Teaching the teachers about water

A daylong tour through Denver’s urban watershed will pay off for thousands of kids this summer.

February 21, 2020 | By: Cathy Proctor

What do a bunch of educators do when they get together?

Field trip!

In mid-February, 14 people from five environmental education nonprofit groups that collectively teach thousands of Denver-area children every year spent a day learning how water moves through the urban watershed.

“It was a chance for all of us to learn from each other about how to teach kids about water, and for them to learn more about how water moves from the mountains, through the city and back into the environment,” said Matt Bond, Denver Water’s youth education manager.

A group of people surround a man giving a presentation.
Matt Bond, Denver Water’s youth education manager, talks to environmental educators about how the utility cleans water before it’s sent to customers. Photo credit: Denver Water.


The daylong workshop and tour started with a stop at the Johnson-Habitat Park on the South Platte River, near the junction of Interstate 25 and South Santa Fe Drive. There, a representative from Denver’s Department of Transportation & Infrastructure (formerly the Public Works department), discussed how stormwater is managed and water quality impacts are reduced as the water is guided to the river.

From there the group moved to Denver Water’s Kassler Center at the base of Waterton Canyon to learn how water is collected from the river, cleaned and distributed to customers. The old Kassler water treatment plant, which was  built in 1901 and used beds of sand to filter water from the South Platte River, served as the cornerstone of Denver’s water system until its retirement in 1985.

The day ended at South Platte Water Renewal Partners, formerly the Littleton Englewood Wastewater Treatment Plant, which treats wastewater, after it’s been used by customers, to return the water to the river.

The tour was organized by Denver Water, Denver’s Department of Transportation & Infrastructure and the South Platte Water Renewal Partners.

Tour members will incorporate information from the day into their work with kids through programs operated by The Greenway Foundation and its South Platte River Environmental Educators initiative; the Bluff Lake Nature Center, located on the east side of the Stapleton neighborhood along Sand Creek; Environmental Learning for Kids, which works with underserved, urban youth ages 5-25; the Sand Creek Regional Greenway Partnership, which focuses on Sand Creek; and the Denver Zoo.

“These groups have summer camps for kids and some also teach students in schools. The more that people, especially kids, know about the water they use every day, the better stewards they’ll be of water and our environment in the future,” said Bond.

Denver Water educator Ellen Olson contributed to this story.