@ColoradoStateU Water Sustainability Fellows team up with Denver students to raise water awareness in communities of color

From Colorado State University (Cyrus Martin):

The National Western Center Youth Water Project, now in its second year, is an eight-week internship program created by CSU’s Colorado Water Institute to foster collaboration between high school and University students around water conservation, education, and policy. The program is designed to inspire underrepresented youth to engage and inform their peers about water-related issues and resources.

Eight students are participating in this year’s program — four high school students from the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea neighborhoods in north Denver, and four CSU students participating in CSU’s Water Sustainability Fellows program. The 2018 cohort identifies as the 5280 Youth Water Project.

The student interns have been able to attend a number of conferences and events, including CSU’s inaugural Water in the West Symposium. The internship’s primary objective, however, is to plan and deliver Colorado’s first Youth Water Expo, which will be held in Argo Park on Saturday, August 4, from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. The family-friendly event is free and open to the public.

Organizations supporting the event include the Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center, Denver Water, Metro Wastewater, the Gateway II fund of The Denver Foundation, Hunter Industries, CH2M Jacobs, the Walton Family Foundation, and Groundwork Denver. The Expo will be included as part of the lineup for the fifth annual Denver Days, a week-long event created by Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

Aliyah Fard, 18, graduated from Colorado Academy in June and supports the group’s outreach and event planning efforts. Recently, she received an acceptance letter from Whitman College in Washington, where she plans to major in environmental science.

“I’ve really been enjoying the actual event planning and pulling everything together — reaching out in the community,” said Fard. “I think [people] should attend because we’re going to have a lot of valuable information. And it’s also going to be fun!”

Fard is particularly interested in water rights, and is debating whether to pursue a career in water law or politics after college.

Hugo Lezama, 22, is a senior at CSU, majoring in civil engineering. His second year participating in CSU’s Water Sustainability Fellows program, Lezama went outside his “comfort zone” by taking the lead on the project’s marketing efforts — teaching himself Adobe Photoshop and developing the group’s social media presence.

“All of the activities we’re going to put on are made specifically for the people in the Globeville, Elyria, and Swansea communities,” said Lezama, noting that his neighbors “don’t think about simple things like watering their lawns at certain times, or how to use their water effectively.”

The Expo will deliver various water-related resources and activities to north Denver residents and provide context around the National Western Center redevelopment project taking place in their neighborhoods over the coming years. The expansion will include a building focused on water education and community engagement.

“I’ve been focused on getting my work done and haven’t really taken a step back to see how important this really is. It’s kind of a big deal!” Lezama said.

Post-college, Lezama intends to pursue a Masters degree to equip himself for an engineering career, with a focus on water.

“At some point, if I have enough money — which is why I want to get my Masters — I want to start my own foundation and start funding those kids [in the Latino community],” said Lezama. The foundation he envisions would provide internships, scholarships, networking opportunities, mentoring, and “everything you need to be successful.”

Following the Expo, the 5280 Youth Water Project team hopes to create a Youth Water Advisory Board to encourage more youth to get involved in water conversations. The group aims to have participation from at least 10 youth from communities of color, with a 50-50 mix of male and female members. The Advisory Board would host monthly meetings to explore opportunities to bring water education and advocacy to other underrepresented youth in Colorado and beyond.

@CSUWaterCenter goes on the road — @ColoradoStateU

Colorado’s diverse landscape has a rich natural and agricultural heritage that fuels the economy. Photo: Michael Menefee

Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Jenny Frank):

The Colorado State University System is conducting monthly listening tours to gather ideas from people around the state about the type of educational programming they would like to see at the future National Western Center (NWC).

“CSU is committed to serving all of Colorado through the National Western Center project, and these listening tours are a first step toward understanding how best to do that,” said Jocelyn Hittle, CSU’s director of Denver program development and a participant in the tours.

The tours are a brainchild of Christie Vilsack, a lifelong educator and the former first lady of Iowa, who, along with her husband and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, joined CSU in April 2017 as special advisors for the NWC.

Christie Vilsack recognizes the importance of not only providing updates to communities around the state, but also listening to ideas and insights to create a space that reflects the needs and wants of Colorado residents.

Kathay Rennels, associate vice president for Engagement at CSU, sees the tours as a way to ensure the future NWC is as much a part of Colorado as the National Western Stock Show has been for the last 112 years.

“The input and ideas from all across the state are important,” Rennels said. “All citizens of Colorado need to see themselves at the NWC and the NWC needs to reflect all of Colorado.”

Building collaboration for the future

Many Colorado communities are already doing great work around water, energy, food systems, the environment, and health – CSU’s five themes at the NWC. And, as Vilsack often points out during the tour’s community meetings, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.

“As we travel to communities around the state, our CSU team is learning about the wealth of STEM-Ag related programming that local communities have developed for their students,” she said.

“I look forward to partnering with schools, organizations, and communities around the state as CSU develops K-12 programming for the water building, the animal and equine health center and the CSU food systems center.”

Hittle agrees.

“We want to hear from educators, our Extension and Engagement staff, elected officials and leaders, and others who work in community and economic development to best understand how the NWC can showcase the excellent work that is happening statewide, and to connect communities across the state to the various types of resources that the NWC will be uniquely suited to provide,” she said.

Creating statewide understanding

The tours also provide the opportunity for CSU to share its vision for the National Western Center beyond the Denver metro area, where it is most well-known. Darlene Carpio, regional director for U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, helped organize stops in Yuma County and expressed her appreciation for the tour.

“The listening tour provided valuable information and connections on the expansion of the National Western project,” said Carpio. “The effort to include the rural portions of Colorado in the conversation was greatly appreciated and will prove to be positive to the entire state moving forward.”

Colorado communities visited to-date include Fort Morgan, Sterling, Yuma, Wray, Burlington, Lamar, La Junta, Rocky Ford, Castle Rock, Lone Tree, Steamboat Springs, Rifle, Grand Junction, Montrose, Gunnison, Greeley, Center, Alamosa, Pueblo, Eagle, Keystone, Frisco, and Lake City; and more tours are planned for the fall.

The CSU team notes that the experience of connecting with constituents around Colorado has been important to the process of creating a well-rounded project and understanding the topics that matter to different communities – but they admit it hasn’t been all work.

“Traveling the state to introduce the current plan and vision has been so much fun,” said Rennels.

Reusing water becoming a theme, but Colorado River snowpack a mystery — The Mountain Town News #WaterintheWest2018

The Dolores River, below Slickrock, and above Bedrock. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism.

From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

Recycled and reused water was a recurrent theme in comments at the inaugural Water in the West Symposium in downtown Denver on April 26, particularly in regards to Colorado’s South Platte River Basin.

The 243,000-square-mile basin includes Denver and other cities of the northern Front Range, with a population now of 3.5 million expected to grow to 6.1 million by 2050. Viewed as an economic region, it includes not only the nation’s 9thmost agriculturally productive county, Weld County, but also arguably what Mazdak Arabi, associate professor at Colorado State University, suggested is the fastest-growing economic river basin in the United States.

But the South Platte Basin has, from the 1890s forward, outstripped its native supplies, depending instead upon vast amounts of water imported from across the Continental Divide.

“Any water imported from the Western Slope should be reused and recycled to extinction,” said Mizraim Cordero, vice president of government affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Bruce Karas, vice president of environment and sustainability for Coca-Cola North America, talked about “cleaning up water as much as they can and reusing it” in its operations.

Dan Haley, chief executive of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, talked about recycling of water used in hydraulic fracturing. Fracking, he said, uses only 0.10 percent of Colorado’s water each year, and the wells created by the fracking operation typically produce for 25 to 30 years.

Colorado always has had de facto water reuse. Water drained off a farmer’s field goes into the river and becomes the source for another farm downstream. Ditto for sewage treatment. The South Platte River is virtually a trickle at times as it flows through Denver—until enlivened once again (at least by standards of the arid West) by the gushing waterfall of releases from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s treatment plant.

Beginning in 2010, with completion of Aurora’s Prairie Water Project, reuse was stepped up. Aurora drilled wells along the South Platte near Brighton and now pumps the water 34 miles and 1,000 feet higher to a high-tech treatment plant along E-470 and then mixes it with more water imported directly from the mountains.

This water infrastructure has also been put to use in the expanded WISE partnership, which was directly referenced by Bart Miller, of Western Resource Advocates. Denver Water provides some of its rights to reuse its water imported from the Western Slope to be used again by south metro communities that have been heavily reliant upon diminishing aquifers.

That recycling itself combined with stepped up conservation in the metro area does itself pose a growing problem of its own. Jim McQuarrie, chief innovation officer at the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, said total dissolved solids in the South Platte River have been rising. “The river is getting saltier and saltier and saltier,” he said. “We are creating a salt loop.”

Salt can be removed, creating a brine that poses a disposal problem. The technology is also expensive, as was mentioned by Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Leprino Foods.

Leprino is the nation’s largest supplier of mozzarella cheese, most of which is produced in Western states and most of which is consumed in Eastern states. Part of that production comes from two cheese factories in Colorado, the first in Fort Morgan and more recently a plant in Greeley on the reclaimed site of the former Great Western sugar factory along the Poudre River.

In its operations, Leprino can reuse water, but not as completely as it would like. Reverse osmosis does a “pretty good job” of cleaning up water, but is very expensive. “It uses a lot of electricity. There has to be a better way.”

Figuring out that better way, Reidy went on to say, might be one role for the new water research campus being developed jointly by Denver Water with Colorado State University.

This was the coming-out conference for this new partnership. The Water Resources Center is to be located on the grounds of the soon-to-be-redeveloped National Western Complex north of downtown. Site of the annual stock show and rodeo, it’s bisected by I-70, with the most visible infrastructure being the aging but still functional Denver Coliseum. Both policy and technology research foci are envisioned.

The partnership was formally announced last September, but even then, much was yet to be worked out.Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water, at the initial announcement, said the exact research area was yet to be determined,as well as how to set the work apart from that being done elsewhere.

A continued exploration of that question was another theme in the first day of the Water in the West Symposium. Denver Water plans to move its water quality laboratories to the campus. Lochhead said the agency conducts 200,000 water-quality studies per year.

Lochhead also talked about emerging water issues: nutrient loading, abandoned mine pollution and – yet again – the push to use recycled water. That reuse, he added, “will require innovation and a number of different policy innovations to ensure we protect public health while using water efficiently.”

Yet another suggestion came from Brad Udall, a senior climate research scientist at Colorado State University. He has carved out a specialty in trying to understand how the changing climate is impacting the Colorado River Basin. A 20 percent decline in precipitation has occurred in the basin—the source of much of the water of both cities and farms in eastern Colorado —from 2000 to 2017. This is despite a 5 percent increase in moisture content in the warming atmosphere.

“Something very odd and unusual is going on,” Udall said.

About half the volume of the reservoirs has been lost during this period, about two-thirds of which can be explained by reduced precipitation.

Increased temperatures is driving what is commonly thought of as drought. Temperature inducted losses in the basin will more than triple by 2050, he said, and increase almost six-fold by the end of the century.

Snowpack remains a mystery. “We really don’t know what is going on (with the snowpack),” he said in suggesting a topic area.

Perhaps the most over-arching statement came from Cordero, from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, who suggested that the campus can became the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) for water.

Lochhead neatly summarized the reason for the symposium and the new partnership and research center at the 250-acre National Western Complex by using a phrase he has often used since becoming chief executive of Denver Water. Colorado, he said, cannot grow the next 5 million people the same way it did the first five million residents.

More more about water reuse in Colorado, see WateReuse Colorado.

Water in the West Symposium creates foundation for work in water #WaterintheWest2018

Water in the West Symposium April 27, 2018. Photo credit: Colorado State University

From Colorado State University:

Solutions to water needs lie in the hands of the next generation, said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. He was in Denver April 27 for a conversation about water with former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, who serves as a special advisor to Colorado State University, as part of the inaugural Water in the West Symposium.

“We’re seeing a lot of millennials getting their hands back into the soil,” Perdue said.

Perdue and more than 30 experts in water – ranging from conservationists, politicians, researchers, farmers, to business professionals – shared their insights during the two-day event. The sold-out Symposium drew more than 400 attendees and highlighted the greatest challenges surrounding water in the Western region. Experts explored best practices and proposed solutions to address emergent challenges – all efforts that will be continued at the future Water Resources Center at the National Western Center.

Topics discussed during the Symposium included:

  • Funding for water projects
  • Federal, state, and local policies surrounding water
  • Water education
  • Colorado’s Water Plan
  • Water research
  • Water innovation
  • Water infrastructure
  • The need for cross-sector collaboration
  • Water is an endless topic of discussion in the West. Especially in Colorado – the only headwater state in the continental United States, which means all of the water in the state flows outside state boundaries – everyone has an interest and a stake in water, but leaders at the Symposium firmly held the importance of collaboration in working toward solutions around water challenges.

    “These issues are not partisan, and we should not allow them to become partisan,” said U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), during the Symposium. “We can actually solve these problems; and we might find ourselves able to accomplish a lot — and we should.”

    Tony Frank, president of CSU and chancellor of the CSU System, joined other speakers in reiterating the theme that water needs to be at the forefront of conversations around growth of cities, agricultural production, economic development, recreation – and all aspects of the future.

    “As you’ve heard virtually every speaker say, what happens around water will in a very real sense influence the world we leave to future generations,” said Frank.

    More from Colorado State University:

    Related news from the Water in the West Symposium

    A $10 million grant to fund the Irrigation Innovation Consortium was announced; the consortium is a collaborative research hub involving five university partners, including CSU, that will be built in Fort Collins in the next three years.

    News from day one of the Symposium.

    A full video recording of the Symposium.

    Symposium photos.

    Water experts talk drier Colorado at new Colorado State forum

    Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at CSU, telling a crowd of water mavens on April 27 in Denver that Colorado faces a drier future, which means more fires. Udall studies the Colorado River basin and says there's been a 20 percent decline in water in the system since 2000.

    By Brent Gardner-Smith, Aspen Journalism

    DENVER – Some heavy hitters were invited by Colorado State University to speak at the inaugural Water in the West Symposium in Denver last week, including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the prior secretary of agriculture; Tom Vilsack of Iowa; U.S. Sen. Michael Bennett; and Gov. John Hickenlooper.

    But the two players likely to have the biggest long-term impact on water in the West — climate change and drought — were escorted to the event at the McNichols Civic Center Building in downtown Denver by Brad Udall, a senior water and climate research scientist at CSU who studies the Colorado River Basin.

    Udall’s version of climate change came wearing a T-shirt Udall designed with five “climate basics” listed on it: “It’s warming; It’s us; Experts agree; It’s bad; We can fix it.”

    “The outlook is for a much drier Colorado” Udall told an audience of about 400 people on Thursday, which means less water and more fires in the state.

    And he noted, “climate change is water change.”

    Brad Udall, a climate researcher at CSU, has boiled down his findings to fit on a t-shirt. He told an audience at the inaugural Water in the West Symposium to expect a drier Colorado due to rising temperatures caused by human-induced climate change.

    ‘Odd and unusual’

    Colorado State is preparing to build a new water center in partnership with Denver Waver on the National Western Center campus that’s being developed on the site of the long-running stock show in Denver.

    And the symposium was a way of illustrating how one aspect of the new water center will function by bringing people together to talk about water policy and science.

    The current 18-year-drought in the Colorado River Basin now has a name: the “Millennium Drought,” and it’s got Udall spooked.

    “Something very odd and unusual is going on here,” Udall told the symposium crowd.

    He said the period from 2000 to 2017 “is the worst drought in the gauged record” of the Colorado River and that flows have declined an average of 20 percent a year since the turn of the century due to rising temperatures.

    It’s also time, Udall said, to consider that “drought” is no longer an apt description for what Colorado is facing, which is really long-term “aridification.”

    “‘Drought’ implies we’re going to get out of it,” Udall said.

    A slide from Brad Udall's presentation on April 26, 2018 at the CSU Water in the West Symposium. The slide describes the 20 percent drop in Colorado River flows since 2000, a condition Udall expects to also be the case in 2050.
    U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, left, shakes hands with Tom Vilsac, the prior secretary of agriculture, on Friday in Denver during the Water in the West Symposium put on by CSU. Perdue, a Republican, and Vilsac, a Democrat, had a civil and well-informed exchange about water and ag in front of about 400 people.

    Insidious issue

    Perdue, who was governor of Georgia in 2007 during an extreme drought in that state, said Friday that he learned that drought brings out intense emotions in competing water users.

    “Drought is probably one of the most insidious, stressful occasions that I can think of,” Perdue said, in large measures because “you have no idea when it is going to end.”

    He acknowledged that water shortages in Georgia are rare compared to Colorado and the West.

    “We found ourselves with some of the issues that I know you all are wrestling with, and that is the things that happen between municipalities, agriculture, recreationalists, endangered species, and all those things,” Perdue said.

    Perdue, a Republican in President Donald Trump’s cabinet, was interviewed onstage by Vilsack, a Democrat who led the Department of Agriculture under President Barack Obama and is now working with CSU on food and water issues.

    The exchange between the two was civil, given the current political climate, and it ended with the two of them reaching out to warmly shake hands and look each other in the eye.

    Sen. Michael Bennett (D-Colorado) said Friday at the Water in the West Symposium in Denver that Coloradoans are going to have to trust each other when it comes to water, even if they disagree on things. Bennett also praised Colorado's 2015 state water plan, saying it is a testament to people coming together.

    Fire budget

    Perdue had also been praised earlier in the day by Sen. Bennett, a Democrat, for Perdue’s help in passing a bill to restore operational funds to the U.S. Forest Service that had been eaten up by the cost of fighting major fires in the West.

    Bennett said he’d been working on the issue for nine years and considered both Perdue and Vilsack, for his earlier help on the issue, “heroes of Colorado.”

    Bennett also praised the Colorado Water Plan published by the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2015.

    While acknowledging that the plan is “not perfect” and some people find it lacking in details, while others consider it too detailed, Bennett said the plan is a testament to how the state came together over water, “understanding that there is no way we can address this issue if we are at each other’s throats.”

    Gov. Hickenlooper leaving the stage Thursday at the Water in the West Symposium in Denver. Hickenlooper, who said he is literally counting the days until his term ends, can count as his legacy the 2015 Colorado Water Plan.

    Legacy plan

    Gov. Hickenlooper, who signed the executive order in 2013 calling for a state water plan by 2015, spoke to the symposium Thursday, noting that with 259 days to go, he is now actually counting the days until his term of office ends.

    He said the water plan, which weighs 4 pounds and took countless meetings over two years to produce, was referred to in the governor’s office during the process as “the colossal exercise.”

    Regardless of what one thinks of the plan itself, the governor’s water-planning process did result in a working agreement between water interests on Colorado’s Front Range and Western Slope over a future potential new transmountain diversion under the Continental Divide.

    Senior water mangers from both the Front Range and West Slope praised that agreement, or “conceptual framework,” as recently as April 18 at a regional water meeting in Grand Junction.

    Given this year’s low snowpack, Hickenlooper also said Thursday the state was now “drawing up the paperwork” to activate the second stage of the state’s drought management plan.

    Editor’s note: Aspen Journalism is covering rivers and water in collaboration with The Aspen Times, which published this story on Monday, April 30, 2018, and with the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, which published the story on Tuesday, May 1, 2018, the Vail Daily, which published the story on May 1, 2018, and the Summit Daily News, which published it on May 1, 2018.

    #WaterintheWest2018: Reusing water becoming a theme, but #ColoradoRiver #snowpack a mystery — The Mountain Town News #COriver #

    A field of produce destined for grocery stores is irrigated near Yuma, Ariz., a few days before Christmas 2015. Photo/Allen Best – See more at: http://mountaintownnews.net/2016/02/09/drying-out-of-the-american-southwest/#sthash.7xXVYcLv.dpuf

    From The Mountain Town News (Allen Best):

    Recycling and reusing water in Colorado

    Recycled and reused water was a recurrent theme in comments at the inaugural Water in the West Symposium in downtown Denver on Thursday, particularly in regards to Colorado’s South Platte River Basin.

    The 243,000-square-mile basin includes Denver and other cities of the northern Front Range, with a population now of 3.5 million expected to grow to 6.1 million by 2050. Viewed as an economic region, it includes not only the nation’s 9thmost agriculturally productive county, Weld County, but also arguably what Mazdak Arabi, associate professor at Colorado State University, suggested is the fastest-growing economic river basin in the United States.

    But the South Platte Basin has, from the 1890s forward, outstripped its native supplies, depending instead upon vast amounts of water imported from across the Continental Divide.

    “Any water imported from the Western Slope should be reused and recycled to extinction,” said Mizraim Cordero, vice president of government affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce.

    Bruce Karas, vice president of environment and sustainability for Coca-Cola North America, talked about “cleaning up water as much as they can and reusing it” in its operations.

    Dan Haley, chief executive of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association, talked about recycling of water used in hydraulic fracturing. Fracking, he said, uses only 0.10 percent of Colorado’s water each year, and the wells created by the fracking operation typically produce for 25 to 30 years.

    Colorado always has had de facto water reuse. Water drained off a farmer’s field goes into the river and becomes the source for another farm downstream. Ditto for sewage treatment. The South Platte River is virtually a trickle at times as it flows through Denver—until enlivened once again (at least by standards of the arid West) by the gushing waterfall of releases from the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District’s treatment plant.

    Beginning in 2010, with completion of Aurora’s Prairie Water Project, reuse was stepped up. Aurora drilled wells along the South Platte near Brighton and now pumps the water 34 miles and 1,000 feet higher to a high-tech treatment plant along E-470 and then mixes it with more water imported directly from the mountains.

    This water infrastructure has also been put to use in the expanded WISE partnership, which was directly referenced by Bart Miller, of Western Resource Advocates. Denver Water provides some of its rights to reuse its water imported from the Western Slope to assist south metro communities that have been heavily reliant upon diminishing aquifers.

    That recycling itself combined with stepped up conservation in the metro area does itself pose a growing problem of its own. Jim McQuarrie, chief innovation officer at the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District, said total dissolved solids in the South Platte River have been rising. “The river is getting saltier and saltier and saltier,” he said. “We are creating a salt loop.”

    Salt can be removed, creating a brine that poses a disposal problem. The technology is also expensive, as was mentioned by Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Leprino Foods.

    Leprino is the nation’s largest supplier of mozzarella cheese, most of which is produced in Western states and most of which is consumed in Eastern states. Part of that production comes from two cheese factories in Colorado, the first in Fort Morgan and more recently a plant in Greeley on the reclaimed site of the former Great Western sugar factory along the Poudre River.

    In its operations, Leprino can reuse water, but not as completely as it would like. Reverse osmosis does a “pretty good job” of cleaning up water, but is very expensive. “It uses a lot of electricity. There has to be a better way.”

    Figuring out that better way, Reidy went on to say, might be one role for the new water research campus being developed jointly by Denver Water with Colorado State University.

    This was the coming-out conference for this new partnership. The Water Resources Center is to be located on the grounds of the soon-to-be-redeveloped Great Western Stock Show complex north of downtown. It’s bisected by I-70, with the most visible infrastructure being the aging but still functional Denver Coliseum. Both policy and technology research foci are envisioned.

    The partnership was formally announced last September, but even then, much was yet to be worked out.Jim Lochhead, chief executive of Denver Water, at the initial announcement, said the exact research area was yet to be determined,as well ashow to set the work apart from that being done elsewhere.

    A continued exploration of that question was another theme in at least the first day of the Water in the West Symposium. CSU will plan to move its water quality laboratories to the campus. Tony Frank, the president of CSU, said the lab conducts 200,000 water-quality studies per year.

    Frank also talked about emergingwater issues: nutrient loading, abandoned mine pollution and – yet again – the push to use recycled water. That reuse, he added, “will require innovation and a number of different policy innovations to ensure we protect public health while using water efficiently.”

    Yet another suggestion came from Brad Udall, a senior climate research scientist at Colorado State University. He has carved out a specialty in trying to understand how the changing climate is impacting the Colorado River Basin. A 20 percent decline in precipitation has occurred in the basin—the source of much of the water of both cities and farms in eastern Colorado —from 2000 to 2017. This is despite a 5 percent increase in moisture content in the warming atmosphere.

    “Something very odd and unusual is going on,” Udall said.

    About half the volume of the reservoirs has been lost during this period, about two-thirds of which can be explained by reduced precipitation.

    Increased temperatures that cause evaporation as well as transpiration, explain about a third. Temperature inducted losses in the basin will more than triple by 2050, he said, and increase almost six-fold by the end of the century.

    Snowpack remains a mystery. “We really don’t know what is going on (with the snowpack),” he said in suggesting a topic area.

    Perhaps the most over-arching statement came from Cordero, from the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, who suggested that the campus can became the NREL (National Renewable Energy Laboratory) for water.

    Lochhead neatly summarized the reason for the symposium and the new partnership and research center at the Stock Show Complex by using a phrase he has often used since becoming chief executive of Denver Water. Colorado, he said, cannot grow the next 5 million people the same way it did the first five million residents.

    From Colorado State University (Tiana Nelson):

    Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack opened the first day of the inaugural Water in the West Symposium likening the situation around water to a book he reads to his grandchildren – a book where there was a problem. First, the children’s book characters try to avoid the problem, then they try to ignore the problem, then they try to bury the problem.

    “All without realizing that within each problem there is enormous opportunity,” said Vilsack, who serves as a special advisor to Colorado State University. “There is an incredible opportunity to lead a national and global effort in this area, that’s why this convening is so important.”

    The Symposium, presented by CSU and held at the McNichols Civic Center Building in downtown Denver, sold out with 400 attendees, and showcased more than 30 speakers from across the state and nation representing diverse perspectives in water. Farmers, policy makers, researchers and educators, conservationists, associations, consortiums, corporate professionals, cities, utilities, municipalities, agribusinesses and hundreds of businesses and individuals who rely on water for the production of their goods and services filled the room, representing more than 200 different organizations.

    The Symposium is the initial step as CSU prepares to begin construction on the Water Resources Center, the first building to be constructed on the new National Western Center campus, in Spring 2019.

    The discussion at the Symposium mirrors what will happen at the Water Resources Center – mirrors the effort to educate, mirrors that innovation will play a key role, and mirrors that policy will continue to be important, Vilsack said.

    The lineup

    Vilsack joked that the Symposium is the first conference he’s ever been to without built-in breaks, which will “show how serious we are about this.”

    A full day of programming on Thursday included speakers and panels around:

  • Water challenges and opportunities
  • The Colorado Water Plan
  • Colorado water successes and challenges
  • A forum featuring Colorado gubernatorial candidates
  • Dr. Tony Frank, president of CSU and chancellor of the CSU System, noted the University’s importance as a convener for the conversation around water – a conversation furthered by the Symposium and the future Water Resources Center.

    Land grant universities such as CSU are about breaking down boundaries, creating new knowledge, and disseminating that knowledge, Frank said.

    “We’re going to see that really apply at the Water Resources Center. You’ll see a robust application of innovation,” he said. By listening to one another and respecting diverse perspectives, “I’m confident that the conversations we will have will be fruitful.”.

    Speakers echoed Frank’s charge of the importance of the issue of water having an impact on everyone and having the power to galvanize diverse interests to collaborate around it.

    “We do realize that every drop counts. We all live here, we breathe the same air that you breathe, we drink the same water that you drink,” said Dan Haley, president and CEO of the Colorado Oil & Gas Association.

    “Yes, I’m a CSU graduate; yes, I’m the Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture, but at the end of the day, I’m a farmer and rancher from Yuma County, Colorado,” said Don Brown. “Water is a great connector; we all need it, we all use it.”

    Mizraim Cordero, vice president of Government Affairs for the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce, said water is important to the entire state, and water policy and sustainability is key to attracting businesses.

    “We care about our agriculture industry, our tourism industry, our beverage production industry, our energy industry,” said Cordero. “We want to make sure that in Colorado – not just Denver but all of Colorado – the economy is thriving.”

    The conversation commencing because of the Symposium is in essence “a beginning of the virtual water center,” Vilsack said.

    Brown agreed.

    “It hasn’t even been built and look what it’s already doing … this is just the beginning.”

    From ColoradoPolitics.com (Marianne Goodland) via The Durango Herald:

    Among the discussion points throughout the day was the state’s water plan, developed through an executive order in 2013 from Gov. John Hickenlooper and completed in 2013. It lays out a blueprint for dealing with a potential shortage facing the state in the coming decades…

    Hickenlooper has tasked the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) with implementation of the plan and the General Assembly has put starter funds into it – roughly $15 million in the past two years and another $7 million in the 2018-19 budget through the annual CWCB projects bill.

    One of the big questions is what happens to the plan when Hickenlooper leaves office next January and a new governor takes the helm. Whether all of the candidates at Thursday’s forum had ever read it was another question.

    Some of the top-tier gubernatorial candidates – Republicans Walker Stapleton and Doug Robinson and Democrat Cary Kennedy – were “no-shows” for the forum. So was Democratic U.S. Rep. Jared Polis, who was in Washington but he sent a surrogate, water attorney Courtney Krause.

    Those who did attend: businessmen Republicans Victor Mitchell and Greg Lopez; and Democrats and Lt. Gov. Donna Lynne and former state Sen. Mike Johnston.

    And then there was a last-minute addition: Scott Helker, a libertarian candidate who told Colorado Politics in January that he hoped a run for governor might lead to other offices, like state Senate or some other political position.

    Candidates discussed how the water plan should move forward, as well as finding the dollars to do it; the future of the outdoor recreation economy; innovation, awareness and citizen involvement; and shortages on the over-appropriated Colorado River.

    Mitchell said he supports the state water plan. He said he would look for storage solutions to keep water on the Eastern Plains and seek incentives for farmers to grow more water-efficient crops. He also said the state should fully fund the water plan but didn’t offer ideas on how to do that.

    Johnston said the state should figure out what its top priorities are for the water plan and how to fund it. His platform includes changes to the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights to allow for public investment in infrastructure, which for him includes roads, bridges and water.

    He said he also would look for ways to avoid “buy and dry” – the practice of buying up farmland for its water rights – and come up with incentives for conservation in municipal and agricultural water use.

    Lynne identified several issues, including an effort to galvanize people to understand that the state is in crisis, which she said is helped somewhat by the critically low snowpack predicted for the state this year. As for funding the plan, she indicated it would take a partnership among federal, local government, private entrepreneurs and water providers.

    Krause, speaking on Polis’ behalf, called for a community effort to fund the plan, including a ballot measure, which she said would require the governor to work with the legislature and with other stakeholders.

    Lopez said Hickenlooper deserved credit for coming up with the plan and called for the use of state lottery dollars, rather than a change to TABOR or asking taxpayers for more money.

    Helker talked about beavers, and how when he was a child, someone had used dynamite to blow up a wall he’d built near beaver ponds near his home. The stream that fed the ponds never went dry until then, he said.

    A rapid-fire series of questions followed. Mitchell, when asked about the role of research universities in Colorado’s water future, called for block-grant funding in life sciences research. Johnston, asked about the outdoor recreation industry, said he would seek reauthorization of Great Outdoors Colorado, which provides grants for outdoor recreation and conservation projects and would protect in-stream flows for the fishing and rafting industries…

    Lopez’ topic was how to protect rivers and how to ensure the state’s water supply in the face of the low snowpack. “We need to get more moisture,” he said, but added that he also would look for ways to speed up the permitting process for storage.

    Lynne, asked about how to get people of color, low-income and tribal communities engaged in water conversations, pointed out that as lieutenant governor she is already having those conversations with the tribes in her role as state head of Indian affairs.

    Krause, on the topic of entrepreneurship, pointed to Polis’ track record on entrepreneurial activities but focused largely on improving the market for industrial hemp.

    Finally, the candidates took a moment to address a question on how to convince Coloradans that their lives depend on water. Embrace conservation, said Mitchell. Use the governor’s office as a bully pulpit, said Johnston. Raise awareness, added Lynne. Start with water education in grade schools, Krause said. Talk about water every day, or every week or every month, Lopez suggested.

    Click here to view the Tweets from the symposium (click on latest, start at the bottom of the page).

    #WaterintheWest2018 recap

    Dan Hobbs planting near Avondale. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

    From The Fence Post (Samantha Fox):

    On the first day of the inaugural Water in the West Symposium on April 26 in Denver, there was a lot of talk surrounding what already is being done when it comes to conserving the water needed by agriculture, cities and businesses, alike.

    One of the panels included a mix of city, business, oil and gas and agriculture leaders.

    They each shared why water is not just important to them, but how their industries attempt to save as much water as they can.

    AGRICULTURE

    Colorado Department of Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown talked about irrigation and how it’s used by the agriculture industry to increase crop yields.

    He said conservation in agriculture means a few different things.

    “Usually it means use less, but in agriculture it also means more crop per drop,” he said…

    Colorado has two of the top 25 agriculture counties in the nation. No. 9 is Weld County and No. 24 is Yuma County.

    The common factor: water.

    Weld County is in the South Platte River Basin and Yuma is within the Ogallala Aquifer region.

    Weld County is home to one of Leprino Foods’ facilities. Mike Reidy, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Leprino, said that when the company was looking for a location they were looking for access to dairies and raw and waste water…

    He said the company strives to use best practices. They’re close to the city’s waste treatment plant and will treat the water for reuse after it is used at the facility…

    CLIMATE CHANGE

    Brad Udall, senior water and climate research scientist for the Colorado Water Institute, pointed to climate change in the conversation about future water supplies.

    “Climate change is water change,” he said.

    From TheDenverChannel.com (Russell Haythorn):

    “It would be irresponsible of us to develop this state without planning for the amount of water that we’re going to need,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, (D) Colorado.

    Bennet is among hundreds attending the first-ever ‘Water in the West’ Symposium in Denver this week, hosted by Colorado State University.

    “We all acknowledge that no more water is being created,” Bennet said. “We have to find ways of using the water we have more efficiently, more responsibly.”

    […]

    One of the central issues this year is drought. A dry winter on the plains and low snow pack in the high country could be catastrophic, especially to lower basin states if the pattern continues…

    The central question along the front range: Do we have enough water to support the roaring pace of growth?

    “If we’re not smart about it, the answer to that is going to be, ‘No,’” Bennet said.