Celebrating World Water Day Every Day!

by Lucas Wolf, Assistant International Director 

World Water Day is an important day in a long list of significant calendar dates, sharing the same week with International Day of Happiness, International Day of Forests, and The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. For those organizations that work with water, we know how critical it truly is as an element and necessity of all life on this planet. “Agua es vida, or water is life;” that simple yet profound phrase is uttered in communities across the Americas that have less water than most. It’s a statement and a refrain that captures the full awareness of the delicate nature of life and our total dependence on this one element.

At Trees, Water & People, we seek to expand on that awareness through programs that support enhanced water access in communities throughout Central America and the US. This year in Central America, our efforts with water will focus on rainwater catchment tanks in the Cordillera (mountain range) de Montecillos in the highlands of central Honduras. Our local counterparts, CEASO (Center for Teaching and Learning Sustainable Agriculture) were assisted by several TWP work trip participants this past January. CEASO’s philosophy towards water is holistic and profound; they see the importance of the forests, the soil, and the other elements existing in a balanced cycle that keeps our natural world healthy and able to support rural communities.

Rainwater tank
Work tour participants worked together with CEASO to complete a rainwater catchment tank!

In El Salvador, a country ravaged by deforestation, our counterparts at Árboles y Agua para el Pueblo diligently work to keep their nursery humming with new plants, which will go towards diversifying a smallholder plot or anchoring trees and their roots to a critical watershed. In Guatemala, our partners at Utz Che look to build rural resilience and increased access to water for marginalized indigenous and campesino communities in all of the geographic zones of the country.

La Bendición, our special exchange community that has hosted two recent TWP work trips, seeks to find solutions for their water woes by capitalizing on the old coffee plantation infrastructure that they hope can be transformed to provide the community with more robust water security during the dry season. Here in Managua, work continues at NICFEC, the Nicaraguan Center for Forests, Energy, and Climate, which will serve as a demonstration center for best practices and methods to maximize water conservation and soil management for sustainable agriculture in a changing environment that is projected to see fewer rains in the future.

La Bendición
Community members of La Bendición working to repair old coffee plantation infrastructure to increase their water security.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the region, there are additional stark reminders of the critical importance of water. México City continues to sink due to continued overdrawing of its aquifers, the number of planned resorts for Costa Rica´s booming Guanacaste region is in jeopardy due to a lack of available water, and here in Nicaragua, the land of the large freshwater lakes, many communities south of Managua face an acute shortage of water and virtual dependence on water distribution trucks.

In the United States, TWP stands with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock in their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). Over this past winter, we provided off-grid solar heaters and generators to provide warmth and energy to the protest camps. These camps are the frontline resistance in a struggle for critical water and natural resource sovereignty. All of our strategic partners are focused on water, and we at TWP are striving to find ways to boost our water-related projects as we continue to hear how critically important it is for the survival of our communities.

Examples abound across the globe, and these stories of water stress are reminders that we must continue to focus our efforts on conservation, education, and innovation to stem the looming water crisis. If you would like to support these Central American communities protect and improve their water resources, please donate today!

Give here

Happy World Water Day 2011!

Happy World Water Day! Today, and in many cases everyday, people around the world are working to bring attention to the importance of fresh water, the key to our survival, as well as advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

Planting trees directly contributes to the long-term health of a communities watershed.

At Trees, Water & People, we work to maintain watershed health by planting thousands of trees in Central America and Haiti each year.  We are dedicated to helping communities sustainably manage the natural resources upon which their long-term well-being depends.

From the official Word Water Day website:

This is the first time in human history that most of the world’s population live in cities: 3.3 billion people …and the urban landscape continues to grow.

38% of the growth is represented by expanding slums, while the city populations are increasing faster than city infrastructure can adapt.

The objective of World Water Day 2011 is to focus international attention on the impact of rapid urban population growth, industrialization and uncertainties caused by climate change, conflicts and natural disasters on urban water systems.

This year theme, Water for cities: responding to the urban challenge, aims to spotlight and encourage governments, organizations, communities, and individuals to actively engage in addressing the challenges of urban water management.

The Healthy Rivers Fund and Stream Teams

Trees, Water and People is working on a research project with the Colorado Water Conservation Board to document success stories and lessons learned from the Colorado’s Income Tax Check-Off Program, now caled the Healthy Rivers Fund.

It is a great program that deserves your support. Here is one example of what is being done in the field. If it sounds interesting, you should consider volunteering for your local stream team! Here is a quote from a Stream Team participant for you to consider.

Being a member of a Stream Team really gives you the feeling of being part of a team and making a difference for the environment. The team works together to learn more about water quality and to become more efficient at sampling. The volunteer work helps you care about the stream and take ownership of the stream in your area. It makes you feel good about yourself for doing something positive.

Being at the top of the watershed in Eldora/Nederland gives a good baseline of the various measurements of water quality (nitrates, phosphates, pH, conductivity and Dissolved Oxygen). It will be interesting to compare our values to the ones downstream from Boulder or further east. We‘ve had passer-bys stop and ask what we are doing. People are curious about why all these people are standing or wading in the creek and setting up test equipment on the back of a truck.  It is a good educational opportunity to tell people what we’re doing and why we’re doing the stream analysis.


The fun part is wading in the creek to take samples and to check the width, depth and flow.  Our first training session was early spring when there was still plenty of snow on the ground. We had to use one team member’s cabin/living room to do the analyses since it was too cold to do it outside. Our trainer’s (Paul’s) boot leaked and the water temperature was about 40 degrees F! He never said a word until he poured out his boot and changed socks. The Stream Team also gives you a chance to meet your neighbors and to establish friendships. It’s a great way to become part of the neighborhood. If you like to be outdoors and care about the environment, join a Stream Team today and “Keep it Clean, ‘Cause we’re all Downstream”!


Bonnie Greenwood

Eldora/Nederland Stream Team

Nederland, Colorado



TWP’s Partner Turns 50 and How to Win a Prius!

TWP is partnering with a number of dynamic, grassroots watershed groups in the Headwaters region. The Flathead Lakers, TWP’s partner in Montana, celebrated their 50th anniversary on July 16th. Congratulations are in order for the Lakers, one of the nation’s leading watershed organizations. If you have ever visited Flathead Lake and been lucky enough to enjoy its remarkable beauty, you owe a big “thank you” to the Lakers. If you are interested in what the group is doing visit their website (www.flatheadlakers.org). If you want to help them out, buy a raffle ticket to win a new Prius!

Watershed Services

TWP provides assistance to watershed groups and their leaders. We help build the capacity of these groups so they can be more effective in protecting their local watershed. Why are we working to build grassroots organizational capacity? Hundreds of watershed groups have formed in recent years.  In order to be successful, they need to have strengths in a wide array of areas–fundraising, public outreach, planning, project implementation, board development and volunteer managment just to name a few. TWP helps groups in those areas where they identify a need. We help groups become more effective and efficient so water resources receive the best possible protection.

Your Water

Are you interested in water? Are you concerned about the health of your rivers and lakes? Are water quality, water-related recreation, wildlife and aquatic habitat, or water supply important issues to you?

If the answer is “yes” to these questions, I encourage you to join your local watershed organization. There are thousands of grassroots watershed groups around the country comprised of people like you. While the mission and activities of each group varies, they are built on the idea of bringing people together and involving them in watershed management and protection.

Why would I encourage you to join a watershed group—wherever you may live? My work at Trees, Water and People is guided by two core beliefs:

o    That natural resources are best protected when local people play an active role in their care and management; and

o    preserving local trees, wetlands, and watersheds is essential for the ongoing social, economic, and environmental health of communities everywhere.

The more people involved in the watershed movement, the better off we all will be. If you have any difficulty in finding your local group, let me know. I would be happy to help.

 Jim Webster

TWP’s Director of Watershed Protection

TWP Celebrates 10th Birthday on Earth Day

For the last 10 years, every day has been Earth Day for one organization in Fort Collins. So fittingly on April 22nd, Trees, Water & People will celebrate its 10th birthday on the same day as the global environmental observance known as Earth Day.

Co-founders Stuart Conway and Richard Fox began Trees, Water & People (TWP) with the mission to improve people’s lives by helping them to conserve, protect, and manage the natural resources upon which their long term well-being depends. Together with the help of a dedicated staff and Board of Directors, Conway and Fox have delivered impressive results with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Internationally, TWP has built 25,000 fuel-efficient cook stoves throughout Central America and Haiti, preventing more than 175,000 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into our atmosphere. Compared to traditional open fire stoves, the improved stove uses 70% less wood, vents 90% of the toxic smoke out of the home, and reduces carbon emissions by a minimum of 1 metric ton per year. In 2005, TWP’s fuel-efficient stove project won the prestigious Ashden Award for Sustainable Energy presented in London by HRH Prince Charles. Other work in Central America includes the planting of more than 2 million trees and the creation of 7 tree nurseries to aid in reforestation efforts.

Work with Native American families on Tribal lands has also been a focus of TWP. They have installed more than 200 efficient solar heating systems on the Pine Ridge and Rosebud Reservations in South Dakota as part of their Tribal Lands Program. The solar heaters warm homes during frigid winter months while reducing energy bills by 20-30% for 2-3 decades. In 2007, TWP helped establish Lakota Solar Enterprises; one of the first and only 100% Native American owned and operated renewable energy businesses. In addition, TWP has conducted nearly 30 renewable energy workshops and demonstration installations on 10 reservations across the Great Plains.

On the regional level, TWP provides training and organizational support for watershed protection groups. With a focus on leadership development and fundraising, they offer workshops, individual training, staff evaluations, capacity building, and outreach assistance to the grassroots organizations working to preserve the quality and quantity of the water in the arid West.

This spring, TWP’s local Clean Energy Program will unveil its new SunMobile. This innovative traveling education tool will travel to Northern Colorado schools and community events educating students and residents about clean, renewable energy. The Clean Energy Program is also busy helping to install a 10kW photovoltaic system on the new Bethke Elementary as part of our “Renewables on Schools” initiative. This unit will provide about 10% of the building’s power during the school year and all of it during the summer months.

Over the past 10 years, Trees, Water & People has accomplished great things and looks forward to continuing their commitment to living every day like it’s Earth Day

Here are some numbers from the last ten years:

2,000,000 trees planted
+175,000 tons of carbon offset by fuel-efficient stoves
+115,000 people with reduced indoor air pollution
+25,000 fuel-efficient stoves built
+850 natural wind-breaks & shade trees planted
+202 watershed protection groups assisted
+200 solar heating systems installed
+175 local tree plantings organized
+97 watershed protection trainings hosted
+28 renewable energy workshops hosted
+10 tribal lands with renewable energy applications installed
+8 successful annual fundraising events
+7 international tree nurseries established
+3 outdoor science classrooms created with the City of Fort Collins
+1 SunMobile – traveling energy education for Northern Colorado

= One Organization Working For A Sustainable Future