How’s Your Relationship 
with Our Water?

by Sarah Johnson, Special to the Aspen Daily News
Many of us describe ourselves as mountain folks who love this place and all that it encompasses (mountains, rivers, vibrant community, clean air etc.). However, it might be appropriate to reevaluate our relationship with our water and rivers. Following the 2012 extreme drought, this year’s lack of early season snowfall extended the drought and has caused many to pay more attention to snowpack, stream flows, and to be more thoughtful and careful with water overall.

Roaring Fork Conservancy encourages everyone (residents and visitors) to love their rivers. Love them by spending time with them, use them carefully, understand their reach — where do they come from and where they are going.

Water is the life blood of every ecosystem on Earth. In the Roaring Fork Watershed and throughout the arid West, snow is the primary source of water with nearly 80 percent of the annual precipitation falling in the form of snow. In mountain communities, people often watch the weather forecasts anticipating the best powder days on the slopes. Recently people have been watching the forecasts through the lens of drought, river flows, fire danger, and water supply.

As far back as the 1860s when John Wesley Powell suggested that we develop the West based on the geography of watersheds, there has been a documented understanding of the preciousness and limited supply of water. Throughout the ages, mountain people have treated water with tremendous care.

Thinking back in time, mountain people have always relied on finding precious mountain streams and rivers for their sustenance and survival. Whether a Ute Indian, beaver trapper, silver miner, potato farmer, or ski area employee; all have had to take great care of their water to ensure its health and abundance.

As the spring season progresses, the drought conditions have not yet dissipated. This is neither the first nor the last extreme drought of our time. It’s during these times that we must be like those who came before us and practice extreme care and love for our water.

Today we can celebrate and be proud of our high mountain stream health, as this is the water that feeds our homes. Understanding the connection between snowcapped peaks in the headwaters and mid-valley streams keeps us in relationship with our entire watershed. Recognizing these connections between rivers and our lives, we create a more intimate love with our water.

Share your love and understanding of water with your friends, co-workers, and family about the rivers’ presence in your everyday life — the fact that the rivers are the source of our lives. Make your water and rivers part of your everyday conversations. Implement this care and love for water by making a significant impact in your water use and at the river.

One way to care for our rivers is to participate in the 15th Annual Fryingpan River Clean Up next Saturday, April 27th beginning at 8:30 a.m. with a free breakfast. Families, friends, individuals, neighbors, co-workers, civic groups and other river lovers are encouraged to lend a hand spending the morning cleaning up the rivers in Basalt during this fun community event. Come love your rivers!

Sarah Johnson is the education and outreach coordinator for the Roaring Fork Conservancy. Learn more at or by calling 970-927-1290.