Denver: “Innovation in the water” — Clean River Design Challenge recap

Student showcase their winning design at a recent Board of Trustees meeting. Photo: Mark Stahl

From Metropolitan State University of Denver (Matt Watson):

Sometimes putting plastic in the river can be a good thing.

That was the idea put forth by the MSU Trash Getters, one of eight student teams from the Colorado School of Mines, MSU Denver and the University of Colorado Denver to participate in the Clean River Design Challenge.

The Trash Getters designed 3D-printed fish heads to float atop a waterway and collect trash in their mouths. The brightly colored bits of plastic, printed on campus at the Auraria Library, sit in the water and call attention to the very problem the design challenge hopes to combat: trash in our water.

The Greenway Foundation, a nonprofit helmed by Executive Director and MSU Denver Trustee Jeff Shoemaker, works to advance the South Platte River and surrounding tributaries as a unique environmental, recreational, cultural, scientific and historical amenity that links Denver’s past and its future. The foundation held its first-ever student design challenge in 2015-16 and a second competition in 2017-18. The competition is coordinated and led by TGF’s policy and water-resources arm, the Water Connection (TWC).

“The basis of this is to continue to bring awareness that trash in my neighborhood is trash in my waterways,” Shoemaker said. “That’s the education aspect; the other, more pragmatic aspect is we’re trying to create devices that can be taken from a scale version, put into a working prototype and actually be placed in Cherry Creek or the South Platte River.”

MSU Denver faculty, staff and community members pitch in to clean up the Cherry Creek as part of the recent Roadrunners Give Back Day in partnership with the Greenway Foundation.

The student teams were scored in Round 1 on their trash-collection designs in December, with two teams from Mines placing first and third and an MSU Denver team second. The teams with the top six designs were given $1,000 to build scale models, which were then put to the test for Round 2 in April in a flume at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. In addition to educating people and looking for innovative solutions, the design challenge provides students with hands-on, competitive experience.

“For students to spend a semester coming up with a concept, then have to stand up in front of a dozen working professionals in the world of water and defend their model – in a competitive way, where there are actually winners and losers – is a very valuable experience,” Shoemaker said.

In the BOR Hydraulics Lab testing, which was Round 2 of the competition, MSU Denver students shined. The first-place team was the Water Association of Student Steward Urban Program, the student water-education club associated with the One World One Water Center. The Trash Getters’ fish-head design finished third behind the Colorado School of Mines, which took second.

The top three models will be displayed July 26 at the 15th annual Reception on the River, where students will get a chance to network with more than 200 people from the water industry. The hope is that one of the models, or a combination of them, will work its way into the water in the coming years. TGF/TWC just got the first draft of professional engineering drawings based on the 2015-16 contest winner and will develop a prototype in the coming months for planned testing in Cherry Creek .

The water-cleanup efforts at the Greenway Foundation and MSU Denver aren’t limited to design and engineering, either. Foundation volunteers regularly pick up trash from Denver waterways, while the WASSUP club has adopted a section of Cherry Creek for a monthly cleanup project and University faculty, staff and students partnered with the Greenway Foundation as part of Roadrunners Give Back Day.

To learn more about Denver’s waterways, contact the Greenway Foundation at info@greenwayfoundation.org.

@OWOW_MSUDenver: Watershed Summit 2018, June 28, 2018 #shed2018

Click here for the announcement and to register:

This year’s “Shed ’18” Watershed Summit is going to be better than ever! With over 200 water utility executives, business leaders, conservation experts, and other professionals coming together and sharing tested solutions, you will surely come away with new insights and ideas to help position your organization for success.

This year’s event will highlight…
Resiliency: Preparing and Recovering from Fire, Flood, & Drought
Colorado Water Plan Funding
Activating Communities for Change
Responsible Growth in Agriculture and Urban Water
Technology Innovation
And much more!

The “Shed ’18” Watershed Summit is produced through a collaborative partnership between the Colorado Water Conservation Board, Denver Water, the City of Boulder, the One World One Water Center, Resource Central, and the Denver Botanic Gardens. Building on the success of the last 3 years, this one-day summit helps you connect with industry leaders from across Colorado.

$40.00 Early Bird registration ends May 31st!

Scholarships Available!

The “Shed ‘18” Watershed Summit Scholarship covers registration fees and conference meals. The application information and questions must be submitted by June 1st !

Click Here to View Application

@MSUDenver: Water Studies Online Certificate, classes start in January 2018

MSU Denver’s Water Studies Online Certificate is one of the only certificates in the country with a special focus on water in Colorado and the American West. The certificate will allow you to expand your knowledge about water stewardship under the direction of highly qualified instructors, in a self-paced format, with an applied real-world project.

What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:

  • Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online.
  • Expert faculty – Our instructors are experts in their field, with deep experience in water.
  • One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry.
  • Career opportunities – Find job demand in a growth industry. Wherever you live, someone’s job is to be in charge of water.
  • Register now! Courses start January 2018. For more information, visit us at https://msudenver.edu/water-studies-online/ or contact us at lifelonglearning@msudenver.edu or 303.721.1313.

    The @OWOW_MSUDenver fall newsletter is hot off the presses

    Photo credit Metropolitan State University of Denver.

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    Thank you to all that joined us for the Study Abroad Fair, Sustainability Fair, Fall Fest and the Student Water Field Conference in Keystone. We appreciate your interest in the OWOW Center and truly enjoy talking to others that have a passion about water.

    Starting SPRING 2018, One World One Water Center will now offer an Water Studies Online Certificate!

    What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:
    * Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online
    * One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
    * Real-world applications – Develop a capstone project to directly apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations
    For a list of courses and to register: click here.

    @MSUDenver: Water Studies Online Certificate

    From Metropolitan State University at Denver (Terry Bower):

    In response to the reality of declining water resources, Metropolitan State University of Denver Innovative and Lifelong Learning has partnered with the One World One Water Center to offer a new Water Studies Online Certificate, an opportunity to learn about the history, law, and management of water in Colorado and the western United States.

    From lifelong learners who want to know more about water preservation to those working in green and sustainable professions, this unique certificate provides introductory level training and skills relevant to a wide range of fields in the nonprofit, corporate, and public sectors, including water industries, conservation, agriculture, construction, engineering, and law.

    What you get with the Water Studies Online Certificate:

  • Flexible schedule – Control your own schedule with a self-paced format that’s 100% online
  • One-on-one networking and advisement – Receive a personal advising session with an expert in the Colorado water industry
  • Real-world applications – Develop a capstone project to directly apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations
  • Career opportunities – Find job demand in a growth industry. Wherever you live, someone’s job is to be in charge of water.

    Registration opens October 3. Courses start January 2018. For more information, please contact Innovative and Lifelong Learning at lifelonglearning@msudenver.edu or 303.721.1313.

  • Go Roadrunners! (John Orr, class of 1978)

    @OWOW_MSUDenver and @botanic partner to meet #Colorado’s supply challenges

    Here’s the release from Metropolitan State University at Denver (Dan Vaccaro):

    Denver’s urban university and botanic garden team up to make an even bigger impact on water issues in Colorado.

    The next time you’re sitting in traffic on Interstate 25 (this afternoon, probably), consider this: Colorado’s population is expected to grow by 1.5 million by 2030. And that doesn’t just mean more traffic. It means more pressure on the state’s scarcest natural resource – water.

    Between the population boom and rising global temperatures, the imagination doesn’t need to wander far to see what the future of Colorado might look like. Hint: If you thought lawn-watering restrictions were bad, how about living in a world like the one imagined in the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road”?

    Thankfully, there are people and organizations teaming up to tackle water issues in the state. This past spring, the Denver Botanic Gardens and the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University of Denver signed a partnership that will have long-term implications for the future of water education and stewardship in the Centennial State.

    “Both organizations were already pursuing similar objectives,” says Jennifer Riley-Chetwynd, director of marketing and social responsibility for the Denver Botanic Gardens. “By joining forces, we can do so much more and have a bigger reach for our work.”

    The plan includes stronger collaboration between MSU Denver professors and Botanic Gardens scientists, shared research projects and the pursuit of joint funding. Wherever possible, the aim is to involve students. The end goal, Riley-Chetwynd says, is to make an even bigger impact on watershed restoration and health.

    As part of the agreement, Riley-Chetwynd also becomes co-director of the OWOW Center in addition to her work at the Botanic Gardens, helping to further unite the organizations. She already serves as an affiliate faculty member in the Journalism and Technical Communication Department at MSU Denver.

    For Tom Cech, co-director of the OWOW Center, the partnership will help better educate future water leaders and stewards. “Our goal has always been to raise awareness of current water challenges and opportunities both in the Colorado community and among our students,” he says. “This partnership amplifies those efforts.”

    While MSU Denver students have interned at the Botanic Gardens, Cech sees increased opportunities in light of the new agreement. He also imagines more events like the recent Shed ’17 water summit, co-hosted by the organizations June 29 at the Gardens.

    The event brought together nearly 200 leaders from across the state and country to discuss water challenges and co-create solutions. Topics at the conference included the importance of watershed health and outdoor recreation, agriculture’s role in Colorado’s water future, and the evolution of conservation. The keynote speaker for the event was Mike Nelson, chief meteorologist at Denver7, who spoke about climate change.

    Another distinctive feature of the agreement is the development of a co-branded logo, which will appear at water-related events, an aspect that Deputy Provost Sandra Haynes describes as “unique.”

    “It is a testament to the breadth and depth of this collaboration between two of Denver’s most recognized institutions,” she says.

    Haynes hopes the partnership will also provide more exposure for innovative university programs such as the water studies and urban agriculture minors.

    This partnership comes at an important time in state history, Riley-Chetwynd says. A statewide water plan released in 2015 creates a roadmap for the future of water in Colorado. One of the main principles is removing silos to ensure that diverse groups are working efficiently and effectively.

    “We need to work together to answer questions about how to deal with our population growth, where our water will come from and how we will keep urban communities viable without endangering our environment,” she says. “No one group can do all of that alone. It’s the only way forward if we’re going to make Colorado’s future sustainable.”

    If all goes according to plan, the only “Fury Road” in Colorado will be I-25, particularly during rush hour.

    Shed ’17 recap

    Brad Udall’s panel at Shed ’17. From left, Brad Udall, Sam Mamet, Martha Rudolph, Maggie Fox.

    What a hoot at Thursday’s Shed ’17 summit at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Great program and an outstanding venue, the Denver Botanic Gardens. Organizers included volunteers from Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Water, Aurora Water, City of Boulder, Center for Resource Conservation, Colorado Division of Water Resources, Colorado Water Conservation Board, the the One World One Water Center at Metropolitan State University at Denver. (Go Roadrunners!)

    Mike Nelson’s keynote focused on Climate Change. He cited the increase in frequency of large-scale storminess and emphasized that humnankind is changing the water cycle. He is working for the future of his grandchildren he said at the end.

    To close out the presentations Brad Udall outlined major events related to climate change since last fall’s election. He ended with a series of maps showing public opinion strongly in favor of policies to combat the effects of climate change.

    A panel discussion followed Brad’s presentation. Sam Mamet explored climate change from the municipal perspective. He talked about the challenges to the folks on the front lines, city and town administrators, boards and councils, and their role in planning for a warmer future. Funding heads the list of concerns for the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. Close behind is the uncertainty about policy, rule-making, and priorities for the new administration. Maggie Fox urged climate educators to find common ground with those they seek to influence. She was adamant in her plea for everyone to stay engaged and active politically.


    We heard a great story from the recreation folks. Recreation is a muti-billion dollar industry and is responsible for many jobs across the state. The industry also has many interests aligned with the environment. Recreational In Channel Diversions, for example, can call out juniors to help keep water in the stream. The wave feature at Glenwood Springs is a great recreation draw in the valley.

    Conservation efforts are morphing towards a focus on resiliency and bolstering the natural environment. Kevin Reidy pointed out a large statewide uptick in interest for developing and revising conservation plans. In the Roaring Fork Valley entities worked together to develop a regional plan.

    Farmers are still resistant to Alternative Transfer Methods. One reason is the desire to sell their water rights when they retire. Another is the heightened risk that comes with agriculture year after year — the reality that good years are what get farmers through the other years. There is great uncertainty at the beginning of each growing season.

    John Echohawk spoke just before lunch. He catalogued the struggle to litigate Native American water rights. Most of the time the tribes are successful leveraging the Winters v. United States Supreme Court decision and the date a reservation was established. The cost of litigation is prohibitive.

    Thanks again to the committee that put this together. Sean Cronin did a great job keeping the agenda on track. It was a treat touring the gardens.