Fort Lewis College is now home to a new collaboration between regional water leaders and academics. The Four Corners Water Resources Center, housed in Reed Library under the leadership of Director Gigi Richard, will be a space where students and community members can work together to address water issues in the Four Corners.
Richard has been a visiting instructor in Geosciences for the last year at FLC, and prior to that was a professor of Geosciences at Colorado Mesa University, where she taught for 16 years and co-founded and directed the Ruth Powell Hutchins Water Center. Most colleges in Colorado have a water center with a specific geographic focus. The Four Corners Water Resources Center will have a Southwest and Tribal focus, with collaborations with other colleges possible.
“A water center at FLC creates an exciting opportunity for the college to be a part of solutions to some of the challenging issues facing the region and to help develop the next generation of water leaders,” says Richard. “Water underpins everything in the Southwest, including our agriculture, economy, ecosystems, recreation, spiritual values, and cultural history.”
Students across all majors will be able to engage with the center, from courses to campus projects and events. The center will connect students to the broader water community and expand student opportunities for internships and careers. As Richard states, water touches everything and everyone, and the greatest global challenge is having both clean water and enough water.
“Students are interested in water! So many aspects of water are urgent for present and future grand societal challenges in the Southwest and globally. The new water center will strive to leverage FLC’s existing strengths to develop coherent water-related curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students,” says Richard.
The water center serves as an interdisciplinary information hub to harness the expertise of faculty and enhance or facilitate new relationships between campus and the region. Water leaders, professionals, and other entities will be able to bring data and initiatives under one roof, to generate greater impact and access to regional water issues.
“Fort Lewis is uniquely poised to play a leadership role in facilitating the development of solutions to the challenging water issues facing the Southwest,” says President Tom Stritikus. “FLC already possesses faculty expertise in water-related fields across disciplines, from science, policy and engineering, to the humanities.”
Located in the middle of the San Juan River basin, which is a major tributary to the Colorado River, the water center will be able to engage with both major Western water issues and local water issues. The first undertaking for the center will be to form an advisory council of local and regional water leaders to develop the mission of the center. Richard will be focused on developing an online database of the rivers of the Four Corners, beginning with the Dolores River. The interface will be user-friendly to the general public, and those who are interested can dig in for more technical information, too.
“Many opportunities for partnerships exist both on campus and in the local and regional community. We are looking forward to collaborating with existing groups and building new connections for Fort Lewis students and faculty,” says Richard.
Community events, public talks and tours, and more information about the water center are at https://www.fortlewis.edu/water.