H2O Radio
Forests to Faucets
Water 101 for Teachers
A Unique Program in Aurora, Colorado

"Forests to Faucets" is a program by Aurora Water, the water provider for Aurora, Colorado, just east of Denver. The three-day workshop is designed to provide teachers with advanced knowledge about water and water-related issues such as water treatment, the importance of conservation, and the connection between clean water and a healthy environment. The interactive curriculum allows participants to get a behind-the-scenes tour of Aurora's water system, learn from experts, network with other teachers and discover new strategies to engage their students in real-world science.

© Frani Halperin/H2O Media, Ltd.

Frani: Welcome to H2O Radio where we follow water wherever it leads. We bring you stories about everything and anything to do with water. Today's show is about Water 101 for teachers in Aurora, Colorado. Here's your host, Jamie Sudler:

Jamie: Water is a big deal out here in the arid west. All water providers try hard to convey conservation messages to their customers. Denver metro water providers are no exception. Aurora Water is one of those providers. They believe that some of their best spokespeople for conservation are kids.

So how can Aurora effectively teach children about conservation? Enter Aurora’s 'Forests to Faucets' — a program that teaches teachers how to teach about water.

Jamie: We are at the Morrison Nature Center in Aurora and Natalie Brower-Kirton is giving an overview of watersheds to about 20 teachers before we pack into a bus to help up to the middle fork of the South Platte River. Natalie is a Senior Water Conservation Specialist for Aurora; she with others in Aurora started the Forests to Faucets program in 2006.

Tree CookiesJamie: After some indoor activities at the wildlife center, the teachers piled onto a bus for the ride up to the headwaters of the South Platte River, where they will get a better understanding of watersheds. U.S. Highway 285 takes us into South Park and as we go over Kenosha Pass the view is stunning – high mountains to the north, meadows in front and rolling hills to the south. And smack in the middle of this high grassland basin is our destination for this afternoon.

I take a seat next to a teacher at Smoky Hill High School, Dave, and ask him about his expectations for today.

Dave: I think sometimes with my students, they don't always imagine, or can imagine what it's like for the water that they drink, where it comes from. And I think that's really important. Because if they understand where it comes from and what that water actually goes through, it will help them to understand how important that resource is to them.

Jamie: While on the bus, the teachers hear from geologists and forestry experts - And they learn games they can use as teaching tools with their students. A part of the course for these teachers is the importance of trees to a watershed – but the emphasis is on how too many trees can lead to devastating fires, and too few trees after fire can lead to flooding and erosion.

Buffalo Peaks Ranch

Jamie: We arrive at our destination - the Buffalo Peaks Ranch, and it's very windy. The teacher's gather on the side of the original residence which is not currently inhabited. Before lunch they learn other teaching tools.

Jamie: After lunch we huff it to the Middle Fork of the South Platte through wetlands with grasses and willows. The teachers learn about water quality testing using lab kits and nets. They reach into the fast-moving water to scoop river soil looking for insects or invertebrates to gauge the health of the river. They use tools their students will use to test PH levels, turbidity and temperature.

Jamie: After the water testing exercises at the river, the teachers walk back to the ranch and get on board the bus to return to Aurora and the end of their first day. The teachers have spent almost 8 hours learning about forests, forest fires, and water quality. After today’s trip they will spend two more days with Natalie and her crew visiting a reservoir and a treatment plant.

We talked to teachers who had been on earlier Forests to Faucets programs. One of them was Roberta Canipe.

Jamie: You have been on the Forests to Faucets program before?

Roberta: That's correct. My teammate and I took the class together, a few years back and it was an incredible experience. And it was so exciting because we were-- we had so many field trip. We went to the Hayman Fire burn area. We were able to go to water treatment facility plants and see how Aurora Water works. And being a resident of Aurora, it was so exciting to find out how our water came to be. And, and where it comes from, and how we recycle it, and the South Platte, how we use the water. We put it to waste, we clean it up, we put it back in the river, and then get it again, bring it back to the water facility plant and reuse it was-- was really incredible.

Jamie: So then, tell us how you use the Forests to Faucets program now in two thousand thirteen in the classroom.

Roberta: We've taken a field trip, (inaudible) my teammate and I went to the class together. We were given a quality control testing kit. And so we actually took a field trip to the Aurora Reservoir with our students. Also, in the class we got so many resources. Two that have been really beneficial have been the Project WET curriculum guide and the Project Learning Tree curriculum guide. And those I've used in my classroom extensively.

Jamie: What do you think your students are getting out of the program and the tools you learned in the Forests to Faucets program?

Roberta: I think they're really learning how to conserve water and to understand how valuable it is to us. And how you need to really take care of it, and conserve it.

Jamie: The Forest to Faucets program is unique in the Front Range. Aurora’s approach to teaching teachers about water conservation is an impressive effort to put educators in touch with all facets of their water supply so they can pass it on to their students. Natalie Brower-Kirton, Aurora's leader of the Forests to Faucets program tells us why she thinks it is important to communicate with kids.

Natalie: Well, I think kids are an important audience, and a lot of times people don't think about that kids are our customers, too. You know, they're using water, they have choices every day in terms of what they do and their actions affect water just like adults do. So, I think that's one thing, that kids are a big part of our audience and a big part of our customer base. I also think that, as children learn these kind of messages early in life, we hope that they'll really become engrained and part of their life as they move forward. That's sometimes harder to do with adults. 💧

An Unsung Hero of Colorado Watersheds

Since 1998 the Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) has worked to protect the 2,600-square-mile watershed that reaches from the Continental Divide to Strontia Springs Reservoir, southwest of Denver.

Theresa Springer is an environmental educator with CUSP, and when she's not educating the public, both adult and youth, about watershed and forest health, she's battling forest fires and protecting the South Platte watershed against the potential devastating floods. She sat down during the first day of Forests to Faucets to chat with Jamie:
Listen to the interview >>

Theresa Springer at Forests to Faucets, 2013.


Forests to Faucets

Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP)

Aurora Water's Buffalo Peaks Ranch
Watch Video


Co-Producer: Lyle Whitney

Published: September 2013
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