Colorado State University receives $12 million award to establish urban water sustainability research network

Sloans Lake at sunrise via
Sloans Lake at sunrise via

From Colorado State University (Kate Jeracki):

A consortium of 14 academic institutions and key partners across the country is addressing the challenges that threaten urban water systems in the United States and around the world. With support from a $12 million cooperative agreement from the National Science Foundation, Colorado State University leads the effort to establish the Urban Water Innovation Network (UWIN).

The mission of UWIN is to create technological, institutional, and management solutions to help communities increase the resilience of their water systems and enhance preparedness for responding to water crises.

UWIN builds on long-standing programs at CSU for research and training, and trusted leadership in all facets of water resources. These programs include urban water conservation, sustainable urban drainage systems and flood control, drought management, pollution control, water resources planning and management, ecological engineering, climate sciences, and urban biodiversity.

Mazdak Arabi, associate professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at CSU, serves as the director of UWIN. Other CSU faculty involved with UWIN include professors Sybil Sharvelle, Brian Bledsoe, Neil Grigg, Jorge Ramirez, Dan Baker, and Scott Denning from the CSU College of Engineering, and LeRoy Poff with the Department of Biology.

According to the 2014 Global Risks Perception Survey by the World Economic Forum, water crises are the top global risk to the viability of communities throughout the world. From the crippling droughts and water shortages in the West to the devastating floods in the East and South, water systems in the U.S. have been impacted by changes in climate, demographics, and other pressures. Our absolute reliance on water is why Americans express greater concern about threats to water than about any other environmental issue and why more than half of all Americans worry a great deal about it, according to latest Gallup poll of environmental concerns.

Extreme events and global climate change can have profound impacts on water security, shattering the most vulnerable communities and instilling enormous costs on governments and economies. Effective response to these challenges requires transitioning to both technological and management solutions that protect water systems from pressures and enhance their resilience.

The vision of UWIN is to create an enduring research network for integrated water systems and to cultivate champions of innovation for water-sensitive urban design and resilient cities. The integrated research, outreach, education and participatory approach of UWIN will produce a toolbox of sustainable solutions by simultaneously minimizing pressures, enhancing resilience to extreme events, and maximizing co-benefits. These benefits will reverberate across other systems, such as urban ecosystems, economies and arrangements for environmental justice and social equity.

The network will establish six highly connected regional urban water sustainability hubs in densely populated regions across the nation to serve as innovation centers, helping communities transition to sustainable management of water resources. Strategic partnerships and engagement with other prominent U.S. and international networks will extend UWIN’s reach to more than 100 cities around the world.

Key UWIN partners and collaborators include the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF), the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN), and the Network for Water in European Regions and Cities (NETWERC H2O).

This innovative and adaptive research approach will ultimately produce an Urban Water Sustainability Blueprint, outlining effects and tradeoffs associated with sustainable solutions for cities of all sizes. It will also provide steps and guidance for action based on the collective knowledge gained by the research and the collaborative approach of the SRN. The Blueprint will be rigorously vetted by regional stakeholders across the U.S. and the global urban water community.

The UWIN consortium includes:

Colorado State University
Arizona State University
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies
Florida International University
Howard University
Oregon State University
Princeton University
University of Arizona
University of California-Berkeley
University of California-Riverside
University of Maryland Baltimore County
University of Miami
University of Oregon
University of Pennsylvania

For more information please contact UWIN coordinator Meagan Smith at

More education coverage here.

Mountain West Strategies … Program Highlights & Campaign Updates…Summer 2015

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

So far 2015 has been a whirlwind of activity and movement on the projects we are working on and following at Mountain West Strategies.

From organizing a climate conference in Paonia and a gourmet food event with a message in Denver, to providing strategic support for community leaders meeting with top decision-makers in DC, running skills workshops, and tabling at neighborhood events; Mountain West Strategies’ effective tactics, communications, and planning have already made a difference for stakeholders, partners, and clients in 2015.

More education coverage here.

Southwestern youth organize to conserve the #ColoradoRiver — The Colorado Independent #COriver

Two dozen college kids from all over the Southwest have flocked to Denver this weekend to learn about the history and future of the Colorado River – their source of water.
Two dozen college kids from all over the Southwest have flocked to Denver this weekend to learn about the history and future of the Colorado River – their source of water.

From The Colorado Independent (Nat Stein):

“… the Colorado River system is not bounded by state lines, but by history, culture, and watersheds, and … everyone in the basin needs to be committed to working together to solve the challenges facing the river.”

Two dozen college kids from all over the Southwest have flocked to Denver this weekend to learn about the history and future of the Colorado River – their source of water.

The event, the Nuestro Rio Youth Leadership Summit, was put on by Nuestro Rio (Our River), a nonprofit that organizes Latinos in the Southwest to conserve the Colorado River.

From July 23-25, at Denver Metro University, participants will learn about the river’s history, its critical role in the region’s ecosystem, the strain it’s under and how to engage communities in conservation efforts.

“Not only is the Colorado River a great source for life in the western deserts, it is also a “book” with countless tales of America’s natural and cultural history,” said Adrian Hernandez Lopez, a participant from southern California, in a release.

Nuestro Rio bills the summit as representative of “the growing engagement of Latino and Native Americans, who recognize that the Colorado River system is not bounded by state lines, but by history, culture, and watersheds, and that everyone in the basin needs to be committed to working together to solve the challenges facing the river.”

Photo credit: Denny Armstrong, Creative Commons, “>Flickr.

A Citizen’s Perspective on Her Water Utility

Originally posted on Your Water Colorado Blog:

By Kristin Maharg

As a professional working to educate Coloradans on the value of water resources, I’m drawn to public process. How are we exposed to civic issues, why should we care about community planning and what are meaningful ways to participate in decision-making? These are powerful questions that can lead to a more engaged citizenry and hopefully, a more sustainable future. So when the opportunity to serve on Denver Water’s Citizens Advisory Committee came to me six months ago, I was eager and honored to dive in.

Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee. Members of the Citizens Advisory Committee.

The CAC was created in 1978 as a result of public concern about growth issues and environmental impacts, forming a citizens group charged with representing public interests. There are ten of us from the West Slope, city and suburbs of Denver, amongst others, that advise the Board of Water Commissioners on matters of citizen participation. One…

View original 529 more words

CWCB: What’s new in #COWaterPlan – July 2015? (webinar) for your listening pleasure

More Colorado Water Plan coverage here.

WRA Training Helps Water and Land Use Leaders Shape a Better Future Together

From Western Resource Advocates (Drew Beckwith):

WRA recently led an innovative training series in Colorado to empower land use and water planners. Our goal was to give them the knowledge they need to make smart, water-saving decisions for their cities and towns.

Water conservation must become integrated into the fabric of Western communities if we are to meet growing water demands while still maintaining everything that makes the West a great place to live. In Colorado, we’re projected to add more than 4 million new people by 2050—equivalent to five new cities the size of Denver popping up along the Front Range over the next 40 years. This growth explosion will run up against the age-old problem in the arid west—water. Water supplies, already strained by existing populations and the impacts of climate change, will need to stretch even further in the future.

The workshop series we hosted in May focused on better integrating water planning and urban development for the fast-growing Front Range of Colorado. The four-day Land Use Leadership Alliance Training Program, ‘LULA’ as we affectionately call it, was hosted by WRA and taught by Pace University law professors and local land use consultants. The LULA workshops foster dialogue and collaboration between city planners, developers, water providers, and key government officials who are focused on decreasing the water demands of future development WRA brought together more than 30 participants from the communities of Broomfield, Commerce City, Lakewood, and Westminster.

Henry Hollender, a Planning Commissioner from Lakewood, framed the challenge we face in this way: “The Front Range of Colorado is a semi-arid region that will double in population in the next 35 years. We are already experiencing water supply issues during dry periods. This will only get worse if we don’t take water conservation more seriously in our planning efforts.” I couldn’t agree more…well said, Henry.

WRA’s LULA workshop provides an opportunity for Front Range communities and selected leaders to be better prepared for that rapid growth by identifying smart ways to integrate land use planning with water planning. This type of planning locks in water savings at the time of construction, in a way that is much cheaper and more reliable than retrofitting households at a later date. Homes and communities that are planned “water-smart from the start” can use half the amount of water of typical new homes.

One of the best parts of these workshops is bringing together local leaders and giving them the tools they need to work together and plan for a more water efficient future. Stu Feinglas, the Water Resources Analyst for Westminster, said, “Land use planning and water supply planning share the same ultimate common goal but differ in their language, methods and parameters. The LULA training helps those involved in both areas to understand each other and the value of cooperation.” Tim Lowe, General Manager at Bancroft-Clover Water and Sanitation District, added on, “For those who do not do land use planning but are affected by it, this is a great opportunity to learn about the process and start thinking pro-actively about how to integrate it into your own long term planning.”

The real magic happens, though, when these LULA graduates go back to their communities and start putting what they’ve learned into action. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruits of our labor growing out of LULA-generated ideas, such as a data sharing agreement between a city and its separately-run water provider, a commitment to specifically include water in an upcoming comprehensive plan update, and a tap fee reduction program for water smart landscaping. These types of programs will build upon our collective momentum to ensure that the Front Range grows in the most water-smart ways.

More education coverage here. Enter to win 2 tickets to the premier of the “Great Divide” movie

Havey Productions' Great Divide film on water in Colorado will debut in Spring 2015.

Click here to enter. From the website:


The Great Divide, a feature length documentary film from the Emmy award winning team of Havey Productions, in association with Colorado Humanities, will illustrate the timeless influence of water in both connecting and dividing an arid state and region. From Ancient Puebloan cultures and the gold rush origins of Colorado water law to agriculture, dams, diversions, and conservation; the film will reveal today’s critical need to cross “the great divide,” replacing conflict with cooperation.


If you don’t win, check out one of the dates on the film tour.

Enter by July 30. The winner will be chosen by random. Tickets will be e-mailed to the winner.