Study Session with Elaine Chick

Water Educator Network Member Feature – July 2018

Name and Position: Elaine Chick, Program Manager
Organization: Water Information Program
Became a WEN Member: March 2017
Watershed: San Juan/Dolores
Favorite River: The Lower Dolores River
Favorite Water-Based Activity: Rafting
Our Favorite Quote from Elaine: 

“I pretty much had to drink from the fire hose when I first started to learn all about water in Colorado. It’s very complex, very political.”


Interview with Elaine: 

Where are you from originally? Vancouver, BC, Canada. When I was young my folks moved to Los Angeles and I grew up in California. And then I actually moved back to Vancouver for quite some time and had a totally different career up there.

What was your career up there? I was actually in the music industry for about 15 years, so I was a booking agent, a promoter, opened up Universal concerts in the Pacific Northwest, managed different bands, was a publicist for Bryan Adams and a Canadian group called Lover Boy and a bunch of other different acts. Then, started going into the corporate world and became a corporate special event producer, creative director and technical director.

What brought you to Colorado? I have been coming down to Durango, Colorado for the past 28 years. My sister and family lived here in Durango. And I am a horse woman. I used to come down to ride in all the different parades as well as ride in the Durango pro rodeo … My heart is here. My spirit and soul are here. And I’ve been coming down for so long, that finally I made the declaration that I will not be away from my family any longer and this lifestyle, and 5 years ago I moved here.

What are the primary duties of your job? What I do now focuses on educational programming, outreach, creating events and programs that educate our local communities and the different communities around the region all about water and water conservation. So, I produce a children’s water festival every year, which is an awesome event and task to do by myself, but it does require over a hundred volunteers, which includes our presenters and volunteers on site. We do [the children’s water festival] at Fort Lewis College. This year, we had 750 5th graders, 29 presenters and 36 different classes that attended.

Describe the coolest project that you’re currently working on. Well, they’re all pretty cool. The one that just passed is called Forests to Faucets and it is very near and dear to my heart. I partner with Mountain Studies Institute and the San Juan Mountains Association… It’s a teacher training program. We offer it for free for teachers. We go to different areas each year and we put together a kit that has pretty much all of the accoutrements—the things that the teachers will need to do the activities that we teach them. We also sponsored a book called My Water Comes from the San Juan Mountains that teaches kids about the watershed and there is curricula in there as well…

The other one that’s coming up on September 18th and 19th is the Water 101 & 201. That is all about water law and water education. Topics include Colorado water law, Colorado Water Plan implementation, an explanation of state and local water agencies’ perspectives, water rights, administration, development, and more…

Then of course we just launched our new website, which has a lot of information. It’s waterinfo.org … It’s a work in progress, but it’s definitely a much better resource. The new platform that we have is easier to navigate, more friendly, happier.

Is there anything in particular that people should look for when they check it out? Go to our events section. We also feature all of our partners. That’s one of the advantages of becoming a partner is we give each of our partners a page that has information … And then our resource section … We’ve got an area for ditches and diversions, history of Colorado water, planning for the future, which is all about the Colorado Water Plan.

What made you want to become involved with the Water Educator Network? Initially, I really wanted to touch base with other people who had done the children’s water festival and there was the great water educator program meetings that were happening. That was my first introduction to it and I thought, “How great to actually talk to people on what they’re doing in their programs and what’s been successful and what could be changed to be more successful.” And then, the different programs. I also went on the basin tour that you guys did last year and to get all of these different people together and be able to go out and see and feel and touch our different rivers and have an understanding of how it works and some of the challenges with some of the local people and networking with some of our water associates is great. You know, only being in water for a couple of years, I’m definitely still learning. It takes a long time to really get a good understanding … I consider you guys not only associates but friends … It’s a great way to not only learn and see what you guys are doing but to create a shared community, especially in education.

Describe your proudest water-related accomplishment? I think it’s just jumping in and being able to do what I do—being able to educate people. I’m really passionate about community. That’s part of why I moved down here—to make a difference in my community … And to be able to bring my experience of over 30 years doing outreach, working with nonprofits, doing educational events and major events—to be able to do that in a way that has a purpose (that’s not just for corporate special events) … If I get a handful of kids who have a great takeaway and learn from that, then we’re doing our job. That’s going to make our future better.

What do you do in your free time? Well, I am a horsewoman. Most of my free time, when I can, I ride my horse. That is my passion.

What is your biggest goal for 2018, professional or otherwise? I have quite a few. Professionally, get a little more handle on water information, upgrading our brochures and looking at other programs that we can develop and nurturing my partners, finishing the website. Personally, really committing more time to physical activity and getting out and enjoying the outdoors, which is why people live here.

Is there anything else that you would like to add or that you’d like other WEN members to know? Look at how we can perhaps join together and work in collaboration. How can Water Information Program collaborate with other entities that are doing education?