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Graeme Lee Rowlands is an educator, researcher, writer, and organizer who coordinates work on the Columbia River Treaty and other watershed topics between many organizations and people. You can read more about him at

Photo by Pat Marrow (

Water is substance and symbol. It has the unique power to show us where our categories, definitions, and divisions break down. Water is a master of washing away the boundaries. Between ecology and economy. Culture and commodity. Spirituality, recreation, relations. Water shows us that everything is connected. It re-orients us towards relationships.

Water guides my life and work. Born in Honduras, my first word was “agua.” I grew up in California on the shores of the San Francisco Bay. Since moving to the Northwest, no body of water has called to me more than the Columbia River. I first met the river from afar, through reading and writing at university. Searching for a closer connection, I spent the summer of 2017 pedaling my bicycle (and occasionally paddling a kayak) up the watershed from sea to source learning from people and place alike. Since then, I’ve worked hard to create opportunities for others – especially other young people – to become passionate about the Columbia and to foster dialogue about its future

I dream that we as a society will make our choices like water. From headwater springs, values will flow downstream, connecting neighbors and relatives, each tributary finding the others and mixing into consensus where everyone’s contributions are represented, conflicts are reconciled, and needs are balanced. Water will show us the way if we are ready to listen.

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