As part of our Basin Voyage Program, participants were asked to write a final reflection paper on what they learned on their journey through the Yampa River Basin. The following paper is reprinted here with permission from Aaron Shi, Basin Voyage 2014 participant.
I live in a bubble. Allow me to explain. I live in The Woodlands, a relatively wealthy suburban community of greater Houston. The town is 90% white and not very diverse. As members of this community, we would never give two thoughts about water conservation or how we got our water.
Coming to Keystone and participating in Basin Voyage introduced me to a growing, immediate concern I did not even know existed. In the six days I spent in Colorado, I learned about the water crisis and possible ways to solve it. We were assigned certain stakeholder positions that represent the different interest groups throughout Colorado; mine was Routt County Commissioner. As the Routt County Commissioner, I had to learn the specific needs of Routt County, the growing concerns of water, and possible ways to solve this issue. I learned that Routt County is a very agricultural-based community and a hotspot for tourism. Conserving the land for agriculture and future development proved to be a pressing issue. My experiences on a ranch opened my eyes to a part of the world that I never could have seen back home in The Woodlands.
Because Colorado is split by the Continental Divide and different river basins, the amount of water availability can vary greatly from place to place. Through this, I realized that water is a finite and limiting resource no matter the state or situation. I realized that Texas, similar to Colorado, also exhibits a growing concern for the water. Even The Woodlands is already making big renovations to ease water tensions – large pipes are being built under roads to switch municipal use from ground water to surface water. I must take what I learned here at the Yampa/White River basin and apply that back home in Texas as well.
In Routt County, I discovered that education and awareness could help a lot. I noticed that people were not well-informed about sustainable use of resources and the importance of water conservation and efficient agricultural practices. The same also applies to where I live – people willy-nilly waste water and throw it around as if it were worthless. Because I was privileged enough to come to Keystone for a few days, I must take what I learned and do what I can to educate my peers and family on the importance of conservation.
Finally, Basin Voyage opened my eyes to the world of politics. I was able to experience, first-hand, all the different interest groups meet and discuss possible solutions to the water issue. I realized that it is very difficult to come to an agreement in the world of politics – some agreed on some things, but most disagreed on most things. After being able to present our recommendation to the water leaders, we realized that we only scratched the surface of the issues and more research and actions would be necessary.
My experience with Keystone Science School’s Basin Voyage opened my eyes to a looming water problem that must be resolved in the near future. I will take what I learned and apply it back home to The Woodlands in every way I can. This trip was definitely one I will never forget.