Here’s the release from Colorado State University (Tiana Nelson):
Colorado State University will host its second annual Water in the West Symposium on March 13-14, 2019, at Gaylord Rockies, to convene diverse experts and thought leaders to highlight solutions and collaborate on one of the greatest global issues: water.
“Colorado State University is in the perfect position to act as a convener around the issue of water,” said former Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, an advisor to CSU on the National Western Center project in north Denver. “As we focus on solutions and problem-solving around water issues at this event, we want everyone at the table to be part of this critical conversation for an issue that impacts everyone, regardless of where they live.”
The Symposium is an initial offering of the CSU Water Building, one of the three buildings that make up the future CSU Campus at the National Western Center. The new CSU Campus is scheduled to break ground in 2020 and open in 2021, and will also include an animal health building and a center focused on food and agriculture. Each of the CSU buildings will provide collaborative research and incubation spaces, and interactive and family-friendly educational opportunities focused largely on the themes of health, environment, energy, water, and food.
“CSU has long been an expert in water issues, and the CSU Campus at the National Western Center will place these conversations on an even larger stage,” said Dr. Tony Frank, chancellor of the CSU System and president of CSU in Fort Collins. “The University has a responsibility to use its resources and position as a land-grant institution to take the lead in convening conversations and efforts around these important global issues.”
The 2019 Water in the West Symposium will feature more than 35 speakers, including Gary Knell, National Geographic Partners; Claudia Ringler, International Food Policy Research Institute; Mark Cackler, World Bank; and Rick Cables, Vail Resorts. A full list of speakers, additional event information, and registration is available at http://nwc.colostate.edu/water-in-the-west-2019.
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.
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.”
“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.
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.
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 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.
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.”
‘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.
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.
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, 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.