It’s not hard to imagine that Austin would have never evolved from the tiny village of Waterloo into a bustling cultural and economic center without the help of the neighboring Colorado River. Possibly the most defining visual characteristics of Austin might just be the glistening waters of Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake, reservoirs that have served as a major boon for local aquatic recreation.
Thanks to the use of these waters, Austin has gained both a unique visual aesthetic and another springboard for revenue in a strong local economy.
It may be easy to show Austinites how much the Colorado River has contributed to the growth of this city, but the river extends far beyond Austin's borders. That's why organizations like the Colorado River Foundation exist: to raise awareness for the protection of one of Texas’ most important rivers, from the Highland Lakes all the way to Matagorda Bay.
The foundation seeks to promote natural science education through special activities and outdoor recreation programs for youth living near the river, particularly those who are at-risk.
The Colorado River has always been close to home for me. Growing up in the small town of Columbus, Texas, which is one of many other towns nestled on the banks of the river, I have seen how important these waters can be in serving communities outside of the Capital City.
Just like in Austin, the river in Columbus has provided its own recreational activities, like boating and fishing, as well as one of the best duck hunting spots in the state. Columbus might not host massive music festivals that attract thousands to the river's shores, but it has certainly made the most of its proximity to the water.
Growing up in a county that derived its own name from the river certainly educated me on how important the water from this river can be to wildlife and local rice farmers. The massive drought that gripped the state in 2011 had a major effect on many farms south of Austin, and the Lower Colorado River Authority had to cut off irrigation water for the first time in 70 years. Due to the continued low water levels in the Highland Lakes, it’s very likely that once again the LCRA will have to severely restrict water to farmers once again in 2013.
It’s because of this ongoing crisis that the mission of the Colorado River Foundation seems more important than ever. The foundation seeks to promote natural science education through special activities and outdoor recreation programs for youth living near the river, particularly those who are at-risk.
Educational programs include hands-on learning at the Wilkerson Center for Colorado River Education, as well as in Kids on the Colorado, a rafting and nature tour in which students learn about river stewardship and wildlife conservation. The foundation estimates that at least 65 percent of participating students are from underserved communities and often receive scholarships funded by the Colorado River Foundation.
With the prospect of water resources continuing to be stretched thin in the years to come, the mission of preparing the next generation to understand and handle these emergencies is an imperative for environmental preservation. A sustained environment is a gift that will keep on giving for many generations.
The Colorado River Foundation is a member of I Live Here, I Give Here. You can donate to the Colorado River Foundation directly from this page, using the form below.