The 25th Arkansas River Basin Water Forum’s 2019 program: “A River of Dreams & Realties, Then and Now” featured three days of total immersion in the world of water at the newly remodeled Pueblo Convention Center. Events started with the VIP dinner on April 23, and featured workshops, dinners, and social networking on April 24 and 25.
All of the events were keyed to the idea of progress made through collaboration in the past 25 years. At the VIP Dinner, recovering journalist Chris Woodka interviewed modern-day counterparts of a few of the original Forum speakers. Workshops over the next two days followed the same format looking at municipal, agricultural, recreation and environmental issues.
About 180 people attended the VIP dinner, and about 225 signed up for the two-day Forum.
The highlight of the Forum was the keynote speech by U.S. Senator Cory Gardner, who took the opportunity to voice his support for the Arkansas Valley Conduit. Gardner said it’s hjgh time for the federal government to keep its promise to the Lower Arkansas Valley and build the conduit.
John Stulp, former Colorado Water Policy Adviser, and Russ George, director of the Interbasin Compact Committee also delivered keynote addresses at the Forum. Both stressed the need for cooperative efforts to move water programs and projects forward.
Spanning the generational changes that provided the framework of the conference were Jim Valliant, a member of the planning committee for the 1995 Forum, and Silas Malers, a budding engineer at age 12. Mr. Valliant spoke of the vastly changed landscape of water at Wednesday’s luncheon, while young Silas demonstrated complex interrelationships within a watershed with a model constructed of Legos.
Along the same theme, the Not So Silent Auction raised more than $3,100 for scholarships. Two scholarship winners Evan Olivier and Brian Craig, attended the closing luncheon. A third scholarship went to Sierra Heimel.
Jean Van Pelt was the first woman to be awarded the Bob Appel Friend of the Arkansas River Award. Jean was the Forum organizer for many years and currently serves on the board of directors.
And at the conclusion of the Forum, Paul Fanning provided a wonderful summation of the week’s activities. At the end of the talk, he revealed that Kip Peterson's (Donala Water and Sanitation District) ugly tie simply will not go away. Paul won the tie at auction at the 2017 Forum, and gratefully surrendered it in 2018 to Rena Brand of Colorado Parks and Wildlife. John Stulp, former water policy advisor for Gov. Hickenlooper, purchased it at auction in 2019, with the condition that Paul wear it in 2020. Paul made some sort of vague, muffled threat about its fate in 2020, but no one heard it among the din from plates, glasses, and cutlery being removed from tables by the wait staff.
ARBWF Planning Committee
Southeastern Colorado Water Conservancy District
One of my first experiences with the water community was during the 2016 Arkansas River Basin Water Forum held in Salida. That year I attended as an interested citizen with an eagerness to learn. This past week, I had the privilege of attending as an employee of the Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District and a member of the Forum planning committee. A lot can happen in 3 years. Or, how about 25!
We recently wrapped up this year’s Forum, the 25th anniversary held in Pueblo. If you were fortunate enough to attend, you may recall a presentation by Division 2 Engineer Bill Tyner, where he posed a series of questions to test our water knowledge. Maybe you’ve been around awhile and showed up as a water buffalo with a vast amount of knowledge to share. Or, maybe like me, you still need your floaties to help prevent you from sinking. No matter where you find yourself on the water spectrum, I hope you walked away from this year’s Forum having learned something new.
During Wednesday’s luncheon we had the privilege of hearing from two members of the water community, Mr. Jim Valliant representing those that have led us through the past 25 years and Mr. Silas Malers, a young man just getting his feet wet in the water world. While Mr. Valliant offered us a look back and reminded us of the challenges and conflicts that have marked the past 25 years, Silas demonstrated what can be achieved with hard work, dedication, and the support of those around us. And while I was certainly impressed by the watershed model made by Silas and the historical perspective offered by Jim, what impacted me most was the humility expressed by both of these gentlemen on different ends of the age spectrum. Both of them remarked that there is still much to learn and that working together is the key to accomplishing great things.
In my opinion, that’s what the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum is all about - bringing people together to learn, to broaden our understanding and perspective through open dialogue, to reflect on the past, and to look towards the future, together.
Speaking of the future - we’ll see you next year in Salida!
ARBWF Planning Committee Member
Upper Arkansas Water Conservancy District
News and updates from the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum.
The Arkansas River Basin Water Forum is a 501 (c)3 non-profit that serves as a conduit for information about the Arkansas River Basin in Colorado, and for issues related to water allocation and management. Through our annual Forums, a wider understanding of water issues has evolved and along with it the opportunity to find common ground.