Last year on January 1, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper proclaimed 2012 as the “Year of Water.” The year was a milestone for Colorado water, as it marked the 75th anniversary of legislation that created the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the Colorado River Water Conservation District, and the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District. To mark the occasion, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education led an initiative known as “Colorado Water 2012” to raise awareness about water as a valuable and limited resource, increase support for management and protection of Colorado’s water and waterways, showcase exemplary models of cooperation and collaboration among Colorado water users, connect Coloradans to existing and new opportunities to learn about water, and motivate Coloradans to become proactive participants in Colorado’s water future.
The primary focus of Water 2012 was increasing the visibility of water issues with over 200 diverse events held throughout the state. Events included water art exhibits in Durango, xeriscaping classes and tours in Colorado Springs, networking events between students and water professionals in Greeley, water book club presentations in Grand Junction, and a statewide Rotary water symposium in Denver.
Nona Shipman, Assistant Project Coordinator for Colorado Water 2012, collected feedback from attendees and said, “Colorado really seemed to appreciate the events as most of them were free, open to the public, and catered to different age groups.”
Shipman said that one of the most popular and successful aspects of the campaign was the Water 2012 Speakers Bureau. The bureau assembled dozens of water experts—including members of water conservation districts, utility engineers, water attorneys, and Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs, Jr.—who volunteered to give presentations about water issues in their area of the state. Coloradans contacted Water 2012 about an event in their area, and Water 2012 dispatched an expert to give a presentation with an accompanying video.
Another popular activity of the campaign was the Water 2012 Book Club presentations. Over a dozen presentations were held throughout the state by Colorado authors writing about water in the West.
The Water 2012 campaign came at a significant time for Colorado as the summer brought extreme drought conditions and an unusual and alarming number of wildfires. Abnormally low winter snowfall, frequent temperatures over 100 degrees, and a persistent drought that affected much of the U.S. contributed to dangerous fire conditions. Wildfires forced tens of thousands of Coloradans to evacuate their homes—hundreds of which were destroyed—and caused multiple deaths. Water 2012 tried to use the drought conditions and wildfires as a learning opportunity for Coloradans. The campaign created a drought public service announcement that was aired on radio stations on the Colorado western slope during the summer.
As the year of water drew to a close, Shipman said that Water 2012 met and surpassed many of its goals. To measure its success, Water 2012 aimed to reach half a million people, which it accomplished well ahead of schedule in October. Many participants reported that the campaign gave them an opportunity to build new partnerships and relationships with individuals they would not have otherwise met, an unexpected and welcome byproduct of the campaign
Although Water 2012 is over, its supports hope that the momentum will shift into developing the Value of Water long-term campaign—sponsored by a broad group of Colorado water stakeholders including some from Water 2012—with the goal of engaging members of the public that do not already share an interest in Colorado water issues. The campaign will work to increase understanding of the value of water for Coloradans and its impact on their day-to-day lives.
Shipman noted that Water 2012 was not an effort made possible by a few individuals, but the ongoing dedication and effort from hundreds of partners and volunteers was the true strength of the campaign. To honor and cheer the hard work of the campaign, Colorado Water 2012 invites all members of the public to attend a celebratory luncheon on January 30th, 2013. Registration and further information for the luncheon can be found at www.water2012.org.
- Colorado Water 2012, http://www.water2012.org/ (last visited Nov. 30, 2012).
- Colorado Waterwise – Value of Water Campaign, http://coloradowaterwise.org/campaign (last visited Nov. 30, 2012).
- E-mail Interview with Nona Shipman, Assistance Project Coordinator, Colorado Water 2012, in Denver, Colo. (Nov. 19, 2012).