The Fountain Creek Watershed Project is tapping into a Colorado Springs staple - craft breweries - to raise awareness of local water issues.
Now comes the Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance - the first such organization in Colorado - made up of the watershed project, nine area breweries, Colorado College's State of the Rockies Project, Colorado Springs Utilities, the City of Colorado Springs' water resource division, the Greenway Fund and the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District.
Its work is being funded by Planet of Awe, a national environmental stewardship nonprofit.
"Brewshed is a really unique way to access people who wouldn't necessarily bring themselves to a water education event," said Jonah Seifer, events coordinator of the State of the Rockies Project. "We're taking something that people love, in this case beer, and educating them about an aspect of it that is relevant to their lives, like water quality."
Said Larry Small, executive director of the Fountain Creek Watershed, Flood Control and Greenway District: "The alliance ties in well with the district's mission to clean the watershed and to raise public awareness to issues like pollution, litter, debris and the things that impair stream flows."
The local alliance was the brainchild of Allison Plute, Fountain Creek Watershed Project Manager with Colorado Springs Utilities. The group is the fourth of its kind in the nation.
"My hope is to inspire people to be more aware of what's happening around them in terms of natural environment," Plute said. "The more we can engage the community in programs like this, the better our waterways."
"Especially here in Colorado, water is a precious resource," said Judi Wright, of the participating Pikes Peak Brewing Co. "We've developed a really cool community that gets behind a lot of different initiatives, including this."
Beer is 90 percent to 95 percent water, and craft brewers depend on high-quality, clean water.
"Water is the most essential part of the brewing process," said Derik Gentz, general manager of Bristol Brewing Co., another alliance member. "We have to be responsible in how we use it and felt we needed to do something to protect our assets."
As alliance members, the breweries are to promote conversation and education about watershed health and hold at least one fundraiser a year.
The fundraiser proceeds will support Creek Week, an annual community cleanup of Fountain Creek that removed 10 tons of litter and debris from the creek last year, Small said. More than 5,000 people have participated in that and the Adopt-A-Waterway program over the past three years, said Plute.
The Washington (state) Wild Brewshed Alliance was first to bring together water and beer interests. Since 2012, that alliance has grown to more than 40 members and inspired brewshed alliances in Oregon and Idaho.
Washington Wild agreed to let the Fountain Creek Brewshed Alliance use the term "Brewshed" for $1,500 for three years.
Plute hopes the alliance also will educate the breweries. She is setting up a special tour with Utilities' water labs to help brewers understand how water's chemical makeup varies, depending on its source.
"Eighty percent of it comes from the other side of the Continental Divide," Plute said. "Some of it is local; other parts come from Pueblo Reservoir. If a brewery wants a hoppy IPA and they're getting their water from Pueblo, they might need to tweak something to bring out the hoppiness."
She said she's still working on a website and Facebook page for the fledgling alliance and coordinating with breweries to plan community events.
Other participating breweries besides Pikes Peak and Bristol are Fieldhouse Brewing Co., Fossil Craft Beer Co., Great Storm Brewing Co., Peaks N Pines Brewery, Smiling Toad Brewing Co., Storybook Brewery and Triple S. Brewing Co.
The Colorado Springs area has 35 breweries. For more information on the alliance, email Plute at email@example.com.