Written in Water: Author’s Note

Moltz Reservoir near Johnson Village in Chaffee County stores water used to irrigate alfalfa fields (photo by Joe Stone).

Writing about water has been an important part of my career since 1990, when I started working with some of the world’s leading environmental scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After seven years at the national lab, I literally sold the farm in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and returned to Colorado.

A few years later, I bought my first house in Colorado at the north end of Park County, where I served on the Harris Park Water District board of directors. We managed three small community reservoirs and had a couple of very small water rights, but I learned all about water-right priorities and the need for augmentation water to replace evaporation from our reservoirs.

In 2005, the Colorado Water for the 21st Century Act created nine roundtables, one for each of Colorado’s major river basins. Established to promote grassroots participation in water management, the roundtables bring together stakeholders from all backgrounds. I became an inaugural member of the South Platte Basin Roundtable, where I represented the water interests of the mountain communities of Park County.

I moved out of the South Platte Basin to Salida in 2007, and in 2009 I covered the original Nestlé apring-water permit hearings for The Mountain Mail newspaper. I soon began covering the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District meetings for The Mail, and I’ve been attending and writing about them ever since. When Nestlé applied for a permit extension for its bottled spring-water business, I worked with Heart of the Rockies Radio News to provide the only in-depth news coverage of the hearings, writing some 36 articles about virtually every aspect of the controversial issue.

I’ve written about water issues for every local media outlet – Colorado Central Magazine, The Mountain Mail, The Chaffee County Times, The Leadville Herald-Democrat, Heart of the Rockies Radio … – as well as the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum, the Arkansas River Watershed Collaborative, Palmer Land Conservancy, Colorado Headwaters, and Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics.

As a science editor in the ’90s, I had no idea that I would develop a passion for writing about water or for the work required to produce quality journalism. But the more I learned, the more I realized just how uninformed I was and the more I wanted to help share whatever I learned with my neighbors, which is essentially why I’m writing this series of articles that I’m calling “Written in Water.”

The title of the series pays homage to Colorado’s quintessential poet laureate, Thomas Hornsby Ferril, whose words are inscribed in the Capitol Rotunda: “Here is a land where life is written in water.”

My hope is that this series of articles will help inform Central Coloradans about issues that will shape the future of our communities. After all, water is life, and we need quality journalism to help inform our communities so that we can hold our government representatives accountable for making good choices about our most precious resource.

Joe Stone