Why Rivers Still Matter

The conservation movement and I go way back. Thirty years ago, when I was about to go to graduate school, my colleagues and I were talking about some of the same things we are now. Habitat for species that need to roam. Clean air and water, especially for poorer communities. And planning for a future that we could already see would be warmer, drier, and more crowded.

Through the years lots of things have happened that have defined our experience as Americans. 9/11. The Great Recession of 2008. These events dominated our thoughts for months on end. There were times in each case when I confess I have wondered how much people cared about conservation, or whether what I was doing was important.

This is one of those times, in some ways the most extreme given how quickly all of our lives have been upended (9/11 is the only real comparison for my age and younger). Our priorities have been rearranged seemingly from one week to the next. We focus on community and family, and wonder: Does it really matter right now how we share our water, and whether rivers and streams are healthy?

Yes, it does. Rivers are as eternal as anything in our world. They’ve been here, creating our landscape, for eons, long before humans roamed Colorado. They don’t care about a virus; they’ve seen millions of them. Our requirement to adapt to a changing climate has not gone away, either. We still have to keep our rivers flowing strong, produce clean power, grow food, supply drinking water, and keep ecosystems intact.

Even in a serious crisis like this one, we at the Water Trust continue to focus on the long-term challenges facing our rivers. Despite being home with two kids and frantically looking for things to do (sometimes good, sometimes bad, thanks for asking!) I have my eyes firmly on our rivers, our river-based ecosystems, and the Water Trust’s commitment to finding new ways to share our water. So do my colleagues.

And your commitment to what we do is just as important. Every time you decide to maintain your monthly contribution, or make a new one, or decide to include the Water Trust in your estate planning, or continue working on a water sharing project that may be a year or two out from implementation, you say something very important: That we will get past this, and that when we do there will be good news about our future if we can keep our eyes on it through the whirlwind. Not just for rivers, but for all the other things we care about.

May this crisis change our all-too-common focus on things narrower than our community. I think it already has.

Please take care of yourself, your families, and your neighbors and community. And thank you.

Andy Schultheiss