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Alt. Water Transfers

Cover HW Fall 2017

Water sharing and banking, coined "alternative transfer methods" or ATMs, could provide flexibility for stretched water supplies —but not without marked challenges. Read the Fall 2017 issue of Headwaters magazine and explore options to:

  • keep water in farming
  • help municipalities plan ahead
  • share between ag and environmental uses
  • bank water on the Colorado River

Browse articles and find a flipbook of the magazine here.

Connecting the Drops

connectingdropslogo4.1Bringing you the reporting you crave over the radio airways with extras and archives on our website. Visit the audio archives or listen to the latest story on the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act and the Colorado river that could become the state's second wild and scenic protect river—Deep Creek:

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Water Education Colorado

Headwaters MagazineColorado's public lands mean that there are places to go and things to do. We have national grasslands, mountain parks, wild rivers, open space and more. This issue explores Wild and Scenic River designation, the impacts of decades-long fire suppression policies, mines and minerals and more.

Browse selections from the magazine below or flip through the full magazine online.

Of Mines and Minerals

By Eryn Gable

Ever since William Green Russell discovered gold at the mouth of Dry Creek in 1858, mining has been a fact of life in Colorado. It was the lure of making a fortune from the state's vast natural resources that led many settlers here.

Read more: Of Mines and Minerals

A Lesson in Leadville

By Eryn Gable

The issue of abandoned mining tunnels made headlines last winter when the Lake County Board of Commissioners claimed that the Leadville Mine Drainage Tunnel posed an ‘imminent and substantial’ danger to the Arkansas Valley watershed.

Read more: A Lesson in Leadville

Uranium's popularity,residents' concern both on the rise

By Eryn Gable

Concerns about global climate change have renewed interest in nuclear power and driven prices for uranium to record highs, creating a resurgence of uranium mining in Colorado.

Read more: Uranium's popularity,residents' concern both on the rise

A Good Intention Gone Wrong

By Jayla Ryan Poppleton

Decades of Fire Suppression

History has no shortage of examples in which humans attempted to alter the flux of nature and later realized the error. The exclusion of fire from fire-adapted ecosystems is another case of good intentions gone wrong.

Read more: A Good Intention Gone Wrong

Navigating the Water World

By Jayla Poppleton | Photographs by Kevin Moloney

Consider it a networking opportunity extraordinaire.

Participants in the Colorado Foundation for Water Education's water leaders program are raving about the same thing: relationships.

Connecting with other up-and-coming leaders in the state as well as major players in the water community is making each person's work not only more enjoyable but more effective.

The water leaders program trains Colorado's emerging professionals in communication, negotiation and conflict-resolution skills. Participants gain a broad understanding of water resources issues in the state and have the opportunity to partner with mentors who are willing to impart knowledge gained through their own careers.

‘By investing in these highly-motivated professionals,’ says Foundation Executive Director Nicole Seltzer, ‘the Foundation is facilitating conversation and teaching participants to 'pay it forward' and use their education and training to improve the dialogue within the water community.’

Twenty-one people have completed the program during its two inaugural years.

‘Two good things are coming out of it,’ says Seltzer. ‘One, the opportunity to meet a group of excellent peers, a vetted group of professionals all working in the water resources field in different areas. And two, the self-assessment work they do is pretty intense.’

It was through this work that Tom Iseman found his voice. Iseman may be a bona fide introvert, but he's determined to shake that tendency when it comes to expressing his point of view in public settings. As the Nature Conservancy's water program manager, he is increasingly involved in state legislative issues and planning for statewide water supply. If he's going to have an influence, he must speak up.

‘I made a lot of progress,’ he says, ‘just by understanding that this was my personality type and working on being more extroverted in terms of how I participate in meetings and my willingness to engage in public speaking.’

Professional coach Len Loudis works with participants on a spectrum of self-assessments, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test, which identifies personality types. Participants learn not only about themselves, but about working with others who perceive the world through a different filter.

‘Dr. Loutis uses real-life examples of how we can better deal with fellow human beings and promote positive outcomes by doing so,’ says program graduate Scott Hummer.

Sasha Charney, from the program's first year, says, ‘Different people need different information to be able to work, to be motivated.’

Charney describes an exercise Dr. Loutis gave the class after splitting them into two groups. Each group brainstormed a definition for ‘pristine waters.’

‘Our group, the thinkers, was throwing out things like: parts per million contaminants, the definition of wilderness, that there's no such thing as pristine. The other group, the feelers, came back with pictures of a bubbling brook and sparkling water. It was a fabulous example. If you're presenting to a board and they're a different type, they're not going to hear a word you said.’

Charney, water resources specialist for Boulder County, manages water holdings for Boulder as part of its parks and open space program. For most of her work, she doesn't encounter others in the water field, so she especially valued the connection with her mentor, Colorado Supreme Court Justice Gregory Hobbs.

‘He was like three mentors in one,’ says Charney. ‘Part of it was his incredible enthusiasm for water. Even after working on this for decades, he still has so much hope, enthusiasm and excitement about water. It is very motivating to be around that.’

She also appreciated the camaraderie and opportunity to bond with others in the same stage of their careers.

‘You're in a confidential environment where you can really share your successes, failures, and challenges with a bright group of people,’ says Charney.

Iseman agrees the best part was building relationships with people from diverse backgrounds and gaining new perspectives.

‘It's easy to stay in your own community,’ says Iseman. ‘But someone from the environmental community having the chance to work with farmers, engineers, municipal water providers—it was great.’

Ken Knox, deputy state engineer, was one of Iseman's mentors.

‘I was looking for a different set of experiences than what I was familiar with,’ says Iseman. ‘I wanted to work with people who administer water rights, who work with real water management issues from a different perspective. Ken was a great mentor, he really cared about it.’

Iseman continues to work with Knox on groundwater management issues in the San Luis Valley.

Beorn Courtney, director of water resources engineering at Headwaters Corporation, also linked up with her real world mentors. Currently, her main project is managing the water resources pieces of the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program.

Courtney entered the program in 2007 with a desire to understand the process of creating legislation and how that differs from water court law. The Foundation paired her with two mentors: Doug Kemper of the Colorado Water Congress and Thomas Morris from the State Legislative Legal Services Branch.

‘Before I knew it, I ended up at a meeting with both of these mentors for a project I had been working on,’ Courtney says. ‘Together we were helping others brainstorm how a new statute could be crafted based in part on the consulting work I'd been doing. Not only did the Foundation create a professional networking opportunity for me that made it more comfortable for me to attend these meetings because there were two familiar faces in the room, I also realized what a success the mentoring program was because I was matched with the ideal people to help me accomplish my goal.’

Even Scott Hummer, who has worked with the Colorado Division of Water Resources for 18 years, saw an opportunity to make contacts outside of his agency and cull their knowledge.

As water commissioner for the Blue River Basin, Hummer manages Blue River water rights. Whether the water is destined for an individual's home well, a rancher's irrigation diversions or storage in Dillon Reservoir, Hummer is the man charged with doling it out.

Born, raised and educated in Colorado, Hummer also takes advantage of his position to educate others about respecting his home state's most precious resource.

Hummer agrees that the program offered an incredible opportunity, even 18 years into his career: ‘What I learned was that there are a tremendous amount of experts out there within the Colorado water world and it is to my advantage to meet and learn from as many of those people as I possibly can. I would recommend the program to anyone out there in the water world no matter where they're at in their career.’

If the program keeps attracting people as it has, the networking opportunity will only continue to expand. The current alumni have already planned to meet periodically and envision a growing circle as each new class begins.

For Courtney, the relationships have been the greatest career benefit. ‘It's a very unique opportunity to do this type of leadership training with people who are familiar with your field and the issues that you face,’ she says. ‘Lots of leadership classes out there are teaching the same things. But it's more rewarding to do it with people who can relate to you, and the connection is water.’

The 2008 water leaders' class commenced in June and concludes next January. Contact the Foundation if you're interested in the class of 2009.

President's Award—Ken and Ruth Wright

By Justice Greg Hobbs

In Celebration of Bringing the Water Heritage of the America's Back Home

Ken and Ruth Wright of Boulder make progress backwards. They dig into the past for proof that ancient people were good water engineers and governed themselves effectively in the community for the public good. They've married their talents and degrees to a passion for each other and water education that embraces peoples of all ages in Peru and in Colorado.

From Machu Picchu to Mesa Verde, Ken and Ruth's story is compelling. They met on a ski bus in Wisconsin while she was at Marquette and he at the University of Wisconsin. A resident non-Catholic, take-the-streetcar-to-the-local-Jesuit-university-daughter-of-a-single-mother kind of girl, she studied philosophy, English, and history. He took civil engineering, business, and her seriously enough to have two daughters and a lifetime together of public giving.
They married in Salzburg, Austria, in 1954 while he was working in Saudi Arabia for the ARAMCO oil company. She was in Germany as a civilian employee for the U.S. Army. He proposed to her from a hospital bed after a car accident on an Austrian ski trip. Because he was so injured he couldn't speak, he wrote on the back of his ski boot receipt, ‘I dreamt that I had asked you to marry me and I think that's a good idea.’

Astounded by the indirect boldness of a dreaming engineer who could write so inventively, she returned to the United States to think it over. This kind of thinking led to helping her new husband in the Arabian desert write and edit his first published article addressing ‘Cathodic Protection of the Trans-Arabian Pipeline.’ With her active help in bridging English, engineering, science, culture and a sure feel for working with other people, he's now the author of three books: ‘Machu Picchu, A Civil Engineering Marvel;’ ‘Tipon, Water Engineering Masterpiece of the Inca Empire;’ and ‘The Water Mysteries of Mesa Verde.’ She's the author of ‘The Machu Picchu Guidebook, A Self-Guided Tour,’ which has sold an incredible 70,000 copies and counting.

Something in the desert causes a mighty thirst. Ruth has often fed Ken's water obsession. In Arabia she asked him what engineering subject he liked best as an undergraduate. He said hydrology. They returned to Wisconsin; he for a master's in hydraulic engineering; she, thirsty for the elixir of a good argument, to law school, both at the University of Wisconsin.

They came to Colorado in 1957 because Ruth had been to Aspen skiing when she was single and managed to lead Ken to the Great Divide one fall as the aspen turned golden. Ken's always enterprising. Figuring water for gold, as in Saudi Arabia so in Colorado, he relocated his rising career west.

Ken spent a couple of years with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation's Lakewood, office as a GS-9—when his boss said Ken's work on cathodic protection in Saudi Arabia didn't count as government work, Ken didn't get the grade increase he needed; Ruth delayed law school to have their two daughters while Ken went out on his own. He toured Colorado for potential clients. He found one with a seepage problem: one of Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District's supply canals. The district settled the damages with the propery owner on the strength of the will-work-for-a-living budding water engineer's good counsel. From there Ken went to work for the leading Colorado water engineer of the day, Pete Wheeler, at $5 an hour, on jobs Wheeler could bill to clients.

Pete taught Ken how to testify persuasively in court. Through Pete, Ken got to work with some of the great water lawyers of the day, Ray Moses, Chuck Biese, and Glenn Saunders. In 1961, Ken started Wright Water Engineers. The engineers part of that was Ken; now it's 50 working with him.

Ruth finished law school at the University of Colorado after 12 years out, graduating in 1972. She'd been busy in the meantime with family and volunteer civic activity, centering on the beauty of Boulder and the future of Colorado, her lifetime preoccupations. In the mid-to-late 60s, she participated in and chaired Plan Boulder and the Colorado Mountain Club. For Plan Boulder, broad thoroughfares and open space was the winning combination in a successful campaign to enact a 1-cent sales tax, 60 percent for attractive utilitarian thoroughfares and 40 percent for open space—a paradigm for how Ruth approaches the pragmatics of political persuasion.

Always an articulate woman in Colorado community, Ruth served as a member of the State Board of Health; the Water Quality Control Commission; the Colorado General Assembly in the House of Representatives for 14 years—including a stint as Minority Leader; the Great Outdoor Colorado Commission; the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District board; and many other official and unofficial volunteer organizations. The environment in which all of we creatures live continues to be the open-sky canopy of her existence as a public and private person.

Ruth's contribution to the work of the Colorado Supreme Court as a lawyer occurred in front of our predecessors in 1979 when she filed, on behalf of the League of Women Voters, an amicus curiae brief in favor of the constitutionality of Colorado's new instream flow law. Her presentation on how instream flow water rights could be administered within the prior appropriation water law system so impressed Justice Jim Groves, the author of the opinion, that he invited her to lunch after the case was over. Her brief led to a decision in favor of the state's perpetual role for preserving stream flows for protection of the natural environment. Ruth credits Ken for telling her how those instream flows could be administered.

With these two, it's partnership, research, scholarship, authorship and passion for the pursuit of a working understanding of communities. They generate enthusiasm, if not active cooperation, for getting up early in the morning. My wife, Bobbie, and I first experienced the early morning part of this when we participated in the 2003 paleo-hydrologic survey of the fourth-discovered Mesa Verde ancestral Puebloan reservoir in Prater Canyon. They had rigged the clock radio in our Cortez hotel room to blare at 5 a.m., and again and again until we got up.

If the crack of dawn proved itself to the ancestral Puebloans, it would be good enough for the 21st century students of their water history. Besides, the archeologists Jack Smith, Jim Kleidon, and David Breternitz, and the soil scientist Doug Ramsey, had their walking boots and daypacks on, waiting for the rest of the Wright survey team to assemble in the parking lot.

The morning briefing by Ken and Ruth, about the day's assignments and the necessity to strictly observe park protocols, is a familiar ritual. Assigned tasks involve assembling evidence to support the hypothesis that sediment mounds were not natural geologic features or Native American dance platforms but, rather, water storage vessels that had served for up to 350 years before silting in.

These investigations extended to check dams in gullies for spreading water onto corn plants, cisterns for capturing drinking water cascading through rimrock cracks high above, and vegetation-covered hidden springs the Puebloans must have used to haul the water away in five gallon pottery water jugs, back to their mesa top pit houses or alcove cliff palaces. Corn, water, and community, that's what it took to sustain these people over generations from approximately 500 A.D. before they migrated south towards the Hopi mesas, the Mogollon Rim, and old Mexico by the year 1300.

The Mesa Verde National Park invitation to the Wrights flowed naturally from their paleo-hydrology Machu Picchu findings. Ruth visited Machu Picchu in 1974 with their daughters. She came back with an observation and question for Ken, ‘I saw water stains on what I think are fountains now dry, what do you think the water source might have been?’ ‘Don't know,’ said Ken, ‘Let's try to find out.’

They waited 20 years for their first permit from the Peruvian Institute for National Culture, finally granted when Deputy Secretary of State and former U.S. Senator Tim Wirth helped clear the way. Permit in hand, Ken and Ruth asked their good friend, Denver Art Museum's Gordon McEwan who among the Peruvians was the leading Machu Pichu expert. McEwan's immediate answer: Alfredo Valencia Zegarra.

This Peruvian-Coloradan partnership has restored to Machu Picchu its 16 flowing fountains that flash and pipe their way down Machu Picchu's incomparable stone staircase, fed by a perennial spring high above the Urubamba River.
Ken explains the necessity for a good hypothesis, even one that doesn't pan out. You need to imagine, as Einstein did, that the natural world and any functional human accommodation begin with imagining. You imagine a possible explanation. Then you measure, calculate, and map the way to a resolution. But, you will have no resolution if you can't assemble the evidence.

Says Alfredo: ‘If there's no proof, it's not true.’

So you postulate again until revelation of what's been hidden within emerges. Then you help to educate others. That's your public responsibility and your personal joy.

Peruvians highly prize Ruth and Ken for their contributions to understanding that country's astounding water heritage. When I visited Machu Picchu with friends in 2002, I experienced this in the central plaza of Machu Picchu. The Wrights had given me a blue soccer team T-shirt with my name on the back and WWE (Wright Water Engineers) and INR (Instituto Nacional de Cultura) on the front.

Seeing me, the restoration workers put aside their spades and trowels, called out ‘Amigo, Amigo,’ and gave me big embrazos. I had Ruth's Machu Picchu guidebook in hand, the one she co-authored with Alfredo Valencia—he explaining to her every aspect of structure, function, huaca and glyph and she adding her confident written narration.

The workers showed me their pictures in the guidebook and signed those pages for me. Just recently the Peru's president presented Ken and Ruth with beribboned medals celebrating their contributions.
Deep respect for people and their heritage wins friends who want you back again. It begins at home, at the core you live in. When you're a Coloradan, like Ken and Ruth, you love the mountain ground, the mountain waters, and the mountain skies. You're a Peruvian, you're a Mesa Verdean.

A good marriage they have made. Ruth says, ‘Crow with him for his successes and show compassion in the hard times.’ Ken says, ‘I couldn't have done any of this without Ruth.’

In celebration of Ken and Ruth Wright, for bringing the water heritage of the Americas back home, I affectionately dedicate this poem:

Ruth and Ken

She's the fountain,
he the water jar.

They leap continents
ears tasting underground
for the stone-cool water drops
their fingers can see the ozone smell-of
before a spade or trowel may untouch
the web of mother earth's womb.

Machu Picchu and Mesa Verde
respect Ken and Ruth Wright

For their half-step, quarter-step,
go-slow no-step solution to progress —
progress backwards.

Consider this engineering argument
your lawyer mate can calculate precisely,
matching your insight: the Wright Corollary —
Shoe-Be-Do, tread softly and carry a walking stick,
for the present's a rocky prologue to the past and
contemporary civilization a remnant of ancient
understandings modern myths obscure.

Get up early. Ken and Ruth aren't talking the
cutting edge of dull, no TV-staged exotic island enticement
where the Survivor leaves her unspared change with
an advertiser before changing channels

They're talking rock tongues in high places where
condors wheel at your feet and pot sherds speak
with thirsty lips in high-hand niches holding out
for a good rain.

‘Take a look at this, Hobbit.’ Ruth relates a piece
of mug that flashes a zig-zag pattern of black and white
lightning, ‘Pueblo II.’ Ken writes in his field book
yet another second coming.

Come you the departed whole of the sky, the ground,
the underground, come trinity the ancient ones
revered as one. Mountain goat on weathered outcrop.
Llama ash on water. Corn roots feeling their way
down. For the dead do not sleep but preside
among us, ‘Que Milagro!’

I am the arc that nests this mountain,
hold to my umbilical.

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