Several local nonprofits are partnering with Helena’s craft breweries to raise awareness about that critical ingredient in all good beer: good water.

The Montana Watershed Coordination Council is holding community nights starting Wednesday at all five Helena breweries along with launching a new T-shirt sold at the breweries celebrating the Ten Mile Watershed. The shirt, done by artist Seth Roby, features the logos of Snow Hop, Blackfoot, Lewis & Clark, Ten Mile and Crooked Furrow breweries worked into the landscape of the Ten Mile Creek drainage. Surrounding the image is an antique frame with the nonprofits including the council, Prickly Pear Land Trust, Lake Helena Watershed Group and Lewis and Clark Conservation District.

Roby worked with Erin Farris-Olsen, executive director of the council, on the shirt. While he has been the artist for a number of shirts, this one came with its own set of challenges.

“How do you take such complex logos and bring them all together in one composition?” he asked himself.

The inspiration for the wooden frame surprisingly came from the scratched images school kids would etch into desks.

“When a kid carves a name into wood it becomes an identity, and I remember I used to love seeing that history carved into desks,” Roby said.

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Roby credited Farris-Olsen for bringing a number of specific ideas that helped capture the watershed idea.

“We talk about watersheds and people automatically think we’re talking about water, but really it’s more the water that connects us, it’s the water that brings us together,” she said. “We don’t have water running directly through our town like Missoula does or Great Falls does, and yet water is really crucial to our way of life.”

Farris-Olsen often sees a disconnect between people in the Helena area and their water sources. City water usually comes from the mountains west of town through Ten Mile Creek. But when Ten Mile water runs low, the city taps the Missouri River and that often comes with complaints about the taste.

“When Helena gets its water from the Missouri then everybody talks about how we don’t have good water, but in Helena we don’t talk about the health of our watershed and how the growth in our community may affect that and rely on that,” she said.

Proceeds from the shirt sale go to the council and its work with watershed groups statewide, including through grants and technical assistance. Along with breweries offering them for sale, the council will sell them through its website at http://mtwatersheds.org/app/.

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Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 @IR_TomKuglin


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