History of the Colorado Water Workshop

The Colorado Water Workshop began in 1976 as a joint effort of Western Colorado University history professor Duane Vandenbusche and Gunnison water lawyer and Western graduate Richard "Dick" Bratton. They felt that Colorado needed a place - high up near the Continental Divide, which divides the state in more ways than just geographically - where the various factions and interests involved in water issues could come to explore options "off the record."

This beginning was right on the cusp of a broadening environmental awareness, a time when water quality issues began to become as important as water quantity issues, and when a western consensus about the positive nature of resource development and growth began to fragment. In the years since, the Colorado Water Workshop has gained a reputation throughout the West as a place where all parties can come and be heard and hear as much as they are willing to listen to. In Dick Bratton's words: "Every responsible position will be adequately represented."


Over Three Decades of Colorado Water Workshops

2011: Risk, Opportunity, and Leadership in Changing Climates.

2010:  Scarcity, Conflict, and Cooperation: Meeting Future Demands Through Innovation Today.

2009: Accommodating Complexity: Exploring the Challenges and Opportunities of Nonconsumptive Use.  

2008: Mining, Energy, and Water in the West.  

2007: Equalizations, Equity and Environment: Opportunities in the Colorado River Watershed.  

2006: The Developed Resource. A look at how to  "learn to share a developed resource" in an era of growing demands, including the roles and values water has had in the West, what role or roles, what value or values, might work best as we move into that future. 

2005: Thirty Years Ago, Who Would Ever Have Imagined. A retrospective look at three very interesting decades in western water history, concluding with a workshop on where we are going in the "HB 1177 era."  

2004: Technology, Science (including the “Dismal Science”), and the Changing Politics of Water. 

2003: In Hard Times: Collaboration or Contention? An examination of how Coloradoans and South-westerners in general are dealing with the growing drought, following the driest year on record in most of the West. 

2002: Reclamation at the Century Mark: The Legacy and the Challenge. A large look at large-scale public reclamation in the West, past and present, since the Newlands Act of 1902 – its achievements, problems, and the remaining challenge.

2001: Who’s in Charge? How are changes in the federal and state governments affecting water use in Colorado? How are recent court decisions and new legislation shaping the future? A mix of policy debates and case studies on the latest issues in water management.

2000: Clean and Flowing Water.

1999: Garden of Dreams vs. High-Desert Reality. Can we save everything, keep our lawns green... and have enough water for everyone?

1998: World Water Lessons for a Changing West. A closer look at distant lands where water issues mirror what we face in sharing the Colorado River’s resources into the 21st century, with presentations on New Zealand, South Asia, and Central and Eastern Europe. Keynote by Floyd Dominy.

1997: Water Partnerships: Can Competing Users Cooperate to Manage a Vital Resource and Live Happily Ever After? Impacts, problems and opportunities of water partnering in management of western water resources; the Colorado River Compact as the prototype water partnership; reports on partnership efforts in California, Arizona, Nevada, and Utah.

1996: Instream Flows: Minimum Doctrine/Maximum Controversy. The impact of 1973's revolutionary in-stream flow law and the evolution of in-stream flow policy and Colorado's program.

1995: The Endangered West. The changing West – endangered species protection, irrigated agriculture; water users and environmental protection; working it out - watershed management efforts.

1994: Quenching the Urban Giant. Municipal water issues as they relate to resource areas.

1993: The Big Squeeze. Watershed-based approaches, ideas from the Association of Metropolitan Sewage Agencies, water quality challenges, watershed approaches in Oregon, Carson-Truckee, Boulder Creek, sociological perspectives.

1992: Showdown on the Colorado River. Interstate compacts, endangered species, Native American interstate rights, perspectives from the Lower Basin.

1991: From the Dome to the Ditches: Translating Environmental Legislation into Practice. Water use and environmental protection, CWCB in-stream flow program, and California's three-way water agreement group.

1990: Colorado Water Institutions: Valuable Traditions, New Frontiers. History, water user's forum, case study: managing Arkansas River flows for in-stream uses, institutional examples from other states (Montana, California, Wyoming, Idaho).

1989: Enough and Clean Enough: Colorado's Water Quality/Quantity Debate. Water quality and water rights - a historical perspective, water quality/quantity conflicts - seeking effective processes for resolution and accommodation.

1988: Water for Sale: Colorado in the Balance. Water sales and transfers, water values and views, water futures and frontiers.

1987: Water and Colorado's Future: Currents of Change for Colorado Water Law & Policy. Animas-La Plata, physical/economic links among water systems, water laws, water markets, water transfers, planning, greenhouse effect, the Clean Water Act.

1986: Water and Colorado's Recreation Industry. Beauty, Bucks, & Beneficial Use.

1985: Colorado Water: At the Great Divide. Trans mountain diversion, report on Animas-La Plata, environmental constraints impacting water resource decisions, salinity and financial issues.

1984: Acid Rain and the West. Views from the West, East and Canada

1983: Dams. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

1982: Colorado River: Perspective 2000-2020. Salinity control, EPA perspectives, development, Central Arizona project and metals flux.

1981: Groundwater: Problems & Possible Solutions.

1980: Water and the Development of Western Colorado. Environment vs. economy, river quality assessment, Colorado 'hit list' projects, future direction of natural resources on the Western Slope.

1979: Mining and Water. Glen Saunders of the Denver Board of Water Commissioners chaired.

1978: Water as Tool for Managing Growth: Values, Facts and Policy. State 208 project, water quality management, national water policy and the State's position, water development & water rights.

1977: Water and the Western Slope. History, Indian treaties, interstate compacts, interaction with Eastern slope, environment and conservation.

1976: Water in Colorado. A two-week course in historical, geographical and legal perspectives.