Water Sentinels Volunteer Tests the Waters in Pueblo
After graduating from Colorado State University–Pueblo with a Biology degree in 2006, Jenny Kedward went to work in the environmental health field in that city. She is now Environmental Coordinator for the Health Department of the City and County of Pueblo.
An active member of the Sierra Club for the last seven years, with more than 20 volunteer leadership positions under her belt, Kedward has served as Chair of the Club's Rocky Mountain Chapter since January 2009.
"My goal is to engage more residents of Colorado in the work we're doing," she says, "especially in Pueblo and areas along the Rocky Mountain Front Range, where the majority of Coloradans live."
Kedward is also the coordinator and founder of the Fountain Creek Water Sentinels, based in Pueblo. Above, Kedward and Pueblo high schoolers on an outing to Fountain Creek. Below, Kedward, at left, and fellow Water Sentinels volunteers stand behind the fruits of their labors after a creek cleanup.
The Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program, with 51 projects and hundreds of partner programs in 41 states, trains volunteers to collect water samples and monitor data with the goal of getting America's waterways cleaned up.
Kedward's biology training and water-testing skills came in handy when the Club's Sangre de Cristo Group started the Fountain Creek Sentinels in 2005 after horrendous sewage spills upstream from Pueblo polluted Fountain Creek.
Longtime Sierra Club leader Ross Vincent, an inveretate clean water activist and now Sangre de Cristo Group Chair, recommended Kedward to national Water Sentinels Director Scott Dye, who asked Kedward to head up the Fountain Creek program. That's Vincent, below left, with Sal Pace, district director for U.S. Congressman John Salazar (brother of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar).
"Through my education at CSU–Pueblo, I learned a great deal about how water works and why it is so vitally important to life on this planet," Kedward says. "And thanks to a grant from our local wastewater treatment plant, I'd spent a year doing a lot of water sampling along two of Pueblo's major waterways."
Below, Kedward trains volunteers to do water-quality testing in Fountain Creek.
Compounding the problem was a chronic lack of attention to water quality in Fountain Creek among residents of Pueblo and Colorado Springs alike. "People were using the creek as a dumping ground," Kedward says. "They just thought, 'Well, it's not next to my house, and whatever I dump in will be diluted and won't stay around.'
"We knew that wasn't so," she says, "but the average citizen didn't. One of the things I'm proudest of is that the Water Sentinels have made great progress in terms of education and outreach—as have the cities of Pueblo and Colorado Springs. This program gives me an opportunity to teach others sampling skills they can use to protect and advocate for our local endangered waters."
One aspect of the Water Sentinels' work that stands out for Kedward is that "volunteers love being able to get their hands dirty and their feet wet and not just go to meetings. They feel they're really making a difference." Below, young Pueblans from a local 4-H camp with water samples taken from Fountain Creek.
With prodding and assistance from the Fountain Creek Water Sentinels, the Fountain Creek Watershed Vision Task Force was recently created by the county commissioners of El Paso (Colorado Springs) and Pueblo Counties to address problems in the creek's 927-square-mile watershed. Recognizing that pollution issues on Fountain Creek had come to a critical point, leaders in both counties began a discussion that led to the drafting and signing of an intergovernmental agreement between the two counties and municipalities in both jurisdictions.
Kedward and the Fountain Creek Sentinels are now helping coordinate efforts to create a regional park along Fountain Creek, from Colorado Springs through the nearby community of Fountain and all the way down to Pueblo—all of which sit astride Fountain Creek along the Rocky Mountain Front.
Among the highlights of Kedward's work with the Sentinels was being asked in 2007 to testify in a Sierra Club lawsuit against Colorado Springs Utilities. "I felt honored to be able to speak on behalf of the Water Sentinels and Fountain Creek," she says. "I was even more proud when the Club won the lawsuit!"