For anyone in Colorado wondering how water reaches their pipes, there is plenty of public information out there. But a cursory internet search will quickly turn up incomprehensible acronyms — SWSI, TBD, BIP and CWP, just to name a few — along with hydrology charts, infrastructure designs and a complicated set of laws that traces back all the way to the 19th Century.

In an effort to simplify the deluge of data out there, the water community in the South Platte Basin teamed up with a local non-profit to develop a new set of tools to explore data about water management in the basin.

“I thought that rather than referring to big documents and PDF reports that people could look at these live interactive resources and have more engaging discussions on the issues,” said Steve Malers, chief technology officer at the Open Water Foundation and the project’s creator.

With a year and $100,000 in combined funding from the Colorado Water Conservation Board, the South Platte and Metro basin roundtables, Malers was able to sift through reams of water data to create three interactive storyboards.

“There are lots and lots of things out there already, but they aren’t all easy to understand,” said Lacey Williams, public education and outreach coordinator for both the South Platte and Metro roundtables. “We liked the idea of putting together maps and data into a story.”

The storyboards are designed to explain the more dense aspects of water management to the public (and to shed light on some of those acronyms).

Malers also incorporated information specifically for people who work in water.

By crunching numbers and reformatting data to fit into one readable page, Malers hopes that roundtable members and others working in water can use the storyboards to make more informed decisions.

“If they find those things useful, perhaps that can change the paradigm a bit and we can have more data-driven discussions,” he said.

For now, these storyboards are tucked away on the South Platte Basin Roundtable’s website, but Malers and Williams are working to spread the link across the web.

According to Williams, the education committees are already considering expanding the storyboards to other parts of the state.

Brent Gardner-Smith, the founder of Aspen Journalism, and who served as AJ’s executive director until August 2021 and as editor from 2011-2020, is the news director at Aspen Public Radio. He's also been...