Southwest Water Seminar

For 39 years in southwestern Colorado, water managers, irrigators, municipal representatives, tribal members, environmental advocates, recreation enthusiasts, and interested citizens have come together each year for the SWCD’s Southwest Water Seminar. It’s a unique opportunity to interact with other individuals who are passionate about water resources and hear expert speakers from around the state and region.

The 39th Southwest Water Seminar took place on March 31st, 2023 at the Sky Ute Casino and Resort.

A video recording of the conference will be made public soon, and feel free to browse the provided presentations, below:

Session 1: Water Reuse- Treating Wastewater and Using it Again – A Deeper Look

  1.  Brandi Honeycutt – Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment
  2. Molly Morris – Four Corners Office for Resource Efficiency (4CORE)
  3. Jolene Walsh – Director, Policy and Governmental Affairs, Easter Municipal Water District 
  4. Helen Katich -Senator Hickenloper’s Office, Funding the Drinking Water Space

Session 2: Seeking Common Ground along the Colorado River

3. Manuel Heart – – Ute Mountain Ute

Session 3: West Slope-East Slope, Lower, and Upper Basin Food and Water Connection

1. Robert Sakata-Sakata Farms

2. Paul Bruchez – Food and Water Connection

3. Simon Martinez – Ute Mt. Ute Farm and Ranch Enterprise

4. Bart Fisher – Palo Verde Irrigation District

Session 4: Statewide and Regional Environmental Issues

1. Celene Hawkins – The Nature Conservancy 

2. Jake Kurzweil – Associate Director of Water Programs, Mountain Studies Institute

3. Alex Funk – Director of Water Resources, Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership

Water Information Program Overview & Lunch Game

Elaine Chick – Water Information Program Manager

SWCD 39th Southwest Water Seminar Agenda

The 38th Southwest Water Seminar, “Navigating Shortage,” was attended by 170 people both in person and online.

Missed the seminar? All sessions are now available SWCD’s YouTube Channel.

Read seminar coverage from the Cortez Journal and Durango Herald:

Seminar asks what prolonged drought means for southwest Colorado
Tribes assert water rights on the Colorado River
Adjusting for drought requires innovation, planning

Below are several presentations given at the seminar: Click here to review the final 2022 program.

Video: Southwest Basins – Our Forests and Rivers

Southwest Colorado in the Aridification Bullseye
Becky Bolinger, CSU Assistant State Climatologist
Rob Genualdi, Division 7 Engineer, Colorado Division of Water Resources
Heidi Steltzer, Fort Lewis College

Navigating Shortages for Southwest Colorado Water Users
Susan Behery, U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Ken Curtis, Dolores Water Conservancy District
Ben Wolcott, Mancos Valley Rancher

Tribal Engagement – A New Dynamic on the Colorado River
Manuel Heart, Ute Mountain Ute Tribal Chairman

100 Years of the Colorado River Compact
Eric Kuhn, Author and Former Colorado River District Manager
Kelsea Macilory, PhD Candidate, Colorado State University
Beth Van Vurst, SWCD General Counsel, Van Vurst Law
Becky Mitchell, Colorado’s Commissioner to the UCRC

Water 22 – It All Starts Here
Elaine Chick, Water Information Program

Balancing Protection and Use of our Natural Resources
Hattie Johnson, American Whitewater
Jim White, Colorado Parks & Wildlife
Don Schwindt, Family Farm Alliance

Water Quality Impacts as Flows Drop
Peter Butler, Bonita Peak Community Advisory Group
John Cyran, Western Resource Advocates

SWCD’s 37th Annual Seminar, “Headwaters to Headgates: Uniting Leaders and Lessons for Southwest Colorado,” had another record number of attendees. U.S. Congressman Scott Tipton, Becky Mitchell, Colorado Commissioner to the Upper Colorado River Commission, as well as KKTV meteorologist Brian Bledsoe were among the speakers. Click here to read a Durango Herald article based on a presentation at the seminar.

Below are several presentations given at the seminar. Click here to review the final program.

Weather We Like it or Not
Brian Bledsoe – KKTV

Laser Mapping of Mountain Snowpacks
Jeff Deems – National Snow & Ice Data Center

Phase III Preliminary Results: Colorado River West Slope Risk Assessment
John Currier – Colorado River Water Conservation District

Making Waves in Water Education
Jayla Poppleton – Water Education Colorado

Proposing a Reverse Auction Exchange: Compensating Farmers for Reductions in Consumptive Use
Steve Ruddell – Economist, David Stiller – Consultant

SWCD’s 36th Annual Water Seminar, “Weathering the Weather: Resilience in Managing Our Water Resources Today,” was attended by almost 200 people, and highlighted lessons for our local communities in preparing for and responding to sudden challenges. Experts discussed how wildfire impacts water supplies, the state’s response to emergencies such as the 2013 front range flooding, the western slope’s risk in the context of Colorado River obligations and drought, as well as avoiding devastating infrastructure failure, among other related topics. Hear an interview about the seminar with Executive Director Bruce Whitehead or read coverage of the event in the Durango Herald.

Below are the presentations given at the 2018 seminar. Click here for the full program.

Forests, Wildfires & Water Supplies
Andy Colosimo – Colorado Springs Utilities
Steve Hartvigsen – San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership

Water Wizard Quiz: Are You Ready for an Emergency?
Dave Grey – Water Wizard

Five Years Since the Front Range Flood
Sean Cronin – St Vrain and Left Hand Water Conservancy District
Eric Wilkinson – Northern Water Conservancy District
Kevin Rein – State Engineer

Floating the Tough Years: An Agile Recreation Economy
Becky Mitchell – Colorado Water Conservation Board
Cathy Metz – City of Durango

Protecting Our Supplies & Communities
Matt Gavin – Colorado Dam Safety

Recounting the Oroville Dam Spillway Failure
Bill Croyle – Retired CA Division of Water Resources

System Resilience: Planning for Drought on the Colorado River
Karen Kwon, Brent Newman – Colorado Attorney General, CWCB

2017 Annual Water Seminar

The 2017 theme was “Solving the Water Funding Puzzle.” Across the West, the struggle to finance water projects and programs is constant. Speakers from state, federal and local perspectives discussed opportunities to continue essential water programs, address aging infrastructure and implement the water plan. Below are presentations provided by the speakers.

Click here for the 2017 program, and read bios on the speakers.

Seminar coverage in the Durango Herald (editorial).

Seminar coverage in the Pine River Times.

Bill Levine (DNR) SWCD Seminar

Jim Maras (USDA) SWCD Seminar

Dick Brown (Lobbyist) SWCD Seminar

Emily Brumit (CWC) SWCD Seminar

Kirk Russell (CWCB) SWCD Seminar

Pat Steadman (Former State JBC) SWCD Seminar

Dave Grey (The Wiz) SWCD Seminar

Mike Brod (CWR&PDA) SWCD Seminar

Celene Hawkins (TNC) SWCD Seminar

Ken Curtis (DWCD) SWCD Seminar

Nathan Fey (American Whitewater) SWCD Seminar