Apr 122011
Authors: Shane Rohleder

This Saturday I’m going to be sitting in a room with 60 other northern Coloradans discussing the future of water use in our community. Perhaps some of you would like to join me.

I am a student associate for the Center for Public Deliberation here on campus. The CPD is a program started by Dr. Carcasson, an associate professor in the Communication Studies Department, which helps incorporate more deliberative practices into discussions about pressing civic issues in northern Colorado. As a student associate, I get the privilege of facilitating these discussions, and right now water is the hot topic.

Water may seem as far from politics as it gets, but it’s not –– especially in northern Colorado. The more you delve into the logistical aspects of water use, water law and water rights, the more you begin to understand that northern Colorado is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to where we’re going to get water for our future.

According to Embrace Colorado, an organization exploring choices that citizens of northern Colorado can make now in order to shape our future community, northern Colorado is expected to nearly double in population over the next 30 years. That means potentially more than a million people will be living in Fort Collins and the surrounding communities like Greeley and Windsor. The population increase will create obvious challenges for our community: transportation, housing, economic development and the allocation of our already depleted water supply.

As it stands, roughly 75 percent of the water in the Cache La Poudre River (the river from which Fort Collins residents draw much of their water) is used for agricultural purposes, leaving roughly 25 percent available for municipal use. This Saturday at the Drake Centre in Fort Collins, the CPD is hosting a Water Forum meant to educate the community about our water crisis in Northern Colorado, and more importantly, to facilitate discussions between stakeholders (aka. every citizen in our community) about possibilities for dealing with the upcoming challenges.

As a columnist for the Collegian I get my fair share of chances to be cynical. I get my fair share of chances to be hopeless and write about how corrupt our system is. I also get the rare treat of promoting something worthwhile. It would be a shame if I passed an opportunity like that up.

I’ve facilitated multiple discussions for the CPD, and each time I walk away encouraged about the state of our democracy. I know that sounds too big, as if northern Colorado has the ability to sway the way our federal government is run, but little victories are victories nonetheless. Sitting in an elementary school, or a classroom or an office, discussing issues with tolerance, meant to educate as opposed to debate, with an overarching goal of increasing human communication, is democracy; we simply don’t see enough of it.

Deliberative political philosophy, according to Wikipedia, is a process of interaction between multiple subjects or stakeholders who decide to discuss an issue in a fixed boundary, with a particular set of norms. Having participated in such a process, I can say, having no firm grasp on deliberative theory myself, if you are feeling disheartened about the way governance is enacted attend the forum on Saturday. You will walk out feeling like your voice was heard for once.

The forum will be held at Drake Centre this Saturday from 2:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information go to www.cpd.colostate.edu. The Upcoming Events column on the right hand side of the page has a link entitled Community Foundation of Northern Colorado, which will provide forum times, background information and directions. Hope to see you there.

Shane Rohleder is a senior communication studies major. His column appears Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

 Posted by at 3:17 pm

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