Adams State University’s Salazar Center to host 2022 #RioGrande State of the Basin Symposium: In Scarcity, Opportunity for Community

Water sustains the San Luis Valley’s working farms and ranches and is vital to the environment, economy and livelihoods, but we face many critical issues and uncertainties for our future water supply. (Photo by Rio de la Vista.)

Here’s release from Adams State University (Linda Relyea, Rio de la Vista):

“In Scarcity, Opportunity for Community” is the theme for the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center hosted Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium this year. These words, from the pen of the late Justice Greg Hobbs, are as timely as ever, as the San Luis Valley faces water scarcity from several directions. In the past, whenever we’ve faced risks, this community comes together to protect our water future. This is the opportunity ahead, if we are able to rise to it.

What is the status of our water supply, current threats and opportunities? We’ll provide updates, information and future forecasts for 2022 at the fourth annual “Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium.” It will be held virtually, Saturday, February 26th, from 9 am to 1 pm. Co-hosted by the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center at Adams State University and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, the event is free and open to the public. The Symposium is also a featured program of the Adams100 series, celebrating the first 100 years of Adams State University. Register on-line here to receive a Zoom link to the event.

Keynote Speaker for the 2022 Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium:
Dr. Maria E. Montoya. Photo credit: Adams State University

Dr. Maria E. Montoya to be Keynote Speaker
“We’re looking forward to hearing a new voice and a global perspective on water scarcity and communities from our keynote speaker this year, historian Dr. Maria E. Montoya in her presentation, ‘A Look at Water Scarcity Globally: From the American West to China’,” said Salazar Center Director Rio de la Vista. With family roots in the San Luis Valley and the southwest, Maria E. Montoya is a Global Network Associate Professor of History at New York University and the Dean of Arts and Sciences at NYU Shanghai. She earned her BA, MA and PhD degrees at Yale University. Her research explores how workers and families in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have used natural resources to make a living and make their homes in particular places in the American West, with numerous books and articles published on these topics. Dr. Montoya is currently working on another book project about the scarcity of water in the American Southwest and the Rio Grande.

Symposium Agenda Overview
“We’re very pleased to have long time Adams State business professor and newly appointed State Director for the USDA’s Colorado Office of Rural Affairs, Armando Valdez as our Master of Ceremonies,” said de la Vista, “As a multigenerational farmer/rancher from the Capulin area, a water leader, educator and now statewide leader, he brings his valuable perspective to the whole event.”

The morning will begin with a report on the current “State of the Basin,” including the latest data on snowpack measurements and flow forecasts by Division Engineer, Craig Cotten with the Colorado Division of Water Resources. He will also provide information about the state of our groundwater and related challenges. Given the various aspects of community and water scarcity facing our community now and in the time ahead, the Symposium agenda will address three key causes of water scarcity and the community’s response to them: the state of the Valley’s aquifers and subdistricts, the current threat of water exportation, and the changes being experienced due to climate change.

The session on “What’s up with the aquifers?” will include a panel addressing the status of the aquifers and the work of the Groundwater Management Subdistricts to achieve ground water sustainability. Amber Pacheco from the Rio Grande Water Conservation District, George Whitten, rancher and water leader in Saguache County, and Charlie Goodson of Colorado Open Lands will answer questions on these issues.

For the session on “What’s up with the water exportation threat?”, Heather Dutton, Manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District will give an update on the latest developments with the proposal to move SLV water to Douglas County. Michael Carson of the Rio Grande Water Conservation District will let participants know how they can learn and engage in the collective effort to prevent exportation and the collaborative information source.

“What’s happening with climate change?” will be addressed by well known journalist and author Laura Paskus, drawing from here recent book, “At the Precipice: New Mexico’s Changing Climate,” which was published in September 2020 by the University of New Mexico Press. Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Paskus is the environment reporter for New Mexico PBS, and produces the monthly series, “Our Land: New Mexico’s Environmental Past, Present and Future.”

The program will also include information about the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable’s newly completed Rio Grande Basin Implementation Plan from Emma Reesor of the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project. Becky Mitchell, Director of the Colorado Water Conservation Board will update on the new version overall Colorado Water Plan. State Senator Cleave Simpson will share the latest on water bills at the Colorado State Legislature. The program will also provide information about the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center’s upcoming water education programs for Adams State and the community.

Hosts and Sponsors
The Salazar Center and the Rio Grande Water Conservation District are co-hosts of the annual Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium, with generous support from the Colorado Water Conservation Board. Symposium sponsorships from the SLV Chapter of Trout Unlimited, the Conejos Water Conservancy District, the SLV Irrigation District, the SLV Water Conservancy District, Colorado Open Lands, Headwaters Alliance and generous individual donors all help make this event possible and free to the community.

To register and for more information about the 2022 Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposium, click here. Interested citizens can also follow the Salazar Rio Grande del Norte Center on Facebook for regular updates on water issues and get information about Water Education program at Adams State University at or contact them directly at

To learn even more about water issues in the Rio Grande, videos of previous year’s presentations from the 2019, 2020, and 2021 Rio Grande State of the Basin Symposiums and other past water talks are all available online at: The 2022 Symposium recordings will be posted there as well, as part of the Salazar Center’s on-going work to develop a Rio Grande Library of water information and resources.

San Luis People’s Ditch March 17, 2018. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs