Annual event includes games, exhibits, education

Understanding the importance of water in the Upper Arkansas River Valley and beyond is the focus of the Second Annual Salida Water Festival. This year, organizers are working with the Foodshed Alliance, and the event will coincide with the Salida Farmers Market at Alpine Park from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 26.

Ashley Ahlene, Foodshed Alliance market manager, said, “Of course working together made sense – water and food are intrinsically linked. Additionally, the Foodshed Alliance is all about partnerships; markets are hubs for people coming together.”

Chelsey Nutter, Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District project manager, said last year the inaugural Water Festival came about thanks to a grant received by the Colorado Water Conservation Board and given to the PEPO (Public Education

Participation and Outreach) Arkansas Basin Roundtable Workgroup to implement. This year, the Upper Ark district has taken leadership of the festival and will continue to organize it in the future. The goal is to expand the water festival into Buena Vista, Cañon City and Westcliffe, as Fremont and Custer counties are included in the district’s coverage area.

There will be 10 booths from government entities and nonprofits on a wide variety of water resource topics. For example, Greater Arkansas River Nature Association will demonstrate water usage by noxious plants versus native plants and a hands-on watershed trailer. Staff from the Cañon City Water Department will discuss water quality testing and stormwater drainage. Firefighters from the Chaffee County Fire Department will have trucks on hand to educate attendees about the importance of water resources in fighting fires. They will also organize a “water bucket brigade” race. Central Colorado Conservancy will have a booth on river restoration. An interactive chalkboard will educate about river systems and their protection. Chaffee County Public Oral Health Program will use interactive games to discuss the different levels of fluoride in the county’s water.

In addition to the family-oriented exhibits and demonstrations, there will also be an interactive scavenger hunt involving farmers market vendors. The hunt will “connect water to each booth at the market and will explain how we use water to make products. Hopefully, it will make the connection that water is critical to everything we do,” Nutter said.

“Land and water resources are central to agriculture and rural development,” Ahlene added. “The way that land and water resources are used is essential to human prosperity and improved food security.”

When people wonder about the greenness of this desert valley, Nutter said, it can be explained through the diversion of water, water law, storage and other management. “Water benefits everyone in the valley.”

This event is free and open to the public. Nutter hopes the take-away from the festival is a promotion of collaboration and cooperation when it comes to water. “It’s all connected.”

Interested in having your own informational booth? Email Nutter at projects@uawcd.com.