Nearly 700 gallons of water flows through a towering tank in the Eureka! McConnell Science Museum, down and through a winding, waist-high, 40-foot-long feature that mirrors the Colorado River.

The water rushes over gates and through a scale model of the Grand Valley Diversion Dam in De Beque Canyon while nearby, a tube pipes away some of the river to imitate a transmountain diversion.

Water flows through the dam and a nearby fish ladder, with some diverted into a miniature Highline Canal, which then irrigates an orchard.

The river flows over and under an island and twists around rocks, some of it caught and moved through an Archimedes screw, and finally spraying through fountains and starting the journey all over again.

The museum's newest exhibit, "Water in the West," is a project years in the making.

Eureka! Executive Director Jenn Moore has a background as a hydrological engineer, and she's wanted to add a hydrology exhibit since she started the job in 2016.

More than two years later, that goal is a reality — an exhibit that includes 12 different lessons about water, from turbulence and dissolved oxygen to measuring flow rate.

Moore said above all those specific lessons, the most important one is teaching people the importance of water in western Colorado.

"This is such a valuable resource that they need to respect in perpetuity, or we're not going to have a river anymore," she said.

Moore said the exhibit wouldn't be possible without the nine local, regional and state water groups that stepped up to fund the project.

"With overwhelming results, every time I went to a water entity and said, 'I have this vision to have a water exhibit,' they said, 'Yes, tell us how we can be a part of it.' "

Larry Clever, general manager at Ute Water, said the agency's board committed to the project because it was a good educational opportunity for kids.

"Water in Colorado is life, and it's going to be a continual battle to keep the water on this side of the Western Slope and keep it all from going to the Front Range, so you need to educate people," he said. "Water's better than gold. You've got to have water to live."

Moore said she's proud of the small "grass roots" team of people who created the exhibit.

"There isn't another water exhibit like this in western Colorado or eastern Utah," Moore said. "It's very unique to the Colorado River, and we created it. I'm very proud that Eureka! has this, and it's kind of empowering to think a small team in Grand Junction with limited resources created this. What else can we do?"

That's what intern Nevin Lister is wondering, too.

Lister, a 2018 graduate of the Colorado Mesa University and University of Colorado mechanical engineering program, helped design all of the plastic components in the display.

He spent more than two months on the roller dam alone and eventually built a 1/72 scale model of the Grand Valley Diversion Dam, based on original plans from the Library of Congress.

"This was my favorite project, and I'm sad it's over," he said. "Now what am I going to do?"

While Moore said she's glad to have the exhibit up and running, there's still space in the exhibit for more features.

She's going to ask a group of senior CMU/CU engineering students to design a new feature as part of their senior project every year.