit Reads book selection, “Blue Revolution: Unmaking America’s Water Crisis,” by Cynthia Barnett.
Each of the panelists brings something unique to the discussion. Here’s a bit about them and why they think the topic of water responsibility is so important to Summit County.
Panelist Chris Treese, manager of external affairs for the Colorado River Water Conservation District, said his goal is to make sure that those come to the discussion — people who presumably have some interest and curiosity in water — are rewarded with information that’s relevant.
“I think people in Summit County get it more than anybody else,” he said. “The water is what Summit County is all about — mountain water flows, stream flows for rafting or fishing or the snow. Water is Summit County.
Treese manages a department that is responsible for the River District’s legislative and regulatory governmental relations in Denver and Washington, D.C., education and public information efforts. He said he was asked to be a part of the panel because he has a role that’s larger than Summit County.
“I represent the Colorado River District, almost all of western Colorado water users and the river itself in all matters Colorado rivers, whatever the discussion and wherever it occurs, I’m hoping I can provide a broader perspective on the water dialogue within Summit County.”
Kevin Kinnear is a partner at Porzak Browning & Bushong LLP, a leading water law firm located in Boulder. His practice includes water rights adjudications and appeals, water rights transactions and related real estate and land use law. Kinnear said he was invited to be part of the Summit Reads water discussion to provide a historical overview of the water crisis in Colorado.
“It’s important for people to understand why there’s so much fighting over water,” he said. “Historically, it’s always been that way, since before we were a state. When you’re in a state that’s persistently short of water in supply compared to water demand, it creates potential struggles.”
Kinnear said he would give people in Summit County more background into the history and development of the water struggle between the Front Range and the Western Slope.
“There’s tension there,” he said. “People on the Western Slope have water and Front Range communities are trying to get that water and pull it over to the metro areas.”
Kristin Maharg, program manager at the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, said she hopes for a vibrant and diverse dialogue at the panel discussion.
“I think that sustainable change and sustained solutions come from a really healthy mix of different perspectives, so I look forward to talking with and meeting with people who have different perspectives, so we can build a greater collaboration looking forward,” she said.
The Foundation for Water Education is a statewide nonprofit that offers educational tools and experiences to produce balanced and informed water resource decisions. It’s the state’s only unbiased source of water information, Maharg said.
“Water is the most important resource in Colorado, and it impacts their daily lives, from quality of life and community vitality through food security, through recreational opportunities,” Maharg said. “Summit County is truly at the headwaters of the Colorado River, of the Blue River, which is a tributary. As a headwaters community, the residents have the responsibility to be aware of water resource issues, to care about them and to participate in the dialogue that’s looking at solutions for the future.”
Troy Wineland, water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, is responsible for the administration of all surface and ground water in Summit County. He said he’s hoping the panel discussion will fill in the gaps left by the three previous book discussions in the Summit Reads series.
“The discussion has been very anthropocentric, human focused, and I question how far a water ethic can advance absent the broader, more encompassing ethic,” he said. “It’s so much broader, much deeper, more pervasive issue than the discussions have acknowledged.”
Wineland said water is the most critical natural resource issue locally and around the globe.
“As Cynthia Barnett addresses in her book, if we expect to make any kind of progress with respect to water progress and quality, the dialogue, the paradigm, really needs to change,” he said. “She promotes a water ethic, not too unlike the land ethic we heard decades ago, an ethic more specific to water and its inherent value and importance to humans and the natural environment.”
Water is an incredibly important issue, Wineland said, and he has dedicated his education and career to it.
“On a personal level, it’s an incredibly important issue that I’m very, very passionate about,” he said. “Professionally, as water commissioner, I thought it was important for me to participate on some level and contribute what I can to the discussion of promoting awareness not only here in Summit County but throughout the region.”
Those who attend the discussion will be met by a display of posters adorning the walls of the Finkel Auditorium at Colorado Mountain College in Breckenridge. The posters were created by eighth-graders in the county through a partnership with the Keystone Science School.
“We’ve been working on a program with the entire eighth-grade class, creating their own recommendations of how to manage water in Colorado,” said Dave Miller, educational programs director for the school. “They have created posters of those recommendations, as well as other things they have learned, strategies of water conversation, different stakeholders that are important to the conversation about water.”
Stephanie Katz, Summit Reads committee member, will also be announcing the winners of the countywide children’s poster contest at the panel event.
For more information on the Summit Reads program, visit http://summitcountylibraries.org.