Category Archives: Water Leaders

Tenth Water Leaders Cohort Prepares for First Class

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Participants in the 2016 Water Leaders class brainstorm how to use our strengths in solving problems, with the help of facilitator Cheryl Benedict.

The Colorado Foundation for Water Education is excited to announce its 2017 Water Leaders class, as participants ready for their first day of an eight-month journey that begins next week on Monday, March 13. The Water Leaders program is recognized as the premier professional development course for Colorado’s water community. This year will mark the 10th graduating class of Water Leaders, and CFWE could not be more proud of program’s evolution.

Through the Water Leaders program, CFWE aims to positively impact the Colorado water profession by developing a pipeline of water leaders across diverse fields with the knowledge and skills to navigate the complex world of Colorado water.

The 15 participants in the 2017 cohort have been selected through a very competitive application process. Welcome to the 2017 Water Leaders Cohort:

Josh Baile
Jackie Brown
Devon Buckels
Logan Burba
Michelle DeLaria
Sarah Dominick
Alexander Funk
Heather Justus
Christopher Kurtz
Josh Nims
Leann Noga
Jessica Olson
Emma Regier Reesor
Scott Schreiber
Troy Wineland

Click here for a full list of Water Leaders Alumni. This active group of more than 100 alumni engage in networking events and regular ongoing leadership offerings.

Visit our website to learn more about the Water Leaders Program.


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Water Leaders for Colorado’s Future


December is full of holiday celebration, time with friends and family, and for the Colorado Foundation for Water Education (CFWE); it is the time when applications open to one of our flagship programs, Water Leaders.

The Water Leaders program is recognized as the premier professional development course for the water community in Colorado. Each year, 15 water professionals from across Colorado are accepted to the program. These individuals will spend seven months together traveling the state, meeting face to face four times and expanding their leadership skills together. The course has been uniquely designed to cover water management topics, while at the same time, honing in on each individual’s leadership skills.

While everyone is making their list and checking it twice for the holidays, potential Water Leaders will also be working on their applications. Applications for this program opened December 1 and will be accepted through January 13, 2017.

Today at 12:30 pm, we are hosting a webinar for interested applicants to talk through the program in more detail and answer any questions. Register for this webinar at: If you are unable to attend the webinar, you can request a copy of the recording to be sent to you. To request a copy of the webinar or for additional questions about the program please contact Stephanie Scott, or 303-377-4433.

Learn more about the program and apply here.

Also, CFWE has a similar program called Water Fluency, which focuses not on leadership skills but on building knowledge of water resource and policy issues for local decision-making processes. This year, Water Fluency will be held in the Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs corridor of Colorado. Stay posted and look for program dates, curriculum and registration opening soon.

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Water Manager and Restoration Specialist, Heather Dutton

This Friday, May 20th, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education will celebrate water education and water leadership at its annual President’s Award Reception.  Each year, CFWE honors recent work by a young Colorado professional with the Emerging Leader Award. This year CFWE will recognize Heather Dutton, the new manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District with this award. Join the celebration later this week. Register here to attend this Friday at 6 pm at Space Gallery. We’ll enjoy refreshments, a famous game of “Wine Toss,” exciting new activities, and a fun evening with friends.

By Justice Greg Hobbs

heather_dutton_webHeather Dutton, the newest manager of the San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District, glories in the heritage of the Rio Grande River. She’s a fifth-generation daughter of the Valley’s farming and ranching community, like her father Doug, who farms in the center of the Valley. A 2008 graduate of Colorado State University, she double-majored in rangeland ecology and natural resources management, adding a Master’s of Science in agriculture in December of 2010.

She’s also a student of the river and those who work and love the waters and the land. “Right out of school, I had the good fortune of landing a job with the Rio Grande Headwaters Restoration Project.” Sandwiched between older brother Cory and younger brother Chris, she had to learn “how to take stuff apart and put it back together.”

“The river’s like that, too,” she says. “It’s a big hydraulic system. Years of alteration, eroding stream banks, loss of anchoring vegetation, and putting stuff in the river took it apart. Restoration is about putting it back together.”

Land and water right owners up and down the Rio Grande care about the river’s health because erosion capsizes stream banks, resulting in property loss and damage to diversion structures and critical habitat for threatened or endangered bird species, such as the willow flycatcher and the yellow-billed cuckoo. Increased sedimentation interferes with operation of local water rights and the delivery of water necessary to meet Rio Grande Compact obligations.

The San Luis Valley Water Conservancy District itself is sandwiched between the Rio Grande’s headwaters in the towering San Juan Mountains and senior surface water right owners on the Valley floor impacted by water well pumping north of the river, where much of the best of the Valley’s cropland exists. The District’s job under former manager Mike Gibson, and now Heather, includes shepherding well augmentation water from the Rio Grande Reservoir above Creede into the river to support agricultural, domestic, municipal and commercial uses in the Valley’s heartlands in cooperation with the Rio Grande Water Conservation District.

She sees her San Luis district board members as “big thinkers” who are highly motivated to cooperate with anyone who cares about the river and the Valley’s economy and environment. A remarkable alliance of governmental and nonprofit organizations and private property owners have united in the common interest of preserving the Rio Grande’s multiple land, water, wildlife and recreational functions. This includes the work of the Rio Grande Basin Roundtable and the Colorado Water Conservation Board as part of Colorado’s Water Plan, as well as its open space heritage fostered by the Rio Grande Headwaters Land Trust’s conservation easement program. “Engaging in hard conversations with mutual respect comes with the territory,” she says.


Heather, with husband Tanner Dutton traveling in South America.

In this milieu she thrives at work and play. “Luckily, I married a very adventurous guy, so we spend our weekends in the backcountry snowmobiling, skiing, backpacking, dirt biking, and camping.” Her husband, Tanner Dutton, who grew up in La Junta, is a range management specialist for the U.S. Forest Service’s sheep and cattle grazing program based out of Del Norte. Heather credits her mother, Julie Messick, as being “the person behind the scenes, keeping the family going!” She is also grateful to Travis Smith, Mike Gibson, and Steve Vandiver for “raising her up” in her career.

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Colorado’s Water Governor, Governor John Hickenlooper

2015presawardwebNext Friday, May 20th, the Colorado Foundation for Water Education will celebrate water education and water leadership at its annual President’s Award Reception.  Each year, CFWE bestows the President’s Award on an awardee who has a body of work in the field of water resources benefiting the Colorado public; a reputation among peers; a commitment to balanced and accurate information;  among other qualities. This year CFWE will honor Governor John Hickenlooper with this award. Join the celebration. Register here to attend at 6 pm May 20 at Space Gallery. We’ll enjoy hors d’oeuvres, beverages, a famous game of “Wine Toss”, other new activities, and a fun evening with friends.webslider2



By Justice Greg Hobbs (Ret.)

hickelooper I began my interview with Governor John Hickenlooper in his office at our state’s capitol building by suggesting he’d become our “Water Governor.” I brought along a copy of the Winter 2016 issue of Headwaters magazine, The Collaborative Alchemy Around Water Today. Its content features the tone he has helped set around the water courses of our state’s future.

I mentioned his 2012 “Year of Water” proclamation kicking off water education events throughout Colorado; his 2013 proclamation calling on the Colorado Water Conservation Board to coordinate preparation of a statewide water plan; and the November 2015 History Museum celebration where he toasted the hard work of the CWCB and the nine Basin Roundtables, recognizing also the Colorado General Assembly for its leadership role in passing the Water for the 21st Century Act in 2005.

He quickly steered me to the second week of his moving to Colorado in 1981, when he rafted the Arkansas River through Brown’s Canyon. “I discovered water in the West is more like poetry than prose. In the East, huge flows blunt everything. It’s more nuanced out here, like fly fishing.” He’s fascinated with how rivers became transportation corridors for settlement. He thinks state agencies work better if they relate well to the river basins they work in. He’s a reader, a thinker, and a conversationalist.

Born in Narberth, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, he majored in English at Wesleyan University and completed his Master’s degree in geology there in 1980. He worked as a geologist for Buckhorn Petroleum in the early 1980s, then, when the oil industry buckled, co-founded the Wynkoop Brewing Company near Denver’s old Union Station, participating in the remarkable remake of the lower downtown (LoDo) district centered around baseball’s Coors Field.

As a businessman, two-term mayor of Denver, and now in his second term as governor, he’s learned that “water affects people and enlightened self-interest” often leads to resolution. “The harder you listen the more you realize fights are often about things that aren’t really that important. When you hear others talk about their problems you find ‘I can fix that.’”

The terrible drought year of 2003 was his first as Denver’s mayor. While campaigning he’d heard some old-line civic leaders boasting the city could stand on its senior water rights, while Aurora and Douglas County had to cope with their less certain junior rights. But the self-interest of neighboring cities and counties were already aligned with each other and “establishing a context for relationships” was paramount. None can afford to have any other “run out of water.” His new appointees to the Denver Water Board, working with manager Chips Barry, relied less on Denver’s “cushion” and more on building cooperative relationships along the Front Range and across the Divide. Meanwhile, Denver residents cut their water use by 20 percent over a five-year period from 2003 to 2008.

As Colorado’s Water Plan was taking shape, the governor traveled throughout the state as Colorado experienced drought, fire and flood in rapid succession. I recall, in particular, a meeting in Fort Collins where he talked with northern Colorado Chamber of Commerce members about the expected doubling of our state’s population by the year 2050. Drawing on his experience as a businessman and municipal leader, he pointed to conservation, collaborative water projects, and environmental measures as essential to meeting Colorado’s future water needs.

The governor holds a deep regard for farmers and ranchers. “Preserving the long-term asset that is Colorado,” he says, requires protecting the quality of life on farms and ranches as well as in cities—and the streams for rafting and fishing. “It’s part of Colorado’s code of ethics. It’s not our water. It’s Colorado’s water.” As I left his office, our Water Governor reminded me he learned to work water in the brewery business. His purchase of the old Silver State Cleaners & Laundry property included a water well. Colorado’s water alchemy is a collaborative partnership he leads well personally and enthusiastically.

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The Connector in Chief on the Colorado River

By Jim Pokrandt


Pat Mulroy delivers the keynote address at the DU Water Law Symposium. Photo credit: Greg Hobbs

Call her the connector in chief. That is, connector in chief of the dots. In her new role in academia and water policy, Pat Mulroy, the retired chief of the Southern Nevada Water Authority, and now senior fellow for climate adaptation and environmental policy for The Brookings Institution, has poured it on in her speeches—connecting water issues across the world with relevance to the seven-state Colorado River Basin.

Is California’s drought a Colorado River Basin problem? For a state whose only reliable water sources is the Colorado River, you bet, as besieged as it is with long term drought itself. Is California’s issue with the delta smelt and inability to pump water from Northern California to the south through the State Water Project a Colorado River problem? Ditto. It puts more pressure on the Colorado River. See above.

How about Flint, Mich.’s lead-laden drinking water crisis? Is that a problem for the Southwest? Absolutely, said Mulroy. Why? “It’s not that they made a mistake, it’s that they did not say anything,” she says. That fact has eroded the public’s trust in drinking water providers.

“It is going to affect the way we manage water resources in this basin,” Mulroy said. With the decision making that still needs to be made in managing the Colorado River’s future, mistrust generated by Flint is not going to help.

patmulroyduMulroy brought these messages and more to the April 8 University of Denver Water Review forum entitled “Conflicts and Cooperation: the Past, Present and Future of Interstate Water Compacts.” Find a video recording of her presentation and others here.

Don’t mistake Mulroy for a pessimist. She believes that the Colorado River Compact of 1922 has over time created a model of cooperation and collaboration among the seven states in the basin and the federal government. While locals may wonder how true that is, Mulroy has seen the credence borne out by the international interest in how the Colorado River works. “When you compare the Colorado River Basin to other parts of the world, we are the most functional water community anywhere,” said Mulroy, who has hosted delegation after delegation.

The next generation of water leaders has been handed that “legacy,” she said. “You will need to continue that partnership to deal with the stresses coming to the Compact in the next 20 years.”

Jim PoJim_Pokrandtkrandt is the Community Affairs Director for the Colorado River District.

For another video presentation from Pat Mulroy and blog post from Jim Pokrandt, see his Nov. 2015 blog post “Not too late to catch Colorado River experts: Video presentations now available online.”


Learn more about the Colorado River Basin and compact through CFWE’s recent programs:

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75 Years of Lessons in Water Management

By Laura Spann

Hobbs Audience 2

A full crowd of nearly 200 people attended the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s Annual Water Seminar this year, celebrating the district’s 75th anniversary.

A record 190 people attended the Southwestern Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) Annual Water Seminar on April 1 in Durango. Marking the 75th anniversary of the district, the seminar focused on lessons in water management learned since 1941. This was no small task, but Board President John Porter took it upon himself to read half a century of board minutes to give the audience that historical perspective. Mr. Porter wrote an op-ed that appeared in the Durango Herald and papers across southwestern Colorado, explaining how those lessons learned inform the district’s current activities. Read his piece below:


John Porter

John Porter, president of the Southwestern Water Conservation District, addressed the group at the district’s annual water summit, sharing lessons learned over the past 75 years, and that will carry forward through the next 75 years.

Created in 1941 by the Colorado General Assembly, the Southwestern Water Conservation District encompasses Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, San Juan, San Miguel and parts of Hinsdale, Mineral and Montrose counties. As board president, I would like to share some lessons learned in the past 75 years, ones we’ll carry through the next 75.

Lesson No. 1: Adaptability is a necessity

Times have changed since 1941. Colorado statute charges the district with “protecting, conserving, using and developing the water resources of the southwestern basin for the welfare of the district, and safeguarding for Colorado all waters of the basin to which the state is entitled.” Following this mandate, the district worked tirelessly for decades to ensure water supplies would meet growing demand by filing for storage project water rights in almost every major river basin. SWCD lobbied for federal dollars to be spent on project construction in our area. The philosophy was, and continues to be, to plant the seed and help it grow.

This work resulted in the establishment of the Florida Water Conservancy District and Lemon Reservoir; the Pine River Project extension; the Dolores Water Conservancy District and McPhee Reservoir; the Animas-La Plata Water Conservancy District; Ridges Basin Reservoir; Long Hollow Reservoir; the San Juan Water Conservancy District; and the proposed Dry Gulch Reservoir.

As population pressure threatens to dry up agriculture, and regulations and constituent values have expanded to include environmental protections and recreational use, the district’s mission has adapted necessarily. When the A-LP Project debate was underway, for example, SWCD was integral in the formation of the San Juan Recovery Program, established to recover endangered fish species populations in the San Juan River in New Mexico downstream of the proposed reservoir. SWCD currently funds a variety of essential work, including stream flow data collection and mercury sampling in local reservoirs. To address mounting concerns regarding future compact curtailment and drought, SWCD supports water supply augmentation through winter cloud seeding and exploring creative solutions like “water banking.”

Lesson No. 2: Be at the table

Participation at the local, state and federal levels is essential to protecting our resources. That’s why the district is a member of Colorado Water Congress, a state entity focused on water policy.

The district takes positions and engages in debate on water-related bills during the state legislative season. We keep a close eye on federal water management policies, often submitting public comments and working with federal and state partners to ensure continued state control of water rights. The district is supportive of the Colorado Water Conservation Board’s instream flow program to establish minimum stream flows for the environment, and is working to improve the program’s ability to adapt to rural community needs for future development. As for the broader Colorado River system, SWCD participates in dialogue among Upper Basin states through the Upper Colorado River Commission.

At the local level, the district has represented water development interests in the collaborative River Protection Workgroup, which resulted in the Hermosa Creek Watershed Act. SWCD worked with other Roundtable members to ensure our corner of the state was heard in the Colorado Water Plan.

Lesson No. 3: Reinvest local tax dollars locally

It’s a not-so-well-kept secret that SWCD’s grant program supports water work across the district: domestic supply and irrigation infrastructure improvements, recreational development, habitat rehabilitation, collaborative community processes and water quality studies. Here are a few recent examples:
Archuleta, Mineral and Hinsdale counties: Rio Blanco habitat restoration by the San Juan Conservation District, watershed health via the San Juan Mixed Conifer Group

La Plata County: initial studies for Long Hollow Reservoir, the La Plata West Water Authority’s rural domestic water system

San Juan County: Center for Snow & Avalanche Studies dust-on-snow research, mining reclamation through the Animas River Stakeholders Group

Montezuma and Dolores counties: the Dolores River Dialogue (a collaboration focused on issues below McPhee Dam), irrigation efficiency improvements by the High Desert Conservation District

San Miguel and Montrose counties: the San Miguel Watershed Coalition’s watershed studies and irrigation diversion improvements to allow fish and boater passage, domestic system upgrades for the town of Norwood

Lesson No. 4: Educate the next generation of leaders

For more than 20 years, the district has spearheaded regional water education by sponsoring an Annual Children’s Water Festival for students across the basin and administering the Water Information Program with contributions from participating entities. SWCD played an instrumental role in creating the statewide Colorado Foundation for Water Education, and continues to sponsor the organization.

As generations of water leaders step back, new stewards must step forward to ensure that the Southwest Colorado we know and love continues.


Bill McDonald reviews the evolution of water management.

The full and informative day included talks from Justice Greg Hobbs, now a mediator with the Colorado Supreme Court; and Bill McDonald, former Colorado Water Conservation Board Director and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Deputy Commissioner, who reviewed the evolution of water management to the era of conservation districts. Southern Ute Indian Tribal Chairman Frost and Ute Mountain Ute Tribal legal counsel Leland Begay spoke on generations of tribal water resources stewardship.

A diverse selection of water-related entities —from watershed health advocates to ditch companies, from Pagosa Springs to Norwood—presented on their organizations and projects funded by the SWCD. At lunch, the crowd played “Are you Smarter than a Fifth Grader?” with the “Water Wizard” Dave Grey, a trivia game based on questions asked to fifth graders at the Children’s Water Festival hosted by SWCD each year. Finally, the seminar would have been incomplete without recognition of water leader Fred Kroeger, who passed away in December 2015.

Wish you had been there? Durango TV covered the event. Also, presentations are available on SWCD’s website. Save the date for next year’s seminar: Friday, April 7, 2017!

ice lakes above silvertonLaura Spann works for the Southwestern Water Conservation District based in Durango. She grew up on her family’s cattle ranch in Gunnison, Colorado. Laura received a B.A. in Government and International Relations from Claremont McKenna College. After working in Washington, D.C. for two years and Peru for another four years, Laura is happy to be back in Colorado learning about the pressing resource issues her home state faces.

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CFWE remembers the legacy of founder Diane Hoppe


Diane Hoppe receiving CFWE’s President’s Award from Justice Hobbs in 2012.

Colorado Representative Diane Hoppe passed away Saturday.


“A great leader for challenging times. Graceful in times of stress. Generous with her wisdom at all times.  Her enduring legacy, leadership by example,” says Justice Greg Hobbs, vice president of the CFWE board.

Diane helped found the Colorado Foundation for Water Education, served as board president from 2002-2007, and was awarded CFWE’s President’s Award in 2012. She was an extraordinary leader, visionary and great friend who championed CFWE’s inclusivity and balance. Diane touched and inspired all of us.

From an announcement released by the Colorado Water Conservation Board:

“Representative Hoppe’s contribution to the State of Colorado was substantial and the loss of her leadership and friendship will be felt by many statewide,” said Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.


Diane Hoppe connects with friends at CFWE’s 2013 President’s Award Reception.

Diane was elected chair of the Colorado Water Conservation Board in 2015, and though she was so crucial to the start of CFWE, her work and accomplishments extend far beyond water education. She served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1999 through 2006 and chaired the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee, the Water Interim Committee, and the Water Resources Review Committee. When Diane Hoppe received CFWE’s President’s Award in 2012, Justice Greg Hobbs wrote a short biographical article:


A third generation Sterling girl whose physician father delivered her, Diane Hoppe knows dry and the value of wet.  She and her former husband, Mike, were dry land farmers in Northeastern Colorado from 1975 to 1985.  “We had a cattle and wheat operation.  We prayed for rain a lot.”  They have two sons.  After their divorce in 1985, Hoppe moved back into Sterling and got her start in public life by “being the ears” for Congressman Hank Brown in his Northeastern Colorado district.  Brown, who forged the creation of the Cache la Poudre Wild and Scenic River Act in 1986, then became a Senator, bringing Hoppe along.  “Hank never had a bad thing to say about an individual.  He knew how to have a difference of opinion without thinking those who don’t agree with you are bad people.”

Thrust into the controversy over designation of new wilderness areas, Hoppe learned from Brown “how to keep a calm demeanor and take notes.”  Together Senators Brown and Wirth, of opposite parties, brought home a wilderness act protecting water and environmental interests.  “Hank believed Colorado’s Instream Flow Program could help resolve wilderness issues.  But, federal agencies didn’t trust the state to enforce the instream flow water rights once the Colorado Water Conservation Board got them.”

By careful boundary drawing, combined with legislative language disclaiming any intent to create a federal reserved water right, at least for those new wilderness additions, the Colorado Congressional Delegation obtained enactment of the 1993 Colorado Wilderness Act.  Two years later, emphasizing that the CWCB appropriates instream flow water rights in the name of the people, the Colorado Supreme Court held that the state has a “fiduciary duty” to enforce them.

Hoppe served in the Colorado House of Representatives from 1999 to 2006, succeeding fellow Republican Don Ament, whose political campaigns she had managed over the years.  In 2003, when the drought was at its worst and junior surface and tributary ground water rights in the South Platte Basin were being curtailed in favor of the most senior rights, she obtained the enactment of a provision allowing the State Engineer to approve substitute supply plans and temporary changes of water rights.  This provision allowed junior rights to receive water if they provided sufficient replacement water to the seniors and filed for a plan of augmentation in the water court. Continue reading here.

CFWE’s executive director Nicole Seltzer will miss Diane’s many words of advice.  “She was always willing to help  me understand others’ viewpoints, work with me to improve CFWE’s reputation and programs, and was a stalwart supporter of our work.  I will greatly miss the opportunity to rely upon Diane’s insight.”


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