Workshop Aims to Slake State's Future Thirst

Blue Mesa Lake is Colorado's largest water body and home of the Curecanti National Recreation Area.
The 39th Colorado Water Workshop takes place June 18 through 20 in Western's University Center Ballroom.
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GUNNISON — The three-day Colorado Water Workshop kicked off in Western’s University Center Ballroom on Wednesday, June 18, with a hearing of the Colorado Legislature’s Interim Water Resources Review Committee.

State Rep. Randy Fischer, D-Fort Collins, leads a hearing of the Interim Water Resources Review Committee in Western's University Center Ballroom.
The hearing, the first of nine planned for each of the state’s river-basin management regions, focused on gathering input from stakeholders in the Gunnison River Basin.

Maria-Claudia Tomany, Western’s associate vice president for Academic Affairs, emphasized the importance of water resources for all living creatures, turning to the Old Testament’s Psalm 42 for inspiration:

“‘As the deer pants for water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God …’

“Water is life. It touches every living creature,” Tomany continued. Then she explained how a conversation with a rancher in tears over having to cull her herd for lack of water preceded by just a few days Tomany’s flight to Phoenix. As she landed in the desert oasis the city comprises, she looked out on squares of blue swimming pools and green lawns. And she contemplated the choices that quenched such aesthetic needs while forcing the destruction of growing food.

Maria-Claudio Tomany addresses Water Workshop.

Others shared information about the choices Colorado faces within its borders, noting that most of the state’s water flows to the Western Slope, while most of its population lies east of the Continental Divide. Yet none of the state’s eight river basins has any extra capacity available. The speakers noted projections the state could have twice as many people in 50 years. And with 89 percent of water use in Colorado dedicated to agriculture, it was clear to many in the audience that practices would have to change.

Balancing such needs and choices will be the rub, all agreed, as they broke into small groups to share thoughts on the state’s priorities.

The official workshop schedule began with a free barbecue lunch for attendees, following that hearing at the University Center.

The workshop, in its 39th year and set to run through Friday, June 20, includes a series of panel discussions, tours, meetings and informal gatherings between experts on law, science, agriculture and planning. It brings these experts together with each other and stakeholders from throughout the state to examine areas of agreement and differences concerning the future of the state’s river systems and water bodies.

For more information, including a complete list of speakers and session schedules, please visit the Colorado Water Workshop website at or contact Dr. Jeff Sellen, workshop director, at 970.943.3162 or

Story and photographs by Greg Smith, Western State Colorado University Communications.


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State Sen. Gail Schwartz, D-Aspen, listens with others to input during a small-group discussion on state water policy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014 - 12:45pm to Friday, June 20, 2014 - 12:45pm